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.
During the past fifty or sixty years horticulture has sprung into a prominent position as one of the leading industries of the United Kingdom. Horticulture, unlike its twin sister agriculture, is not represented in Parliament, and the only legislative notice taken of it has been to make its disciples pay rates and taxes on their skill and industry. When we have a Minister of Horticulture, as the French and Belgians have, then perhaps the horticultural trade will receive as much consideration as agriculture does in connection with the rating of the land, and more importance will be attached to it as a national industry.
Horticulture, as distinct from agriculture, has to deal with the cultivation of all kinds of plants and flowers, fruits and vegetables, both in the open air and under glass. Besides our native hardy fruits, flowers, and vegetables, the horticulturist also has to grow exotics from all parts of the world - from the tropics, subtropics, and temperate regions, from the mountains and valleys, and from all kinds of soils and situations. To bring these to perfection necessitates considerable skill, besides great expense. The horticulturist has found out that the rather antediluvian methods of the agriculturist would be of little use to him. He must mix his soils and composts in various ways to suit particular crops, and he must regulate the temperature by means of glasshouses and frames and hot-water apparatus if he is to succeed. This necessitates outlay in other directions, and the timber, glass, and iron trades benefit by his enterprise, as well as many others that supply horticultural sundries. Indeed it is almost impossible to describe the intricate details of horticultural practice, and it must suffice to say that they are such as would astonish the average agriculturist. Although both farmer and gardener have to practise the same principles of cultivation for outdoor crops, the gardener, even with these, will devote far more attention to detail, and will spend an amount of money every year in cultivation that the farmer would consider exorbitant or extravagant. The farmer leaves a good deal to nature; but the gardener, and especially the commercial gardener, cannot afford to leave his various crops altogether exposed to the mercies of a somewhat fickle climate. He prepares his soil to a greater depth, and feeds it more richly with manure than does the farmer; and he also pays greater attention to cultural details. In addition, he must gather his crops, not for cattle, but for human consumption, just when they are ready, and he must pack them in such a way that they will readily attract buyers in the markets. At one time, indeed, the market gardener was little better than a farmer in his cultural and business methods, and he sent produce to market in a very slipshod manner. The stress of competition at home and the importations from abroad, however, have completely changed the methods of the modern market grower. He has found out by experience that the finer, better, and cleaner his produce, and the better it is packed or displayed, the higher the prices and the quicker the sales. He has learnt much in these respects from the way produce from the Colonies and from the Continent is placed on the markets, and he realizes that good stuff badly displayed will often fetch miserably low prices.
This work on commercial gardening deals principally with those classes of plants that are grown in large quantities either in the open air or under glass for sale in the London and provincial markets, and also those that are grown by nurserymen and hardy-plantsmen in fairly large numbers to meet the demands of their customers who do not patronize the markets. There are, indeed, so many ramifications of the horticultural trade, each intimately associated with the other, and dependent on each other, that it may be well to say a few words about each to show how one is linked up with the other.