This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
An " English Gardener " from Lafayette, Indiana, in your September number, without much preface, accuses me of " stating things that are not facts," but I find when he goes on a little farther that his specifications are not quite so serious as his charge, as it appears that my " stating things that are not facts " was not a question of fact at all, but only a difference of professional opinion between him and me. Inasmuch as I claimed to believe that the English market gardeners who still stick to the spade are old fogies; while it is most evident that he holds very decidedly to the belief that they are not, or hewould never have been so egotistical as to accuse any one of misstating facts without having other grounds than that.
At the risk of repeating myself - for I think I have somewhere told the story before - I will here state the incident that brought out the articles that your correspondent evidently refers to. In 1872, I made, in company with William Davidson, late of the firm of Bennett & Davidson, Flatbush, L. I., a tour through the market gardens around London; we called one day in July, in the Chelsea district, on an old and long established market gardener who worked some fifty acres; the day we happened to call he was in a great state of excitement, his whole force of forty men had left - struck for higher wages - and he dolefully said that all his ground was to dig for celery crop without a man left fit to handle a spade except his two sons. I told him I too was a market gardener of twenty years' standing, working quite as much land as he did, and that I would not allow my land to be dug with a spade, even if it were done for nothing; for that long and extensive experience had told me that in any soil the plough and harrow were better pulverizers than the spade, and at about one-tenth, of the cost. The gentleman was just in the humor to listen.
If he had had no labor disturbance he would have probably (like the Englishman from Lafayette) told me that I was " stating things that were not facts," but he was more courteous, he thanked me for the suggestion, said that he had heard that some gardeners had used the plough in the Provinces, and that he would at once try it and see if he could not get more independent of " them 'anged beggars who 'ad given 'im so much trouble".
He was right in what he had heard, for we found that it was the rule rather than the exception, in districts away from London, that the plough was the implement used; for the very next day our tour brought us to a cultivator some ten miles from London in the direction of the Edgeware road, where we found a most intelligent gardener, working 150 acres in close crop, who had used the plough and harrow exclusively in tilling the soil for over twenty years, and who laughed as heartily at the benighted metropolitans as we did, and accounted for their persistence in holding to the spade by stating that the greater part of the market gardens in the suburbs of London had been worked for generations often by the same families, the business descending from father to son, and who had stuck to the same methods as they had done fifty years before.
There is certainly no more reason why the plough should not be used to till nurseries or market gardens in Europe than in America, for any cultivator, worthy of the name, knows if the soil is too wet for the plough it is also too wet for the spade, and if stony ground would trammel the plough in its work it would certainly be far more troublesome for the spade. So unless the " English Gardener from Indiana " can give me better reasons than these for the continuance of such stage coach practice in these days of steam, I believe I will have to retaliate and charge him with " stating things that are not facts." My friend also gives me two or three rambling shots about something I have said sometime or other, of "firming the soil " and about "splitting the bark of trees," evidently intended for some kind of censure, but what he wants to convey or complain of I fail to make out, and so I cannot oblige him with an answer. But he tells us this was his first attempt at writing for a magazine. Few will doubt that this statement is a solemn fact, which nobody but the most captious man would call in question.