For many years there has been a growing tendency on the part of the Government to assist the interests of the small-holder, and our legislators have devoted much attention to the re-population of our rural centres. It is not generally known, however, that there are something like a hundred helpful pamphlets published officially for the guidance of agriculturalists, and that copies of these leaflets may be obtained free of charge. To mention a bare half-dozen of these publications, there are treatises on the following subjects: onion fly, pea and bean thrips, and black fly, celery fly, carrot fly, asparagus beetle, and leather jackets. Each leaflet deals with one special subject, and, where it is required, the letterpress is amplified by pictorial illustration. The leaflets are sent out free of charge, postage paid, to all applicants, and a request for them should be made to the Secretary, Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, 4, Whitehall Place, London, S.w., from whom a list of the pamphlets may be obtained. Letters addressed as above need not bear a stamp.
It should be quite possible for the lady small-holder to work her land in such a way that two crops are obtained from each section every year, and even three crops are not out of the question. For instance, it is quite possible to raise winter cabbage, early potatoes, and leeks on one plot all within twelve months. Cabbage, kale, broccoli, leeks, celery, and onions may occupy the ground during the winter and will bring welcome addition to the family exchequer during the dead months. There is always a good demand for autumn sown onions, and as for turnip-tops, they are most acceptable greenstuff for table use during March and April.
Of course there are certain to be sections of the holding that will be required for use early in the spring, and this land should be "rough-dug" in the autumn, and allowed to "weather" till required for sowing or planting. To "rough-dig" a piece of land is to turn it over with a garden fork, throwing up the clods evenly, but not breaking them in any way. The action of winter stress and weather will be to aerate and purify the soil, which will break down and pulverise in the spring. Yet another plan, especially with heavy soil, is to trench up the plots. This is very laborious work, and consists of excavating trenches about four feet apart, banking up the earth on either side. The action of frost and wind will be to cleanse and sweeten the staple, and, when required for use, it will be found to be in ideal condition.
Every gardener, however small or large his plot may be, will encounter bird and animal pests, and they are not only destructive to a degree, but in many cases difficult to checkmate. Rabbits are terrible pests, especially in the spring months, and will ruthlessly devour young seedlings. Wire netting of 3-inch mesh will keep them from a garden, but the base of it must be actually buried some six inches in the ground if this method is to be effective. A few sportsmen with guns and dogs will work wonders, of course, but the netting is the only certain preventive.
Moles are another family that work havoc among the seed beds. The writer has had row upon row of shallots pushed out of the ground by these burrowing pests, and the higher the cultivation, the more the mole likes it. The fact of the matter is that land well manured, contains a high proportion of worms, and as the mole follows the worms, the result is
Cutting turnip-tops for market. There is always a brisk demand for this greenstuff during the early spring months obvious. On rare occasions, one can secure a cat with sufficient sporting proclivities to catch moles, but, as a rule, the best method of extermination is to use a moletrap, which is set in the runs of the animals. The traps are sold for a few pence apiece by country ironmongers.
Yet another plan is to get a village ancient to hunt the moles. An old countryman armed with a spade will take up a statuesque stand till he sees the mole heaving beneath the ground, and then whip the creature from its burrow with the spade, and despatch it.
Birds are best dealt with by stretching lengths of black cotton on sticks embedded in the ground. These feathered pests.fly against the unseen thread, and are so frightened that they hasten away. Scarecrows are only effective for a time, but wisps of screwed-up coloured paper, suspended on strings, will sometimes keep away the vandals
It is surprising what a number of gentlefolk there are anxious to make their living from small holdings, and it should be quite possible for an established market-gardener to secure pupils. An advertisement on the following lines should certainly bring inquiries:
"Pupil wanted for established small holding; healthy situation; board and lodging provided; premium required.
The premium would depend upon the actual experience offered, and might be as high as £100, or as low as £15. The pupil would naturally be expected to take his or her share in the work of the holding, and would in other ways be considered temporarily as one of the family. A stipulation ought to be made that the pupil should not benefit from the list of customers of the smallholder, but no other restrictions are usually necessary, and this question of imparting knowledge to a beginner is one that should not be overlooked.