This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol1", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
The very title of this work at once distinguishes it from all other treatises on Horticulture, and at the same time strikes a note indicating its predominant features. The work is "commercial" in every sense of the term, because it deals with gardening from the point of view of the man who grows plants not so much for pleasure as for profit. It is also " gardening " in the best sense of the word, as the cultural methods of the best market growers are detailed. Commercial Gardening, indeed, is intended as a work not only for the bookshelves, but for the hands of all those who are engaged, or intend to become engaged, in Horticulture for Profit, and who are desirous of growing those crops of fruits, flowers, or vegetables likely to yield the most remunerative results.
In considering gardening from what may be called a pounds, shillings, and pence point of view, it is essential to take note chiefly of those crops that can be grown in the open air or under glass, and are likely to yield a profit, large or small, upon their cultivation. It does not at all follow that what may be justly regarded as the loveliest and most charming flowers, the most decorative plants, or the finest-flavoured fruits or vegetables, are necessarily those that" will yield the handsomest profits when cultivated on a large scale. Unfortunately the reverse is often the case, and enormous numbers of various plants are grown, not because they happen to be the very finest representatives of their class, but simply because they find a more ready sale in the markets than their choicer brethren. This is easily explained on the ground that those who grow produce for sale, and those who buy it, belong to quite different classes of the community. The market buyer usually is not a trained horticulturist, and he will only invest in produce that has already made a name for itself, and is therefore not likely to remain long on his hands. If he ventures to invest in produce which he has never seen before, or knows but little about, he finds that when he recommends it to his customers they leave it severely alone - evidently under the impression that he is trying to push unduly the sale of what he considers to be a useless drug on the market. Many excellent plants have met this fate, and it has taken years before others have become sufficiently well-known to florists, greengrocers, and street sellers to make their cultivation at all profitable. Sometimes, however, a new kind or variety will jump into popular favour at once, and the commercial gardener, who is regularly in touch with the markets and is being constantly influenced by their atmosphere and traditions, proceeds at once to propagate and cultivate the new favourite in sufficiently large quantities to meet the demand. In this way some of the older favourites are gradually displaced by the newer ones, and it is only when one comes to compare the kinds or varieties of plants or flowers that were sold in quantities twenty, thirty, or fifty years ago with those sold at the present day, that one realizes what enormous changes have taken place.
Not only have new races superseded old ones, but the cultural methods of commercial gardeners have also undergone remarkable changes. Cleaner and more economic methods of cultivation also prevail to-day, and gardeners who have to make a living out of the growth of plants have in many cases come to recognize the vast importance of the scientific aspects of their calling. In these days the grower who would erect glasshouses with small panes of glass and an enormous quantity of timber would be regarded as insane. The importance of light and fresh air is now so well understood, that the main object in view is to secure as much of each, especially during the winter months, as is possible.
The market gardener has perhaps more to learn in this respect than the market grower. In many instances he practises the old and erroneous farming system of cramming and crowding his fruit trees and bushes together in such a way that in a few years they become a mass of diseased and distorted vegetation, yielding very poor, if any, profit. It is one of the most difficult things to make some of the old school of market gardeners and farmers realize that the great bulk of the dry weight of any plant - fruit, flower, or vegetable - is obtained from the carbon of the atmosphere under the influence of sunlight. They simply will not believe it because they cannot see it. It is ever present to the minds of such that to give any plant a fair amount of space and air and light, according to its nature, would be "wasting ground", as they term it. The natural corollary to this lack of knowledge is the thought that the greater the number of plants put into a given area of ground, the larger and better the crops likely to be got out of it - one of the moat pernicious and dangerous doctrines for any commercial gardener to play with.
In this work on Commercial Gardening the best and cleanest methods of cultivation are those recommended, simply because they happen to be the most economical. But no false economy is preached, and it may be cheaper, even for the man with a small capital, to make a fair start by thoroughly cultivating his ground to a depth of 3 ft., at a cost of £8 to £12 per ac, than to fritter away his substance for a lifetime and never go deeper than six inches or a foot from the surface. The cultivator who is now foolish enough to think that the methods employed by his ancestors in the old non-competitive days are quite good enough for him, is making a sad mistake in these speedy days of keen competition. The modern grower is affected by the changes brought about by science and fashion, and he must adjust his methods and vary his crops according to prevailing circumstances. Perhaps it only remains to be said that the information given in this work has been supplied by men most of whom are, or have been, actually engaged in growing crops of various kinds for profit, and are regarded as skilful cultivators and good business men. The Editor takes this opportunity of thanking them for their kind assistance, and in doing so would also like to express his indebtedness to many other commercial gardeners - who prefer to handle the spade rather than the pen - for many hints and much information given in regard to various matters.
Among the principal contributors the following may be mentioned, with the initials used to mark their contributions throughout the work.
A. A. Arthur Amos, Downing College, Cambridge.
A. J. B. A. J. Bridges, Nurseryman.
C. E. Carl Engelmann, Nurseryman and Carnation Specialist.
C. T. D. Charles T. Druery, President, British Fern Society.
E. H. J. E. H. Jenkins, Nurseryman and Horticultural Writer.
F. V. T. Professor F. V. Theobald, M.A., Zoologist to the S.E. Agricultural College, Wye; Author of Insect and Allied Pests of Orchard, Bush, and Hothouse Fruits.
F. W. M. Sir Frederick W. Moore, M.A, F.L.S., Glasnevin.
G. Gh George Gordon, V.M.H., Editor of the Gardeners' Magazine. G. M. George Massee, F.L.S., etc.; Author of Diseases of Plants.
J. B. R. James B. Riding, Nurseryman and Horticultural Writer.
J. E. H. Joseph Ernest Hill, J.P., Fern Specialist and Nurseryman.
J. F. John Fraser, F.L.S., late Editor, Gardening World.
J. M. John May, late Market Grower and Cyclamen Specialist.
J. M. H. J. M. Hodge, Blairgowrie.
J. U. James Udale, Chief Horticultural Instructor, Worcestershire County Council.
P. A. C. Percy A. Cragg, Market Grower.
W. M. B. Wilfrid M. Bear, Grape and Tomato Grower.
W. G. L. William G. Lobjoit, J.P., Market Gardener and Fruit Grower, Vice-Chairman of the Market Gardeners', Farmers', and Nurserymen's Association.
W. T. William Truelove, Nursery Propagator.