Although many kinds of fruits and flowers, and a few other crops like Cucumbers, Seakale, Tomatoes, Rhubarb, Mustard and Cress, have long been grown in British gardens on “intensive” principles, it is somewhat astonishing that the early production of other vegetables and salads has been left almost entirely in the hands of the French market-gardeners around Paris.
Just over forty years ago, Mr. Robinson was, I believe, the first to call the attention of the English-speaking world to the methods employed by the Parisian growers, who for generations past have practised the art of raising vegetables and salads to perfection during the worst months of the year. In the first edition of his admirable volume on The Parks and Gardens of Paris, he wrote:
“We have several important things to learn from the French, and not the least among these is the winter and spring culture of salads—inasmuch as enormous quantities of these are sent from Paris to our markets during the spring months… By the adoption of the French system salads may be grown to fully as great perfection near London and in the home counties as near Paris. The fact that we have to be supported by our neighbours with articles that could be so easily produced in this country is almost ridiculous. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this culture for a nation of gardeners like the British; and if it were the only hint that we could take from the French cultivators with advantage, it would be well worth consideration.”
Although this gospel was preached so long ago, but little advance in the art of intensive gardening has been made in the British Islands so far as vegetables and salads are concerned. During the past year or two, however, a keener interest has been awakened on the subject. Not only has the horticultural press devoted considerable attention to it, but the daily papers have also discussed the matter. Among these one especially, with characteristic enterprise, has enthusiastically praised the system, and has almost made one believe that it is quite a simple matter to make a profit of £600 or £700 per annum out of an acre of ground cultivated on the “French” system.
Perhaps a little too much emphasis has been laid upon the profits to be derived from the system, and there seems to be an impression amongst many who possess no practical experience of gardening matters whatever that fortunes are to be made easily by growing Carrots, Cauliflowers, Lettuces, Radishes, Turnips, etc., under lights or cloches. Many French gardeners have no doubt reaped golden harvests as a result of their industry, foresight, and skill; but they have been men saturated with all the details of their profession gained entirely by experience.
There is no reason, however, why the British gardener endowed with similar energy, skill, and good business capacity should not make the early production of vegetables and salads a remunerative business, provided he is willing to do what his French neighbour does.
Many excellent gardeners are still under the impression that, although intensive cultivation may be all very well round Paris, it is not likely to be of great use in the British Islands. Even if this weak argument be used against the adoption of the system during the winter months, it cannot possibly be urged against its practice during the summer season. French and English gardeners are then on a level footing. They both grow their salads in the open air without the aid of artificial heat. But what a difference is noticeable in the methods of cultivation, and in the amount of produce taken off a similar area of ground within a given period! On the English side of the Channel, Nature—with the help of an occasional hoeing, and a spasmodic or irregular watering—does most of the work on soil that has been treated in the ordinary way. Around Paris, however, not only is the soil made up of beautiful spongy mould from old and well-decayed manure, but water is given in such abundance during growth that Nature is encouraged to put forth all her energies in the shortest time. Added to this, there is the ingenious system of intercropping, by means of which the ground is covered with plants in all stages of growth, and one crop succeeds another as if by magic. During the summer months, at least, there is therefore little to prevent this system being carried out in Britain.
At the present time there is no book in the English language dealing with all the details of the French system of intensive cultivation as practised in the neighbourhood of Paris. Hence the appearance of this volume. The subject has been considered from a commercial gardener’s point of view, the main object being to give reliable information on a subject that is now attracting great attention, not only throughout the British Isles, but in the United States and Canada. French gardens in England and around Paris have been visited, and the best French authorities on the subject have been consulted. Chief amongst these are the works of MM. Courtois-Gérard, Curé, and Potrat—all of which deal more or less exhaustively with the “culture maraîchère.” I have also made frequent reference to Mr. Robinson’s Parks and Gardens of Paris, and I am under still further obligation to the author of that work for the use of many of the woodcuts in this volume which he has generously placed at my disposal. In addition he has honoured me by writing an “Introduction” bearing directly upon a subject in which he has been personally interested for so many years. The other illustrations, apart from my own diagrams, have been kindly supplied by MM. Vilmorin, of Paris.
My best thanks are due to Mr. George Schneider, President of the French Horticultural Society in London; to MM. Aquatias and Lecoq, formerly of Mayland; and to M. Adolphe Beck, the pioneer of French gardeners in England, for the information they so readily gave me on many points.
In regard to the names of the different varieties of vegetables and salads mentioned in this work, the French names as well as the recognised English names have been given in most cases, in the hope that it may prove a convenience.
There is no contrast in the farm or garden world more striking than that between the market-gardens of London and Paris: about London broad sweeps in the Thames valley, wind-swept, shelterless, well farmed; about Paris close gardens, walled in, richly cultivated, and verdant with crops, even at the most inclement time of the year, and with not an inch of space wasted with paths. And this is not owing to the differences of climate, although people say, whenever one speaks of it, “It is a question of climate.” I do not know a worse climate in winter than that of Paris, the season when the gardeners get their most profitable results. For all green things our climate is, if anything, a shade better than theirs. The very fact of the little cloche covering acres proves that the climate of Paris is not so good. The late M. Henri de Vilmorin used to tell me that his father had much considered the market-gardens of the two capitals, and estimated that the French grower of vegetables got at least four times the quantity obtained in the larger and broader cultures round London. Be it noted here that this book concerns the limited culture of the Paris market-gardens, for around Paris, as around London, there is the large field culture of vegetables. There is good soil round Paris in the Seine valley, and we cannot complain of the soil in the valley of the Thames—it is a totally different system and plan we have to look to.
The cloche is a great worker for the grower, and defies a harsh climate, as, combined with good soil and culture, it enables the French gardener to supply so many of the markets of Britain and Western Europe with salads and other early and welcome things. The use and work of the cloche well deserve study on the part of gardeners. The packing and moving of cloches require much care, if we are not to lose the half of them, and we should not want makers of them over here. Surely our own glass people should be able to supply us. It was one trouble of the imported cloches that if not very carefully packed half of them were lost on the way. Even without the finely prepared soil of the Paris gardens, they are most useful in various other ways, and I strike my Tea Roses under them in the autumn, and get the early tender green things in the spring. They are also an excellent aid in propagation.
