This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol3", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
South Worcestershire at the present time probably is unequalled for the extent of commercial gardening in proportion to the total area of land comprised within a radius of 10 ml. of Evesham - which is the centre of this important industry in Worcestershire - or for the excellence in quality and quantity of the crops of fruit and vegetables produced; and the district - probably more than any other - may properly receive the title of "The Garden of England".
Sixty years ago probably not more than 500 ac. of land was devoted to market gardening near Evesham; the area now cultivated for that purpose within a radius of 10 ml. of the town is estimated at upwards of 15,000 ac. This is easily understood when annually several hundreds of acres of land are newly added to that already under market-garden culture; and new men - among whom are young men with public-school education - as frequently devote themselves and their fortunes (large and small) to this frequently profitable enterprise. Moreover, there are many industrious, shrewd, and steady men who were originally labourers working for others and cultivating an allotment for themselves, who now are fully developed market gardeners, owners of house property, and generally well-to-do men. Not the least successful among the best-known market gardeners are men who were previously builders, masons, and clerks.
The pioneers of market gardening were men of well-known names, the best-known being Myatt, Masters, Field, Cole, and Byrd. Mr. Myatt came from the neighbourhood of Camberwell, where he had a market garden, and the writer believes that district is still known as Myatt's Fields. He was the raiser of many standard varieties of vegetables and Strawberries, including " Early Offenham Cabbage ", than which practically no other variety is grown in Worcestershire for market purposes. His son, Mr. Charles Myatt, of Harvington, 3 ml. from Evesham, follows in his father's footsteps, and annually grows and sells much seed of this unsurpassed market gardener's Spring Cabbage. Two other good standard varieties of vegetables did Mr. James Myatt raise, viz. "Myatt's Early Prolific" Potato and "Myatt's Victoria" Rhubarb; new varieties of potatoes and rhubarb come and go, but Myatt's varieties are still with us. His best-known Strawberries are "British Queen" and "Eleanor", though he raised other good varieties.
In a handbook bearing the title Evesham, and its Neighbourhood, reference is made to the gardens in connection with the old Abbey (and to this day called " the Abbey gardens ", though they are market gardens) in the following words: "These gardens, which were in cultivation by the monks of Evesham Abbey more than one thousand years ago, formed the beginning of that great market-garden industry which has now become so widely extended in the town and neighbourhood, and gives to the district the title of 'The Garden of England'."
To indicate the scale upon which fruit and vegetables in their respective kinds are grown, the area of land estimated to be allotted to each kind is as follows: -
Plums ••• •■• ••• ••• ••• •••
Apples ••• ■•• ••• •• ••• ••• •••
Peas ••• ••• • • a • • • • • •••
Beans (runner) ...
Onions (for use as salad in the early months of the year)
Lettuce (for use in March and April) ...
It must be understood that the fruit trees are mainly distributed over the land in single or double rows at 30 to 40 ft. apart; vegetables, Cucumbers, Marrows, Tomatoes, Asparagus, Strawberries, etc, being grown in the " breadths " between the rows of fruit trees.
In addition there are catch crops of Leeks, Parsnips, Ridge Cucumbers, Broad Beans, Cauliflowers, Jerusalem Artichokes, and Herbs; and small quantities of Currants, Raspberries, and Loganberries. Savoys, Broccoli, and Curled Greens or Borecole are very little grown, seldom being remunerative except where they are consumed locally; then the returns therefrom are very small.
The Plum being the most important fruit crop in South Worcestershire, it takes precedence of other fruit crops in this article. About 9000 ac. of land are wholly or partly occupied by Plum trees, and they are planted in several ways; sometimes they are planted in whole plantations, the trees being 12 to 15 ft. apart in each direction; others are planted in " belts " of four, six, eight, or ten rows, but the newer market gardens have them planted mainly in single or double rows at 30 to 50 ft. apart, the intervening space being cropped in turn with different kinds of vegetables, such as Cabbage, Peas, Beans, Marrows, Radishes, Spring Onions, or Lettuce, whilst other breadths are devoted to Asparagus, Strawberries, or Tomatoes. The rows of trees usually run north and south, the north end or cold end being planted by a narrow belt of Plum trees. Thus the spaces are sheltered and warm, and the crops grown thereon arrive early at maturity or attain a saleable size.
APPLE ORCHARD AT EVESHAM.
Trees 12 ft. apart. Gooseberries as undergrowth. Shelter belt of Damsons on right.
Pruning is done with a heavy hand for a year or two, after which very little pruning is done and little is required; but in the best-managed plantations the trees are looked over annually, though many may not require the knife or saw every year.
The majority of the plantations are under thirty years of age; but here and there older ones are discovered, and their occupants obviously will very soon be destroyed. The Pershore Plum predominates, because it is the most certain cropper, much of the fruit being gathered and sold for culinary use long before it is ripe. The Victoria is also largely grown; and the Damascene has been much used for purpose of shelter, and for its good crops of purple fruit, which usually realizes a good price as the plum season is waning. Another useful Plum (little known in other parts) is one grown locally under the erroneous name of White Magnum Bonum, its proper name being Abricotee de Braunau or Reine Claude Braunau; this is a rather late variety with a drooping habit of growth and the fruit very closely resembles Jefferson in appearance and flavour. The Pershore and Abricotee de Braunau freely reproduce themselves by suckers, which come into bearing without grafting. Other varieties grown largely are Czar, Rivers' Purple Prolific, Heron, and Monarch; and in a less degree Belle de Louvain, Cox's Emperor, and a variety locally known as Jemmy Moore. A purple form of the Pershore is now being freely planted, and it is said to have all the good qualities of its parent.