The victorious vegetable grower is a person who drinks deeply of the joy of life.
Artists have their moments of happiness and their moments of despair; poets look on the world by turns cheerfully and hopelessly; but the vegetable grower follows a path of perennial pleasure.
When a man has taken up by turns literature, art, and the drama, and has proved a failure with them all, he usually resorts to gambling, drinking, suicide, or something equally pusillanimous and wasteful. Yet if he took to vegetable culture he would become morally and physically regenerated, and would know what it is to feel a completely happy man.
In a fairly wide experience of the world in general, and of horticulture in particular, I can truthfully say that I have encountered only one class of people who are thoroughly contented with the world - contented with what they do in it, contented with what they make out of it, and, above all, contented beyond all ordinary contentment with themselves. These are the vegetable growers. How better could perfect happiness be expressed than in what is here said?
Let me set down, as nearly as I can recall them, the beautiful lines from an old lyric:-
Art thou poor, yet hast thou golden slumbers?
Oh! sweet content!
Art thou rich, yet is thy mind perplexed?
Dost thou laugh, when fools are vexed,
To add to golden numbers golden numbers?
Oh! sweet content! Oh! sweet content!
Now for a paraphrase of it, which I hope that lovers of the poet will forgive:-
Art thou sick, and hast thou broken slumbers?
Oh! time ill-spent!
Hast thou a barrow and a spade annexed?
Oh! wise intent!
Dost thou dig, when fools are vexed To add to golden numbers golden numbers?
Oh! sweet content! Oh! sweet content!
Vegetable growers have their failures as well as their successes. Why, therefore, do they not suffer the depressions of other men? Ah! there's the crux! Any ass can be happy when the sun shines and the thistles are thick, but it wants a philosophical ass to be able to bray cheerfully when food is scarce and beatings fall thick and fast. Without claiming that this is a particularly complimentary metaphor, I yet proceed to extract the kernel from it. The vegetable grower is the superior member of society which he is simply and solely because he is able, through good and through evil report, to retain his equanimity.
It is not easy to say why vegetable growers are, as a class, so contented, but the fact is beyond dispute. If I myself were asked to define that fascination which makes my Potato patch more enjoyable to me than an art gallery, or a theatre, or a Parliament house, or a museum, I should very likely be at a loss to answer. Even in the inner ring - the garden itself, with its rockery, its Rose beds, its fruit quarters, its greenhouse - the kitchen garden is the centre of interest. Yes! there is no possible doubt about it, vegetable culture is of all things on this earth the most completely seductive and satisfying.
In the few chapters on vegetables which I propose to give, I want my readers to agree with me in putting the subject on this higher plane. I want them to go into it as 1 do, with an enthusiastic and wholehearted joy. There is, in some quarters, a craven fear of acknowledging the fascination of Pea growing; we will have none of it here. I once heard the words infra dig. murmured in connection with manual labour in a kitchen garden. I responded with the one pun of my life, and here it is: "Yes, and I am IN FOR A DIG! "
The pun was execrable, but the spirit of the response I unflinchingly support. Let "Infra dig" be the watchword of the lily-fingered, and "In for a dig" be the battle-cry of you and I.
Is there a person reading these lines who is hovering on the brink of kitchen gardening? His plot is small, mayhap, and he has had no training; perhaps his purse is shallow. Let me link his arm in mine, and tell him, in words of earnestness if not of eloquence, to fear not, neither to despair; rather to take his courage in both hands, and send his seed order off by the very next post.
I have said that the person who hesitates may have a very small plot; but then, on the other hand, he may have a very large one. Here, straight away, we run up against a practical point - one that is well worth an argument.
What is an adequate sized piece of ground fora kitchen garden? How large a piece can one man manage? How many people will a given area of ground supply with vegetables? These are questions which call for a little consideration. All of them could be disposed of (and are frequently disposed of) in one abstract proposition - "It all depends." A convenient proposition, this, for the man in a hurry, or for the man who does not know! Convenient, yet not, when analysed, altogether exhilarating to the man who wants to know.
Obviously, the question of what area is adequate can only be decided from a knowledge of the size of the family, and its tastes and requirements. There are only two people in some families, there are twenty in others. Again, in some households vegetables are served at two meals a day; in others only at one, which makes just all the difference. I might add (and it is very much to the point in my own particular case) that another very important consideration is this: Is the culture intended merely to furnish a certain quantity of vegetables for a certain number of people every day in the year, or is it to do this and satisfy the owner's love of experiment as well - which again makes just all the difference?
Fig. 1. Diagram For Vegetable Plot
Fig. 1. Key For Diagram Of Vegetable Plot