It should be borne in mind that the soil of the French market-garden is not really a soil as we understand it, but very often is almost decayed manure—old hot-beds, in fact—that, mixed with a good natural soil below, makes the conditions of soil about as good as they can be.
The French cook is a great aid, because, master in his domain, he insists on having things of the right quality and right age. In the Paris market you never see the coarse razor-bill beans of our market, nor carrots scarcely fit to offer to a horse, because over all vegetables the cook exercises control. If our English cooks were to have the same power it might help to put a stop to the practice of sending coarse vegetables to our markets. Once, speaking to a leading grower of peaches at Montreuil, I asked his opinion of certain new peaches more remarkable for size than for good flavour, and he said, “If we were to send in those peaches to our customers they would be promptly sent back to us”!
The clever way of intercropping in these gardens is instructive, and might be carried out almost anywhere. Weeks before a given crop is ready for cutting another crop, usually of a different nature, is planted between, and when the first crop is cut the new one is ready to spread itself out and occupy the whole of the ground. The partial shade of the first crop does the young plants no harm. This is one way of getting a good deal off the ground. This plan is carried out to some extent by cottage gardeners in England, who are often good gardeners.
This book is the work of a thoroughly trained gardener (a better word than horticulturist); it is sure to be helpful to all those who are interested in this question, and goes as far as a book can. I think in all these interesting cultures we ought to do a little more than book or college work. We should send young men abroad after due training, the farmer to Germany and Hungary, the gardener to France. There is so much more to be learnt by actual contact with soil, climate, surroundings—everything. They speak to us in a way that no book ever can. And the same thing may be said in regard to forestry and nursery work; but the men who are to do this kind of work should be well-trained men—that is, men who have been trained in several good gardens, so that they might be able to judge of the value of what they saw.
Those who think of attempting such gardening in our country should remember that this very special culture is for the most valuable crops, and that the work is done in the best conditions by unremitting labour of trained men. In France, as in our own country, for ordinary things there is the open field culture. Also there are in France and in all countries certain things that have to be grown in the best natural conditions and soils if their finest qualities are to be secured—such things as asparagus, for example, and even the wild-flavoured turnips we see in our markets in spring; and, whether we deal with plants, or horses, or cattle, or sheep, no skill can take the place of the natural conditions that suit them best.
For the special cultures round Paris a good supply of water is essential, and this cannot be commanded so well in open field culture. In the British Islands the supply of water is so copious that, except in the south and east, we seldom feel the want of it; but in the London district, in hot summers, the markets sometimes suffer, and therefore a good water supply in all parts of the choice garden is a gain. I noticed in the Chinese gardens in California a striking resemblance to French ways in their thorough culture, absolute cleanliness, and immediate supplies of water; and everything suggested some old-world connection between the two.
The Meaning of “Intensive” Cultivation #
The term “intensive” cultivation is now used to indicate the particular methods employed by market-gardeners or “maraîchers” in the neighbourhood of Paris to produce early crops of salads and vegetables at a season of the year when they are most likely to realise high prices in the market. These early crops are known as “primeurs” amongst French gardeners; and to secure them at just the right moment necessitates intimate knowledge as to the soil, temperature, and general treatment required by each particular crop to bring it to perfection. Intensive cultivation differs from the ordinary methods of culture, inasmuch as it means, in addition to knowledge, incessant care and attention. Comparatively small areas of ground are used by growers, and it may be said that at no time during the year is the land free from crops of one kind or another. Indeed, several crops are grown on the same patch of land simultaneously, as mentioned further on in the pages of this work. The great aim seems to be to grow together crops of quite different natures, so that the growth of one shall not interfere with the proper development of the other before it is gathered.
“The culture of salads for the Paris market,” said Mr. Robinson forty years ago in his Parks and Gardens of Paris, “is not merely good—it is perfection.”
The same opinion holds good today, and there can be no doubt that in many parts of the British Islands, where the climate is kinder to the gardener than in the neighbourhood of Paris, it is within the region of possibility to grow produce that would rival if not surpass what is imported from abroad.
Although much attention has been directed to the French methods of growing such early crops as Carrots, Radishes, Cauliflowers, Turnips, Lettuces, etc., there are at present few establishments in England where the system is practised on bona-fide commercial lines. The first garden of the kind was established at Evesham in the year 1905, but it soon passed from the hands of the original owner. What may be called an experimental and educational garden on intensive cultivation has also been established at Mayland, in Essex, by Mr. Joseph Fels. No expense has been spared in fitting up this garden with all modern appliances, and a capital outlay of some £2,000 to £3,000 has been incurred. The ordinary market-gardener, however, no matter how intelligent or skilful he may be, is not likely to look upon such a large initial outlay with great favour, knowing as he does from practical experience the fluctuations of the markets, and the fickleness of the public taste.
While it may not be necessary to spend anything like £2,000 or £3,000 when starting a French garden, it is simply preposterous to imagine—as some do—that the intensive system of cultivation can be adopted on remunerative lines without incurring some expense. Cloches, frames, manure, and water—the four great feet of the system—must be provided before a start can be made, and what these are likely to cost may be seen from the figures given at p. 25.
Besides the French gardens at Evesham and in Essex, there are others, such as the one at the Burhill Golf Club, Walton, and the notable one at Thatcham in Berkshire. This garden has been much boomed in the daily press, and is undoubtedly a most interesting object-lesson as to what can be done by women. It is managed entirely by ladies, with the help of a French gardener or “maraîcher”; and I should say that it was established on reasonable and economic lines. The garden occupies about 2 acres, and is on a fairly rich sandy loam, with a gentle slope to the south. The land has been fenced in all round, and notwithstanding the fact that most of the manure has to be carted from Reading, a distance of 14 miles, and works out at 7s. per ton, I was informed that very good results were obtained. Water is obtained from a well that has been sunk 40 feet deep, but it is to be made deeper. Last year the storage tank held only 500 gallons of water; this was found to be much too small, and it was necessary to keep the oil engine pumping all day to secure a sufficient supply.
