In laying out a market garden it is necessary to sink one's aesthetic and artistic tendencies in favour of a strictly commercial propensity. From a woman's point of view, her garden may be neat and comely, but utility must inevitably be studied at the expense of effect.
It is an acknowledged fact that plant life as a rule does best when grown in rows running north and south. By following this method the maximum of sunshine is gained for the crops, and to a great extent the power of easterly wind is broken, for by meeting transverse rows it is less damaging than if it swept down the drills, as it would do were they drawn from east to west. Of course, there are ex-ceptions to this rule - broad beans, for instance, which are sown on an exposed situation so that a current of air may pass through them and reduce the possibilities of blight - the Dolphin fly - settling upon them.
A rake is used to cover in the drills with soil
Assuming that we are dealing with an acre of rough pasture more or less square in its formation, it would be an excellent plan to make a roadway down the center, running from north to south. This road should be sufficiently wide for the passage of a cart, and should be built of loose rubble, laid over a foundation of clinkers, builders' waste, or some binding material that will keep it firm in wet weather. Round the four sides a footpath should be made, wide enough for a person laden with baskets or propelling a wheelbarrow to pass. No further ground need be set aside for permanent paths or roadways.
The annual crops should be grown on the most advantageous sites, the question of rotation being naturally considered. Briefly, the rotation of crops consists of changing them in such a way that members of one family are not raised on the same piece of land for consecutive seasons. For instance, a plot upon which leguminous plants - peas and beans - are raised this year should be used next season for roots - carrots, potatoes, parsnips, beet, etc. - whilst for the third year it should be cropped with the brassicas - cabbage, cauliflower, etc. .
Of course, there are many permanent subjects in the market garden, and these must be taken into account in the planning of the plot. Asparagus, rhubarb, perennial herbs, and horseradish are what we may term fixed crops, and if they can all be in one section so much the better, as this will leave large open tracts that may be cultivated en bloc for the annual crops. Then there are the sections devoted to bush fruits - currants, gooseberries, raspberries. As these do not demand weekly attention through the year, they may be placed furthest from the homestead.
The preparation of the soil for market garden purposes consists in working it deeply and thoroughly, rendering it friable, in good heart, free from pests and all weeds, save the unavoidable summer crop. This state of perfection can only be attained by deep ploughing, or, better still, by conscientious digging with a spade or garden fork. The cost of ploughing would be but 15s. per acre, but hand-digging would cost more than four times this amount. Reverting to the subject of old pasture land, a deep plough would bury the turf, and, provided it were free from rank weeds, this would form an excellent fertiliser. On the other hand, if the turf is so unclean as to make this impracticable, the surface must be skimmed off and burned, the ashes being from the rows are made into bunches and sold as spring salading.
They command a ready sale at remunerative prices distributed over the top spit before ploughing or digging. Hand-digging is naturally many times more thorough than ploughing. Not only is the ground more evenly worked, but every particle of bindweed, couch grass
(synonym, "twitch") and similar weeds can be removed, a state of affairs that ploughing and harrowing cannot accomplish with such efficiency.
The Uses of Gas Lime
As for live pests, they are best dealt with by top-dressing. Land that is really badly affected with wire-worm should be dressed with gas lime, a powerful insecticide formed from the waste matter from gasworks, which costs from five to eight shillings per ton. The dressing is best applied in the autumn, and as it is detrimental to plant life when fresh, it is a safe rule to allow two months to elapse between the dressing of the land and the sowing or planting. About eight hundredweight to the half-acre is an average dressing of gas lime, and this drastic remedy should not be necessary more than once in three or four years.
Ordinary lime is most valuable in the preparation of land. Not only does it aid plant life to assimilate or digest the vital properties of the soil, but it also proves a useful destroyer of pests. The usual plan adopted is to purchase lime from a kiln and to deposit it in heaps on the ground six feet apart, where, after an interval of three or four days, it will slake itself. It is then scattered with a shovel, and enough should be applied to give the ground a similar appearance to that following a very slight fall of snow. Lime costs from a shilling to eighteenpence per hundredweight.
On a small holding conducted by women it is undeniable that success will depend upon economy in outgoings. It is not so much a question of receipts as of expenses, and when considerable outside labour has to be enlisted the profits will surely dwindle.
There are many tasks on a market garden holding that an average robust woman can undertake without undue physical strain and but few that would prove too exhausting. Once the ground is in good tilth, the rest should be a simple matter. Such tasks as thinning onions and drawing drills for seed-sowing call for little muscular effort.
Hoeing, harvesting crops, weeding, watering, and all but the actual digging are operations no healthy woman need shirk. To be continued.