Author of" The Farmers' Friend," "The Family Gardener," etc.
If it is your aim to run a small holding on the Family Hamper lines so frequently discussed in this series, market weights and measures will not concern you; but if, on the other hand, it is your intention to dispose of your wares in a wholesale way, you will need to acquire a knowledge of local customs as regards both methods of packing and quantities.
Obviously, the writer is not able to offer very definite assistance in this direction, for the standards vary in the extreme; and where a peck measure in one market may signify 14 lb., in a neighbouring town quite another interpretation may be put upon the term. Undoubtedly, the wisest method is to investigate personally, and there are certain to be kindly disposed officials ready to assist the tyro.
The measure of land will, of course, be familiar to my readers, for it is naturally the common square measure we learned as schoolchildren. Perhaps in our classroom days we doubted its true value, but from a market garden standpoint it is essential for accurate calculation. As a general rule, so many rods of ground should be allotted to each crop, for by following this plan the keeping of accounts will be very much simplified. For instance, let us suppose that you are growing 10 rods of winter onions. You will know that there are 40 rods in 1 rood and 4 roods in an acre. It will therefore be an easy matter to work out the actual rent of the piece of land, to which you will add cost of seed and of labour, thus gaining the net figure of production.
To the uninitiated this may appear a quibbling arithmetical problem, but every workmanlike market gardener does actually produce such figures, so that he may know the detailed profits of each individual crop. It is only by following this plan that one can determine which crops are the most remunerative and which are least worth growing. Incidentally, scrupulous accounts are the best safeguard against wastage.
Much has been written about the spraying of market garden plant life, the object of the operation being naturally to check the breeding of pests and to ensure healthy crops. So far as small holdings for women are concerned, spraying is a task that need not be followed, except in the case of potatoes, which, through excessive rainfall or disease, may be expected to suffer in productivity. Even then it is doubtful if spraying is really profitable when one takes into account the cost of solution and of the spraying machine. If one possesses a sprayer for fruit-trees, then by all means use it for potatoes; but the operation might otherwise be left alone, though it is true it may be performed with a large garden syringe. In any case, I give the formula for those readers who may require it:
10 gallons of water, 2 lb. sulphate of copper, and 2 1/2 lb. washing soda. In a market garden that is bleak, and exposed to the north and east, from which quarters our bitter spring winds usually come,' shelter of some kind is essential, or many of the crops will inevitably suffer. Beech and hornbeam make as good a shelter hedge as is possible, and their brown leaves will brave many a winter storm and break the nor'-easterly gusts. Holly is, of course, even better, but it is slow of growth. As for the privets, they extract so much goodness from the ground around them that they are not advisable.
An excellent shelter hedge can be made by employing the French withy. Its finer strands are in constant demand for tying the bunches of turnips and onions, and if the hedge is planted thickly and clipped twice a year it will assume quite a bushy habit. As a general rule, withy clumps are to be found in ditches along a country lane; but the French variety, with its bright-coloured bark, is preferable to the English kind, being far stronger. To make a withy hedge, collect the strands or cuttings, and divide them up into lengths, each length not to exceed 15 inches. Now set your garden line where the hedge is to be planted, and, starting at one end, drive your digging fork into the ground close up to the line. Withdraw the fork, and into each of the holes formed by the tynes place one length of the withy. Tread the ground firmly round the cuttings, and in a few weeks the bright, green leaves will appear. Withy will root almost anywhere, and if it is planted in this manner failure is practically impossible.
In dealing with market gardening for women, the writer has so far refrained from approaching the subject of Intensive Cultivation, or French Gardening, the term by which it has come to be universally known. Briefly, the system is to force along very early crops by means of bell-glasses and immense quantities of manure, or else by a system of hot water pipes running beneath the ground. It is a style of gardening that has been much discussed, and there are in this country lady gardeners who are finding it most remunerative. At the same time, the adherents of French gardening who are reaping striking benefits are they who have actually studied on the Continent or under Parisian exponents. Certainly the system is one demanding great financial resources, and the lady with slender capital and only a beginner's knowledge of the rudiments of horticulture should leave French gardening severely alone. After all, we cannot war against our fickle climate; and the Frenchman, with his thousands of cloches, or bell-glasses, has not only the experience of generations on his side, but the sunshine as well.
And now a word as to the etceteras of a
Tomato seed must be set an inch apart and if a table knife is used this tiny seed may easily be placed the correct distance asunder market garden. Besides the tools, already dealt with, there are seed-boxes, sticks for tying purposes, tying material, labels, and so on. All these materials should be purchased at dealers' or trade price, and ought not to be obtained from the sources drawn on by the amateur gardener. There is a weekly journal published under the title, "The Fruit Grower and Market Gardener," price id., and obtainable to order through any newsagent, in which publication will be found advertisements dealing with this class of business. A tabulated list of current market prices for flowers, fruit, and vegetables is also contained in the journal.
Seed-boxes, such as that illustrated in the accompanying photograph, are usually purchased packed " in the flat." That is to say, the various pieces of wood that go to make the box are sold cut to size and finished off, so that it only remains for the purchaser to nail the sections together. The price depends upon size, but the average box costs 1 1/2d. Another photograph depicts a substitute for the rather expensive rhubarb-pots, the chimney pot costing less than half the price of the recognised receptacle, though it proves equally effective.
The finest school of all in which to learn market gardening is that of experience. There is no master to equal it. Commence your undertaking with the fixed intention of doing your best, and when the disappointments come-as some surely will-bear them bravely.
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Turnip. The turnip requires to be grown quickly to bring it to perfection, as during protracted growth it is apt to become woody and strong. The ground should be in good tilth, but not freshly manured, and sowing should take place in March, April, and May. A sowing may also be made in the late summer for the sake of the turnip-tops, which are sold as winter greens.
Vegetable Marrow. Beds for vege table marrows should be in an open situation, and should be made up with an abundance of well-decayed manure, thoroughly mixed with the soil. Seed should be sown singly in small pots late in March, and housed in a frame or under similar protection, and the first week in June the plants may be bedded out. There should be at least 15 inches between each plant, and room must be allowed for the vines to run in the case of free-growing kinds.