That profits are to be made out of French gardening there can be no doubt, and an attempt has been made at p. 26 to show what they are likely to be. The figures given may be considerably below the mark so far as profits are concerned, and if so, so much the better. It is always as difficult to estimate profits in advance as it is to count chickens before they are hatched. In any case, profits depend upon so many factors—the personality of the grower, his skilfulness as a cultivator, his knowledge of the markets, his business ability, etc.—any one of which neglected or overlooked at a critical moment may easily upset the best-laid schemes, and end in loss instead of profit.
There is one thing about commercial gardening from which we cannot get away, and that is—expenses must be incurred if any profit at all is to be made.
History of Intensive Cultivation in France #
Some people are inclined to think that the present system of intensive cultivation as practised in the market-gardens (or “marais,” as they are called) in the neighbourhood of Paris is an old English system that was dropped years ago and is now being revived. I do not think it is anything of the kind. The English gardener has had his system all along, and the French gardener his—each sticking more or less obstinately to his own.
The system described in this work is by no means new, but I think it may be looked upon as being almost exclusively French, if not entirely Parisian. Claude Mollet, the first gardener to Louis XIII. of France (b. 1601, d. 1643), seems to have been the first great exponent of it, judging from his Theatre du Jardinage, published in 1700. Another French gardener, La Quintinye (b. 1626, d. 1688), whose Instruction pour les Jardins fruitiers et potagers was published in 1690, also deals with the subject and tells how he was able to send to the table of Louis XIV., surnamed “the Great” (b. 1638, d. 1715), Asparagus and Sorrel in December; Radishes, Lettuces, and Mushrooms in January; Cauliflowers in March; Strawberries early in April; Peas in May; and Melons in June.
From this it may be gathered that the art of intensive cultivation even in the seventeenth century was by no means in its infancy. Frames were already in use, and long before them cloches were common.
From the time of Louis XIII. to that of Louis XVIII.—that is, from about the year 1600 to 1800—great progress seems to have been made; and garden after garden was established in Paris and its environs. The troubles of the Revolution and the wars of the Empire, however, interfered a good deal with the development of the system for the time being. But in 1844, according to Courtois-Gérard, about 1,500 acres of land were devoted to intensive cultivation in Paris. This area was in the hands of 1,125 growers, so that each had an average of not much more than an acre.
Since that time great alterations have taken place owing to the construction of railways, new boulevards, and other improvements, the result being that many of the old Parisian market-gardens have completely vanished. On the outskirts of Paris, however, several hundreds of gardens have been established, and it is computed that about 1,300 growers practise the intensive system of cultivation at the present time on about 3,000 acres of land. These growers have about 460,000 lights, and from 5,000,000 to 6,000,000 bell-glasses or cloches among them. The largest number of lights used by a single individual is said to be 1,400, and the smallest 60; while the greatest number of cloches used by one man is said to be 5,000, the lowest number being 100.
The produce grown by these market-gardeners is considered to be worth over half a million sterling yearly—giving an average of about £400 to each grower.
Work in a French Garden #
Those who produce early vegetables and salads have by no means an easy time in French gardens proper. Every one is awake before daylight, and the women play their part as well as the men. In summer they are often up at 2 o’clock in the morning, and in winter at 4 o’clock, so as to be ready to sell the produce at the central markets. When they return home they attend to such work as weeding, and packing, or pulling the vegetables for the following day’s market. In all their work they are assisted by their daughters, and although the work is not exactly rough, it is nevertheless very tiring, because they are often obliged to kneel on the ground for the greater part of the day regardless of the season or the weather.
The men commence work after the women have gone to market. At 7 o’clock in the morning they munch a crust whilst at work, and at 9 o’clock all go to breakfast. In the summer time, owing to the heat, they rest for one or two hours at mid-day and all have dinner together like a family. After dinner, each one works on again without interruption until supper time, which takes place at 10 o’clock in summer and at 8 o’clock in winter. During the evening the men water the crops, make mats, carry leaf-soil, manure, etc. At the same time the women arrange the produce in baskets, crates, or hampers according to requirements, after which the waggon is loaded so that everything shall be in readiness for the market. Such is the picture of a French maraîcher’s or market-gardener’s life as drawn by Courtois-Gérard in 1844, and it is apparently much the same now. Certainly, one has only to pay a visit to the Halles Centrales—as the Paris markets are called—to see at a glance what an important part the wives and daughters of the French market-gardeners play in the great industry we are considering. Are those who wish to make fortunes out of the land in the British Islands willing to work like French men and French women? That is the point.
The Site for a French Garden #
When choosing a site for a French garden it is essential to select a piece of land quite free from trees and shrubs, and away from high buildings that cast a shade. The ground should be either flat or with a gentle slope in any direction between the south-east and south-west; and if rectangular in shape, so much the better. A position too close to the sea-coast should be avoided, especially in very windy localities, as the briny spray from the ocean will do much damage to tender vegetation.
Protection from the cold winds from the north and east, and also against south-westerly gales, is more or less essential—in the latter case chiefly on account of the damage that is likely to be done to lights and cloches. Good walls, close wooden fences, or thick hedges should be erected for the purpose. Walls and fences may be utilised for growing various kinds of fruit-trees, but in the French gardens I visited T noticed that the walls all round were quite bare, and were merely shelters. One grower, indeed, informed me that it was scarcely worth while trying to grow fruit-trees on the walls, as they would be more trouble than they were worth.
Personally, however, I should imagine that good kinds of fruit-trees trained on a wooden fence or wall would not interfere with the culture of vegetables and salads, and would be a source of income in due course.
