This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol4", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
When the growing of vegetables is contemplated, questions of market and carriage assume an importance that did not belong to them so long as the cultivation of fruit was alone under consideration. The vegetables that yield the best return to the cultivator are the earliest in the spring; but it is desirable not only to supply the spring market, but to continue the supply during the hot months of summer and right through autumn and winter.
Shallow gravelly soil freely manured will do the first, but will suffer the crops to burn in summer, and give little chance in many years for autumn crops to establish themselves. Strong loamy land will hold the summer crops and afford better opportunity of getting out the autumn and winter crops, but will be too cold for early crops in the spring.
Deep alluvial land, sheltered from the north and east, sloping, if sloping at all, to the south and west, will do all three. Such are the old convent lands of Evesham; such were the rich market garden lands of Fulham, now, alas! buried under bricks and mortar.
There must be a plentiful supply of water at small cost for vegetable growing: for not only will it sometimes be necessary to water the seed beds, those magazines from which the fields must be charged, but the preparation of the vegetables for market includes washing and watering. Any doubt as to the sufficiency and availability of the water supply must be set at rest before any binding contract for a "take" is made.
A well of moderate depth, giving a regular supply, with wind pump and raised tank for storage, or, better still, pump worked by oil engine or gas engine will do.
Convenient access to market is an indispensable condition, and this considerably restricts the area of possible selection for a vegetable garden.
Dependence, too, upon railway carriage solely is not to be desired, because there are many vegetables which will not arrive at market in a presentable condition after the delay and knocking about often incident to this method of transport. During the hot months of summer particularly, and to a less extent all the year round, the object should be to get the vegetables to market as quickly as possible, and to preserve on them as much of the bloom and freshness of the garden as possible.
There is a vast increase in the demand for vegetables waiting to express itself when they can be got on to the table of the town purchaser in a similar condition of freshness and crispness to that enjoyed by the consumer who has them direct from his own private garden. It is true that large districts where market gardening is the vogue, in Worcestershire and Bedfordshire, as well as other parts of the country, depend entirely upon the railways to distribute their produce. This fact does not traverse the opinion that he who would start out in the enterprise of growing vegetables for profit will be well advised to settle, in preference, where his produce, without further handling, can be carried in his own vehicles to the market where it is to be distributed to the retailers.
The introduction of mechanical road transport has considerably extended the definition of what is "convenient distance". The horse walking at 2 1/2 to 3 ml. per hour, in point of time as well as in point of physical endurance makes 20 ml. from market the utmost limit, and that only where the roads are good. If mechanical traction be installed, the limit is easily- extended to 30 ml. or more, depending still somewhat on the character of the roads to be traversed.