Sow - Seed Setting - Making up Beds
Actual marketing is not a difficult matter. There is a very real demand for forced vegetables and fruits, a demand that is larger than the supply. Contracts with the proprietors of large hotels, clubs, and the like are obviously most desirable, but even when they are not obtainable, there is the commission agent at the market, and in the majority of cases these agents actually place at the disposal of the grower empty packing receptacles for the transit of the produce. Needless to say, before fixing upon a commission agent inquiries should be made into his bona fides, and references be asked for, whilst an understanding should be based upon his promise of weekly settlement.
So much for the initial plans. And now, as Pepys would have written, to the ground, which probably will be old pasture in its rough state. The first step should be to clear off this "top-spit," as it is called, and there are several ways of performing the work. The crudest and cheapest is deliberately to plough the land, thus burying the turf bodily, but if the ground is foul, and choked with the roots of dock, nettle, or couch grass (synonym, "twitch"), this process will not be economical in the long run, for it will lead to endless trouble in the future. If, however, the pasture is free from weeds and ploughing is resorted to, a neighbouring farmer would plough an acre and a half for a sovereign or twenty-five shillings.
Another plan is to have the top-spit torn away, and this a local farmer would do also. The tufts of roots and grass should be allowed to lie and welter till dry, when they should be burned in small heaps, the ashes being scattered. The land may then be ploughed, or, better still, dug over by manual labour, a more expensive but doubly effective plan.
Briefly, the system of intensive culture is to force growth out of season by means of great quantities of manure, the "heating" of which causes speedy germination of the seeds and a hastening of plant development. In a few modern gardens a system of hot-water pipes running beneath the ground has been installed, but this represents an even larger capital outlay than when manure is employed exclusively.
During the summer months the French gardener lays in a stock of manure, which is stacked tightly in square or oblong heaps, so that the most virulent of the gases may escape. Then, at the end of summer, when the beds are made up, a little fresh or "green" manure is added to a main proportion of the half-decayed material.
Frames are very largely used in French gardens, and so are the familiar bell-glasses or cloches. The latter cost about eighteenpence apiece delivered, the price varying slightly according to the quantity ordered. In the case of frames, they may be purchased ready-made, but it is usually more satisfactory to have them constructed by a local jobbing carpenter from supplies of one's own provision.
The frames themselves should be I foot in height at the back and 9 inches in the front, and a convenient size is 12 feet 6 inches in full width, and 5 feet in depth, such a frame accommodating three lights, each 4 feet in width, and 5 feet in depth.
It is advisable for the jobbing carpenter to make the woodwork, but the glazing is work any lady can undertake. All the tools required are a square, a glass-cutter, a putty-knife, and a rule. A supply of good quality glass and putty must obviously be provided.
The first step is to ascertain that the moulding on which the glass is to rest is truly fixed, and that the rebated channels are free from dust and grit. Starting at the lower end of the light, the sheet of glass is laid in position, no putty being required on its under side. Now, with a ball of soft, pliable putty in one hand, and the knife in the other, putty down one side, smoothing it firmly in place, and finishing it off at an angle of 45° to the glass. Serve the opposite side in the same way, and then lay the second sheet of glass, allowing it to overlap the first by nearly an inch. Putty down and continue with the third.
The lowest sheet of glass must be allowed to overlay the woodwork by a full inch, and no putty need be employed if it lies firmly in place, a couple of brads hammered in being a" sufficient stay. At the top, however, putty must be used to finish off the final sheet of glass or the frame will not be waterproof.
Paintwork is usually too expensive in a French garden, and the frames are invariably preserved with a coat of tar, a medium that dries very quickly if it is applied when almost at boiling-point. Creosote preservative is, however, a cleaner medium, and quite as effective in its work.
There is a considerable scope to the French garden and activities are by no means limited to the soldierly bell-glasses or the rows of frames that appear in the distance like a township of glazed cots.
The marvellous success of the Parisian intensive culturist is largely due to the fact that he does not waste a single inch of room, and the same plan must be followed by ladies in this country who take up the craft for profit.
Obviously, at the start, at all events, one cannot fill an acre and a half with frames and bell-glasses or with heaps of manure that resemble haystacks till, all too soon, they disappear beneath the greedy frames. The open spaces should all be cultivated with ordinary market garden produce, and the seedlings may be reared under the shelter of the frames during a period when the latter are not fully employed.