In every “French” garden it is usual to have a border from 6 to 12 ft. wide round the walls or fences, such borders being often raised at the back and sloping towards the front, especially when having a south aspect. According to the season, various vegetables are grown on these borders. For example Cos Lettuces raised under lights or cloches may be planted out on a south border in January, or early in February, after a sowing of Radishes and Early Carrots has been previously made on the same soil; and Cauliflowers raised in autumn and protected in frames during the winter may be planted between the Lettuces in March. These various crops will mature at different times—the Radishes, Lettuces, and Carrots being gathered long before the Cauliflowers; and when the last-named have matured the border may be utilised for Cucumbers, Endive, Lettuce, Spinach, etc., according to requirements.
On the borders facing east and west similar crops may be sown or planted. The aspect, however, not being so genial as that facing south, crops mature somewhat later.
The north border also has its uses. In summer it may be used for raising Spinach, Turnips, Lettuce, etc., which enjoy a little shade during the great heat of summer. Or such an aspect may be used for storing the idle frames during the summer, or for building a shed in which lights, mats, etc., not in use may be packed away.
I have seen the frames packed up on each other a dozen or more high so as to be out of the way of crops. The cloches are also stacked up close together in heaps of four and five (as shown in fig. 6), and even during the summer months when not in use are covered with old mats or straw. This is to protect them from the hail-storms which sometimes suddenly come on with great violence in Paris. Indeed, in August 1908 I saw a Vitry garden where sad havoc had been made amongst the cloches during a hail-storm in July.
In a “French” garden protection is of such vital importance that where neither walls nor hedges exist, it is essential to erect a fence of some sort as a guard against the wind.
The Soil and its Treatment #
Although so much manure is used in the process of intensive cultivation, one must, nevertheless, not overlook the fact that a good natural soil in the garden is of the utmost importance. The seeds of many crops may be sown in the open air, from which the plants will later on be transferred to frames or cloches. And again, plants raised in frames may be transplanted to the open ground according to circumstances. If the soil, therefore, is already in good condition it will mean not only good growth of the crops but also a great saving in labour and manures. An ideal garden soil for ordinary purposes should consist of about 40 parts clay, 35 parts sand, 10 parts lime, and 15 parts humus, in every hundred. With proper digging, or occasional trenching, and a fair supply of manure—say about 16 tons to the acre—such a soil will yield excellent results, especially in genial and sheltered localities. Indeed, for vegetables and salads I think much more manure than this might be used in a well-rotted state than is at present usual in ordinary gardens: 20 to 30 tons to the acre would not be too much.
Where wet, cold, and heavy clay exists, it will require modifying with the addition of sand or grit, and humus, in addition to deep cultivation. If, on the other hand, the soil is light and sandy or gravelly, it will be improved by the addition of heavy loam, chalk, or marl, as well as plenty of manure—especially from the cowshed or piggery.
Where, however, frames and cloches are used extensively for early crops grown on hot-beds, the soil beneath is not of such vital importance, as the roots of the plants do not touch it. I remember that the soil in the “French” garden at Mayland, Essex, was little better than harsh brick earth, and yet some magnificent crops were produced in the frames and cloches upon the beds and composts that had been specially prepared for them.
Whatever the soil may be, it is essential to have it cleared of weeds and rubbish prior to digging and levelling, so that it will be a fairly easy matter to mark out the lines where the frames and beds are to be laid down.
Planning out the Ground #
Having decided upon the number of frames to be used and hot-beds to be made it is necessary to mark the ground out in parallelograms with a narrow pathway or alley between each. The frames used by the French growers are 4 ft. 5 in. in width. Consequently, the beds will be made wide enough to take them. As the ground in Paris is exceedingly dear—often £30 or £40 per acre—the French growers cannot afford to waste any space. Hence the alley or pathway between one range of frames and another is reduced to the least possible width. This is generally about 12 in.—but often only 9 in.—just sufficient to allow a man to walk between them carefully. In places where land is not excessively dear, it is scarcely necessary to have such narrow pathways, as they are by no means easy for the novice to negotiate. One must, however, remember that the wider pathways will absorb much more manure for banking up or “lining” the frames in winter than the narrow ones; consequently, wide pathways would be a source of considerable expense.
Preparing the Beds #
Having marked out the ground, the soil in the beds is then broken up with the fork. The rake is afterwards passed over it to make level, and any clods or stones are drawn into the pathways. Here they are left to be trodden down, because it is generally an advantage to have the pathways somewhat higher than the surface of the beds. If the beds are higher than the pathways the water runs off the beds away from the roots of the plants, so that the latter are likely to suffer.
The beds should run as near as possible east and west, so that the frames shall slope towards the south. If this position cannot be secured the next best is between the north-west and south-east, the object in both cases being to secure as much light and heat as possible from the sun for the plants beneath the lights.
Sloping Borders #
It often happens that borders cannot be made in sheltered places against walls, hedges, or fences, and they are then made in the open.
A piece of ground is marked out about 6½ ft. wide and is deeply dug all over. On the south side a trench about 2 ft. 3 in. is then made about 6 in. deep, and the soil from it is placed on the northern edge of the remaining piece of soil. This is about 4 ft. 3 in. wide, so as to accommodate three rows of cloches when “angled” with each other. The back of the bed, i.e. the northern side, is made firm by patting with the spade, and is kept straight with the aid of a line tightly stretched from one end to another. The trench forms the pathway, and the soil from it serves to raise the bed so as to make the surface incline towards the south. The surface is levelled with the rake, and it will be noticed from the sketch (fig. i) that the cloches in the first row are almost on the level, while the two behind are raised up. If the soil at the back drops down into a slope, it may be chopped down straight with the spade, and spread over the surface; or it may be left to buttress up the entire bed.
Water Supply #
Without a good supply of water the cultivation of early produce on the French system is out of the question. One of the most important points, therefore, to bear in mind when selecting a site for a French garden is to find out whether there is likely to be an abundance of water or not. In the great majority of cases it may be impossible or ruinously expensive to have water from any of the companies. It must, therefore, be secured either from streams, ponds, or wells. In any case, it will be necessary to secure it in such large quantities that the supply is not likely to fail at a critical moment.
