This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
I was much pleased to see both the Editor and the "Squire's Gardener" advocating the system of planting fruit-trees generally in plots of ground specially set apart for them, rather than of following the old and decidedly wrong system of mixing fruit-trees and vegetables. The gardens here are entirely surrounded by Apple, Pear, Cherry, and Plum trees; and there is also a considerable number dotted about the garden. The result, more especially with regard to Apples, is, that a few good orchard-trees grow more fruit than the whole of our over-pruned and, of necessity, much abused specimen?.
In this district there are large fruit-gardens or orchards, and all the farmers annually devote many acres to the growth of the most common vegetables for market. What at first sight appears unaccountable to many, is the fact that Peas sown by them at the same time as we sow in private gardens (for experiment I have tried the same varieties), are always fully a fortnight earlier than ours, and of a much better quality. It is the same with Potatoes, Runner and Kidney Beans, etc.; and acres of Strawberries are picked long before ours, and of a size and quality, too, so surpassingly good, both then and later on, that we usually go to the fields for them whenever any extra good ones are required. In how many gardens is the Alice Maud Strawberry to be found? Very few, I opine, because of its bad quality; and yet this is grown in large quantities for the early supply. This is followed by British Queen; and this again by another variety not so frequently grown as it deserves to be - Eleanor or the Oxonian. All three varieties at fruiting-time present a sight very rarely indeed to be met with in private gardens. Another curious fact is, that the earliest and best vegetables and fruit are invariably found in the centre of the field.
That is a strong proof that growing them under the shelter of walls, hedges, etc, is, if not altogether a mistake, far from being either necessary or advisable, as it has the effect of stimulating the growth at unseasonable times, on which the first unfavourable change quickly has a very injurious effect. Those in the open grow sturdy and strong, and consequently are better able to withstand inclement weather, both with regard to the growth, but more especially the bloom; and what is undoubtedly of primary importance, they obtain the most bountiful supply of light and air.
Between here and London, I very frequently see hundreds of acres of the most sturdy Cabbages, Brussels Sprouts, Celery, Onions, and, very noticeably, Lettuce. One would think any gardener who has seen the latter growing in the open, would in the future give this most useful vegetable a fair chance. Yet this is not the case; the majority apparently thinking the proper place for it is among the fruit-trees, and other out-of-the-way spots, rarely grow any really good Lettuce. Brown Cos Lettuce is never grown for market, on account of its objectionable colour; but the varieties of Green Cos appear hardy enough, having this season withstood twenty or more degrees of frost, and will no doubt eventually be fit for use before those wintered by gardeners in frames. Vegetable Marrows and Cucumbers, again, are largely grown in the open fields, and the crops are usually enormous. It is true they are manured heavily, and early in the season are sheltered by lines of Rye-grass sown for that purpose; but contrast them and their treatment with those in private gardens, where they are very often grown on heaps of rubbish or manure, growing luxuriantly and fruiting but little.
The above facts will, I trust, help to demonstrate the correctness of the theory propounded by the above-mentioned writers; and I for one will, if it can be avoided, never attempt to grow fruit-trees and vegetables together - nor, after seeing the many healthy Standard trees heavily laden with fruit in the vicinity of London, go in for any Pyramids, which, however shapely and well managed, are seldom profitable. I think the Editor would have done well to have mentioned the few varieties of Apples he finds so useful in his district, as it is not yet too late to plant. Here the market-growers confine themselves to a very few varieties - the majority being kitchen-Apples, as one of the first questions usually addressed to the salesman by the buyers is, "Will they cook?" To the growers, the other essentials are size, colour, and productiveness. One of the best is Blenheim Orange; other favourites are Bess Pool, Wellington, Hawthornden, Hollandbury, Reinette de Canada, Warner's King, King of the Pippins, and Hanwell Sowing.
W. Iggulden. Orsett Hall, Essex.
[The varieties we referred to are: Lord Suffield, Stirling Castle, Round Cat's Head, King of the Pippins, Blenheim Pippin, Croftanry, New Hawthornden, Reinette de Canada, George the Fourth. - Ed].