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.
These are made of rye straw, which is better because lighter and more durable, and does not hold the wet so much as wheat or oat or barley straw. The usual size of a rye-straw mat is 5 ft. long by 4 1/2 ft. wide, and the weight is about 11 to 12 lb. The mats are made on a special frame, and the stands are kept in place by five strings of twine. To preserve the mats, and also to ward off attacks of fungoid diseases and mice, etc, the mats before sale are always steeped in a solution of copper sulphate. With fair wear and tear a mat will last three or four years, and costs in the first place at present about 1s. 3d. The high price is probably due to one of the numerous "syndicates" in France. It ought to be possible to make good rye-straw mats in the United Kingdom at a price that would be more attractive than the present French one.
Other implements, etc, besides those mentioned will be useful. Spades, forks (digging and manure), hoes, line and reel, hand barrows without legs (for carrying mats between the frames), waterpots of the French type (fig. 524), dibbers, rakes, and the other paraphernalia usual to gardens must be at hand. One instrument (fig. 525) is particularly useful when hose pipes are in use. It is shaped like the letter H in two pieces, with a screw swivel in the centre. The two long legs are stuck in the ground at the corner of a range of beds. The two upright and the horizontal arms are fitted with revolvinog reels. The hose pipe passes between these, and as it is pulled backwards and forwards it moves readily on the reels, and can be carried round right-angled corners without being trailed over the crops on the adjacent beds. Altogether a useful and ingenious implement.
Fig. 524. - French Waterpot.
Fig. 525. - Hose Carrier.
For packing purposes light wooden crates (fig. 526) are chiefly used. They vary in length from 22 1/2 to 24 1/2 in., in width from 11 1/4 to 13 1/2 in., and in depth from 5 1/2 to 8 1/2 in. These are light, strong, and durable, and cost from 4s. to 8s. per dozen wholesale. It would be a convenience to have cheaper non-returnable chip baskets or crates, as there is a general tendency in these days against being bothered with returning empties which take up space that could be perhaps better utilized.
For commercial purposes it is scarcely worth while establishing a French garden of a less area than 2 ac, while 3 ac, or even 4, thoroughly cultivated according to system, would probably yield larger profits in proportion to the outlay. At the same time, it is possible to obtain valuable returns from only 1/2 ac. or 1 ac. of ground if the beds are made up properly, and the frames, lights, and cloches are in constant use during the winter season.
The following figures may be taken as fairly approximate. The expenses are given rather higher than they are likely to be in actual practice, while the receipts are placed on a comparatively low basis.
Fig. 526. - Light Wooden Crate for Lettuces.