In a garden of any size, remote from companies’ water mains, it will be necessary to have a large storage tank erected at a height of about 20 feet. To get the water into the tank from a stream or a well, various kinds of pumps are used. Windmills, gas, oil, or electric pumps, “rams,” and pulsometers are in use, and are all more or less useful for throwing large quantities of water. Windmills are favoured by many growers. They have, however, the drawback—so far as intensive cultivation is concerned—of lying “becalmed” on a broiling hot summer’s day when there is not enough wind to stir a leaf, and perhaps just when the crops are in the greatest need of water. Assuming that water is available in sufficient abundance, perhaps a pump driven by a gas, oil, or electric engine is on the whole most reliable. I have seen them all at work, and consider where electric current can be obtained at a cheap rate from adjacent mains that the electric pump requires the least outlay of capital, and requires the minimum of attention. I saw such an electric pump at work in the outskirts of Paris, and the starting and stopping was simplicity itself—merely pushing a small lever over a distance of an inch or two.
Although windmills and gas, oil, or electric pumps will throw large quantities of water, they all suffer from one drawback in common—namely, that the water obtained is almost, if not quite, ice-cold in winter. The application of ice-cold water to tender crops growing in a temperature of from 65° to 75° Fahr. would be probably fatal to the plants. If not, it would at least cause stagnation of growth, and induce chills and other troubles. For this reason one is almost inclined to favour the “pulsometer” as a suitable pumping-machine, simply because it takes the chill off the coldest water, and in winter-time the plants and soil may be moistened with water of a genial tepidity. The great drawback, however, to a “pulsometer” seems to be that it will not pump until steam has been “got up” in the necessary boiler attached. It also requires the almost constant attendance of a man to keep the fire well fed with coke or coal; and this last item is likewise a source of considerable expense.
With any of the other pumps mentioned, the difficulty of heating the water in the storage tank may be got over fairly easily. By fixing up a small, ordinary “saddle” boiler, and connecting it to the storage tank with a “flow” and “return” pipe, sufficient heat will be generated with a barrow-load or two of coke per day; so that the temperature of the water is easily raised to the region of 60° to 70° Fahr., or even more if the boiler is “driven.”
As little or no water is actually applied overhead directly to the plants growing on the hot-beds and under cloches during the coldest period of the year, say from November or December till March or April, the question of heating the water in the storage tanks in winter is not of paramount importance perhaps, unless the liquid is required for use in hot-houses and greenhouses.
Capillary Attraction #
During the cold winter season, the early crops in the frames derive all the moisture they require at the roots from the rainwater that runs off the lights on to the rather long, littery manure in the narrow pathways between the hot-beds. By capillary attraction the water is absorbed from the sodden pathways to the centre of the beds beneath the lights, and in this way the tender plants secure it after the chill has been taken off by the warm manure. The application of water in this indirect way also accounts for the narrowness of the hot-beds used, as it is obvious that in the case of wide beds it would be impossible for the water to reach the centres by means of capillary attraction alone.
The crops under cloches, of course, secure moisture in the same way, only more easily.
Distribution of the Water #
To secure a proper distribution of water over the garden it is advisable to have pipes laid on from the storage tank or a company’s main. The pipes should be 3 or 4 in. in diameter to secure a good and easy flow of water in all directions. If the tank is also placed sufficiently high—say, 20 to 25 feet—there will be good pressure of water, so that when a hose-pipe is attached to any of the stand pipes—placed at regular and convenient intervals—it will be possible to water the contents of several frames without inconvenience.
In addition to the hose-pipes, it is also advisable during the summer months to have several galvanised tanks, or even barrels, placed where they are most likely to be useful when Melons are being watered by waterpots. Indeed, the more conveniently a garden and its appliances are arranged the better, more comfortable, and the more economic will the working be on the whole. A slip-shod or ill-digested scheme of arrangement is likely to lead to endless troubles afterwards, when it may be difficult to rectify defects without considerable expense.
In addition to a plentiful supply of water there must also be a bounteous, almost a prodigious, quantity of manure available and the best stable manure into the bargain; otherwise intensive cultivation is quite out of the question. Good stable manure costs anything from 4s. to 7s. per ton; and 1,000 tons annually may be required for a garden of two acres. The first year, naturally, is more expensive in every way than succeeding years, and with the progress of time somewhat smaller quantities of manure may suffice.
When the manure becomes old or spent it is not useless. It gradually becomes trodden down into fine black particles, and in this condition of vegetable mould is a most important ingredient in the soil of every French garden. In some old Parisian gardens I visited, the manure of former years covered the original soil to a depth of two or three feet, and it almost felt as if one was walking on a velvet pile carpet. This old manure, decayed into fine particles, assumes a deeper and deeper tint with age, and yields up its fertilising foods under the influence of air, water, and heat for the benefit of the crops grown upon it. It is used over and over again for spreading over the open borders, over the hot manure in the frames, and over the cloche beds, in layers of varying thickness, and the tender rootlets have no trouble whatever in penetrating its moist, warm, and spongy tissues.
Besides good stable manure, other manures—such as that from cows, pigs, sheep, etc.—are also freely used by some growers, as well as night soil when obtainable, and when no strong objections are raised on the question of odour. Many French housewives, with characteristic thrift, never waste any refuse from the house, the poultry run, or the kitchen garden, if it is likely to be at all useful in the culture of vegetables or salads. In fact, anything in the shape of animal or vegetable refuse is carefully preserved, and made into a compost heap mixed with leaves, weeds, and soil. It is then freely and frequently drenched with soapy water on washing days as well as with any other household liquids available. In due course this organic refuse (which is taken away by the dustman in England) becomes converted into a beautiful rich and friable mould.
Chemical or artificial manures, although now so extensively employed in ordinary gardening practice, are not popular with intensive cultivators. And it is questionable, even in the event of stable manure becoming scarcer owing to the more general adoption of motor-cars, if chemical manures would ever produce the same excellent results that are now secured from hot-beds with their equable and genial warmth.
The use of hot-water pipes scarcely requires consideration for somewhat similar reasons. They dry and bake and parch the soil so regularly, that the tender roots of crops would soon be shrivelled up unless the lights were frequently taken off to drench the beds with water: and this is a dangerous proceeding during the winter months, and likely to result in total loss of the crops.
Treatment of a Manure Heap #
So as to avoid waste and secure the best results, it is necessary to manage a manure heap with a certain amount of care and intelligence. During the summer months hot manure is not required, but large quantities are secured and are kept in reserve until autumn, when the beds are made. On the outskirts of Paris enormous heaps of manure may be seen during the summer months, and in August men may be seen with bare legs and trousers turned up to the knees, turning over the heaps and watering them copiously. The straw or litter is forked out and kept in conical heaps by itself. The short and more or less well-rotted portion which is left should also be made into similar conical heaps, so that the rain may run off more easily without making the heap sodden. The liquid from a manure heap, however, should not be allowed to run waste, as it contains valuable plant foods. If allowed to run into a hollow place at the foot of the heap, the liquid can then be thrown over the manure from time to time, thus preventing it from getting too hot and mouldy.
It sometimes happens, when manure is improperly managed by leaving the rotted and unrotted portions mixed up together without being turned and watered, that a heap catches fire—much in the same way that haystacks do in summer and autumn, owing to the enormous heat generated by decomposition in the interior. Accidents of this kind are very costly, and the only way to prevent a manure heap being totally consumed is to give it a thorough drenching with water.
Making the Hot-Beds #
From October till the end of March hot-beds are in constant use for the production of early crops. As some of these require more heat than others it is necessary to regulate the thickness and heat of the beds according to the season and the crop grown. If the temperature is too high there is great danger of the plants becoming too tender and “sappy” in growth; they are, therefore, likely to suffer considerably when exposed during the cold winter months. On the other hand, just the right temperature must be maintained to secure the maximum amount of growth in the shortest time, coupled with careful ventilation on all favourable occasions.
French growers usually make three different kinds of beds according to season and crop—namely, (1) raised hot-beds; (2) sunken beds in trenches for melons; and (3) in April beds made from spent manure or the dark mould that has already played its part in the production of previous crops.
Having marked out by means of pegs and lines where the beds and frames and cloches are to be placed bearing in mind that they are to be inclined towards the south, south-east, or south-west the manure is wheeled on to the ground or carried on the back in the peculiar wicker baskets called “hottes” (see figs. 13, 14, p. 44).
It is the custom to make the beds deeper on a wet, heavy soil than on a warm, light, sandy one, and also to make narrow beds deeper than wide ones. Beds made during the winter months are also thicker in proportion than those made in autumn or spring, as greater heat is required to resist the atmospheric cold.
The most reliable manure for maintaining a good and steady heat is undoubtedly stable manure well moistened with urine. In a fresh state it is rarely used, as the heat generated is much too great, being often as much as 140° to 160° Fahr. Fresh manure is brought into proper condition by turning it over two or three times with a fork. It is then ready for use either by itself when great heat is needed, or mixed with older and less active manure when a lower temperature is required.
French gardeners make their hot-beds about 5 ft. 5 in. in width. This allows 4 ft. 5 in. for the frames, or three rows of cloches on top when arranged as shown in fig. 2. A pathway about 1 ft. wide is thus left between each bed, but it is really only about 9 or 10 in., as the manure must project a little beyond the frames. The length of the beds is regulated by the number of frames used; but five frames (carrying fifteen lights) are generally placed one after the other before an intersecting pathway is made.
When actually making up the hot-beds the well-mixed manure should be placed in layers over the required space, taking care to keep the edges vertical. When sufficient manure has been placed in position, it should be trodden down well with the feet, and beaten with the fork to secure a level surface and equal density throughout. Any hollow places must be filled up with more manure, until the proper level has been reached. When complete, the whole bed should be watered all over if inclined to be dry, so that it is made moist enough to generate a steady heat.
When making beds in October for the cultivation of Lettuces, they need not be more than 8 in. in depth. A fair quantity of short litter should be mixed with the hot and fresh manure, because at this period the plants do not require heat so much as being kept rather dry and sufficiently warm. Beds made in November should be somewhat deeper, and made with equal parts of old and fresh manure. From the commencement of December the beds should be from 12 to 14 in. thick, and made of fresher manure.
This is necessary, as a greater and more steady heat is then required for such crops as Lettuces, early Carrots, and Turnips.
If the beds are to be covered with cloches, the surface should have a layer of old mould spread over it evenly. After this three rows of cloches are placed upon each bed, alternating as shown in fig. 2.
When the beds are intended to carry frames, these may be placed upon them as soon as made, and when properly arranged in straight rows, the surface of the beds may be covered with mould, or even with finely sifted gritty soil in the springtime. When the frames are in position, the “lights” are placed upon them, and these are covered with mats for a few days to hasten the more rapid heating of the manure in the dark.
In preparing the ground to be occupied by a range of beds the work is carried out as follows: The soil is taken out about 3 ft. 3 in. wide at the base and thrown into a raised heap or ridge the length of the range, so as not to hold the water, or to drain itself if already too wet. When the ground for the first row of frames has been treated in this way, the soil from the second row is used for placing on the hot-bed in the first row, the soil from the third is placed in the second, and so on to the last row.
The narrow pathway which has been left between each row of frames at first remains empty if the weather is not too severe. According, however, as the hot-beds begin to lose some of their heat, the pathways between the frames are filled up, or “lined,” with short or strawy litter, not short, hot manure. This is moistened by the dripping rain from the lights, and with the heat from the beds, the manure in the pathways gradually generates heat and serves to rekindle or conserve the heat in the beds themselves for a longer period. The ends of the frames are banked up with manure about a foot deep, as are also the sides of the first and last row of the entire range, so that eventually all the frames look as if they were embedded up to the lights in a sea of manure. In this way the frames at the ends of the rows are kept as warm as those in the centre. This is an important consideration, especially for growers who wish to gather an entire crop at once. It is from the wet manure in these narrow pathways that the beds in the frames obtain the necessary moisture during the winter months, by capillary attraction.
When these hot-beds are freshly made and very warm, care should be taken not to sow or plant until the first fierce heat from the manure has somewhat abated. If this precaution is neglected and a very high temperature develops, it may be necessary to take away the outside banks of manure from the frames so as to cool the beds. If this does not suffice, plenty of water must be thrown round the beds and in the pathways until the temperature sinks to the required degree.
Cost and Maintenance of a French Garden #
As much has recently been heard as to the great profits obtainable from an acre or two of ground cultivated on the French system, it may be of interest to consider the approximate cost of establishing a garden, the annual expenditure on the same, and the returns that are likely to be secured from markets in a fairly normal state of trade.
Taking an ordinary French garden devoted mainly to producing early crops, one rarely finds more than 300 frames, or 900 lights, or more than 3,000 cloches. As the frames and lights are moved off one crop on to another, it is advisable to have extra land available so that the changes and rotations necessary may be carried out without difficulty.
Generally speaking, it is more economical in proportion to cultivate two acres than one, as the initial outlay is almost the same in both cases for establishment expenses.
Taking the various items separately for establishment we arrive at the following figures:
Table I. Estimated Capital Expenditure on Two Acres #
|Water-tank, tower, pumping-engine, stand-pipes, fences, etc.||* 200||0||0|
|3,000 Cloches @ £5 per 100||150||0||0|
|900 Lights, painted and glazed, @ 6/6 each||292||10||0|
|300 Frames for same @ 8/- each||120||0||0|
|700 Rye-straw mats @ £5 per 100||35||0||0|
|Horse, Cart and Harness||† 60||0||0|
|6 zinc French waterpots @ 15/- each||4||10||0|
|3 Spades @ 4/6||0||13||0|
|2 Forks @ 3/6||0||7||0|
|2 American Rakes, 14 teeth, @ 3/- each||0||6||0|
|1 Manure Basket with straps||0||17||6|
|1 Manure Stand, iron||1||0||0|
|3 Hose pipes||6||0||0|
|Dibbers, lines, tilts, handbarrow, etc.||1||16||0|
* If water can be obtained easily and at a specially cheap rate from a water company, there would be no need to go to the expense of sinking a well, erecting a water-tower and tank, or for having a pumping-engine. This sum might, therefore, be reduced by say £150, making the total outlay £774 instead of £924.
† This expense need not be incurred the first year, perhaps, unless it can be well afforded.
Table II. Estimated Annual Expense on Two Acres #
|Manure, 1,000 tons @ 5/- per ton||250||0||0|
|Maintenance of Horse (see note, p. 25)||30||0||0|
|Rent, Rates, Taxes, Insurance||50||0||0|
|Miscellaneous Expenses, including cost of Seeds||40||0||0|
Table III. Estimated Annual Receipts for Two Acres #
|Asparagus, Dwarf Beans, Cucumbers, Strawberries, Tomatoes, etc.||50||0||0|
Balance Sheet #
|As per Table III||860||0||0||As per Table II||630||0||0|
From the figures given above it will be seen that the expenditure of a French garden is very great for the first year—£924 sunk in capital, and £630 in expenses, making £1,554 altogether. Out of this sum, however, under proper management and with normal markets, it is estimated that £860 of the outlay would be returned. This represents a profit for the year of £230, or nearly 25 per cent. on the capital. It may therefore be assumed that at the end of four years not only would the capital be paid back, but all expenses would be paid into the bargain. Under exceptionally favourable circumstances, this desirable result may possibly be attained at the end of three years; but it is difficult to see how it could be accomplished much sooner. On the other hand, if the freehold of the garden is purchased, and a good house be erected on the land, it may possibly take six or eight years to wipe out the capital and expenses, before one can really look upon the results of his work as being pure profit.
It will be understood, of course, that the figures given are only approximate, although the prices of cloches, frames, mats, and tools may be regarded as fairly accurate. Much more money may be spent on these articles, but an ingenious man will find he can economise in many ways. For example, it is possible to make his own frames, to paint and glaze his own lights, to make his own tilts, manure stands, etc. He may also be able to dispense with a horse and cart, although he would probably find this difficult in an out-of-the-way place.
So far as the figures for the produce are concerned, the estimates have been based on rather low average prices in the markets. It has been computed that the produce from each light realises 20s., and from each cloche 2s. On this basis the nine hundred lights given above would yield £900, and the three thousand cloches £300—making £1,200 per annum from these two sources alone. I am inclined to think these figures, however, are too high.
Besides the crops mentioned, there are others that might be looked upon as a source of revenue even in a garden of two acres, such for instance as Strawberries, Tomatoes, Early Potatoes, and some others referred to at pp. 62, 63. It would be safer, however, for the beginner to confine his attention strictly to those crops that can be grown economically in bulk and fetch the best prices. Afterwards, when he feels more sure of his ground, other crops might be grown if considered desirable and sufficiently remunerative.
Perhaps one of the most difficult problems connected with commercial gardening is the disposal of the produce at such a price as to yield reasonable profits. In this connection much depends not only upon the way the “stuff” is grown, but also upon the way it is prepared for sale. It is well known that the very finest produce in the world stands a very poor chance of selling at all, unless it is packed in a neat, cleanly, and attractive way. The almighty greengrocer is often the most important factor to be considered, and his judgment is generally final. Caterers for large establishments also have keen eyes for the way produce is exposed for sale; and the grower or his agent must not be surprised at any uncomplimentary references to his vegetables and salads if they are not packed in such a way as to command approval or to attract ready and favourable attention. It is therefore of the utmost importance that Lettuces, Carrots, Radishes, Cauliflowers, Turnips, etc., should be prepared for sale and as carefully packed as possible. There are now many kinds of crates, boxes, and baskets in use—some made of willow, others of thin strips of wood, all combining lightness with cheapness and neatness. All root crops like Turnips, Radishes, and Carrots are of course nicely washed and cleaned before or after bunching; while crops like Cauliflowers, Cabbages, Lettuces, etc., have the roots, stems, and all unnecessary or useless leaves taken away. Each crop indeed is prepared and packed in accordance with what practice has found out to be the best; but that does not preclude any one from improving upon the present methods, if he sees a reasonable chance of doing so. Originality, combined with neatness and good produce, very often means remarkably quick sales.
If a grower does not go to market himself, or sell direct to his own customers, he must of necessity send his produce to a commission salesman in one or other of the great markets: and herein lies one of the great dangers of the business. There are undoubtedly salesmen of repute in all the best markets who do their best for their clients in selling at the highest prices; and they return these prices to the grower, less the legitimate commission to which they are entitled. Notwithstanding this fact, however, it is unfortunately too true that letters appear frequently in the trade papers from growers who relate that not only do they receive but little, or even nothing, for the goods sent to the salesman, but in some cases the latter individual actually sends in a charge for expenses incurred in disposing of the produce! This, coupled with the high railway rates—which are in themselves equivalent to a protective tariff—often drives the grower of good produce to despair. It is rare, however, that one hears of a commission agent entering the bankruptcy court.
A Word to Amateur Gardeners #
The figures given in the preceding pages refer to the establishment and maintenance of a “French Garden” on strictly commercial and professional lines, and they may well cause the amateur to pause before embarking on such a system of cultivation. Where, however, one has a small piece of ground at his disposal—say only 10 or 20 poles—there is no reason why he should not practise the art on a small scale, and at comparatively little expense. It must be borne in mind, however, that as the cloches and lights frequently require attention in regard to closing and opening (i.e. putting on air and taking it off), as well as shading, the amateur must either be at hand to attend to these operations himself, or must delegate the duties to some intelligent member of his household. Otherwise his crops are sure to suffer.
In large private establishments (as distinguished from purely commercial ones) the proprietors frequently employ gardeners skilled in the production of fruits, flowers, and vegetables. Where these are grown early in hothouses perhaps the system of cloches, hot-beds, and lights will not appeal very strongly. In cases, however, where there is but little or no glass, one might do worse than invest in two or three hundred cloches and a few frames and lights—bearing in mind that there ought to be a good supply of water always available.
It is impossible to estimate exactly the probable outlay and annual expenses that would be incurred by any particular amateur, but as may be seen from the figures below, a good deal could be done by the outlay of £20, and more of course in proportion to what is spent. For a small garden the following estimate may serve as an example:
|6 Frames @ 10/- each||3||0||0|
|18 Lights @ 7/6 each||6||15||0|
|18 Mats @ 1/6||1||7||0|
|Tools and Sundry Expenses||3||0||0|
|Total Cost of Establishment||£20||2||0|
The prices quoted are higher than those given on p. 25, as small purchasers usually have to pay more for material than large ones.
The annual expenses incurred in such a garden might be given thus:
|Manure, 10 tons @ 6/- per ton||3||0||0|
These figures are given on the assumption that the amateur attends to the business himself, and employs only occasional labour to help with making the beds, etc.
The produce from the lights and cloches ought to be worth the same price at least to the amateur as it fetches in market. The annual value therefore would be as follows:
|Produce of 18 Lights @ 15/- each||13||10||0|
|Produce of 100 Cloches @ 1/6 each||7||10||0|
So that at the end of the first year, having spent £30 altogether, the return would be only £9 short of the total expense. On the same basis, there should be a clear profit of £11 the second and succeeding years, equivalent to 55 per cent. on the capital outlay.
Implements and Accessories #
For intensive cultivation special appliances are necessary to enable the gardener to secure the best results. The most important will now be considered.
These are made of deal planks about an inch or more in thickness. Those used at the back are generally 9 in. wide, those in front being an inch or two narrower. Each frame is 13 ft. long and 4 ft. 5 in. wide and is built to take three lights; so that two men can easily move a frame from one place to another. The ends of the frames are often made of oak, and the four planks are nailed together, having a stout oak post at each corner. The back posts are 13 or 14 in. long, those in front being 10 or 11 in., the tops in both cases being flush with the upper edge of the boards. This gives a slope to the frames and not only throws off the rain into the pathways, but also catches the rays of the sun better. Movable bars connect back and front planks for supporting the lights in the usual way. With fair wear and tear the frames last about fifteen years. Fig. 3 shows a frame for three lights, the “rests” on the front plank being to prevent the lights slipping off when lifted up for watering.
The size favoured by French growers is 4 ft. 5 in. by 4 ft. 3 in. Where durability and economy are taken into account the frames of the lights are generally made of oak. The bottom rail, however, is often made of iron, as it is more liable to rot from the water. In the latest make the sash bars—of which there are three—are also made of iron, and are as narrow as possible, consistent with firmness, so that the maximum amount of light is given to the plants when necessary.
The lights are painted and glazed in the usual way, except that top-putty is used on iron sash bars; and the smallest pane of glass is kept at the bottom, because it runs greater risk of being broken than the others; consequently it is not so difficult or costly to replace.
It may be mentioned that the frames and lights in French gardens are narrow for scientific as well as useful reasons. In winter, when it would be dangerous to water the early crops with cold water, the necessary moisture is obtained from the wet manure in the narrow pathways by capillarity. If the frames were too wide, water would not be attracted so far as the centre of the bed, hence the plants there would suffer from drought.
This name for “bell glasses” has become almost an English word now, so it may be retained without inconvenience in this work. Cloches have been in constant use in French gardens since about the year 1623—nearly three hundred years—although originally they are said to have come from Italy. They have naturally undergone considerable modification in that time. The best cloches are made in Lorraine, and measure about 17 in. in diameter across the mouth, and about 15 in. in height (see fig. 4). Each one weighs about 5½ lb., and will hold about 6 gallons of water. The cloches are made of clear glass with a slightly bluish tint as a protection against strong sunshine. Formerly cloches had a knob on top, but as this acted like a lens and burned the plants beneath, those without knobs are now preferred, and generally used. It has been computed that something like five or six millions are in use in French gardens. It is considered more economical to order 200 or 300 at one time, as small packages are more liable to be broken in passing from hand to hand. English glass makers, I believe, are waking up to the fact that there is likely to be a trade in bell-glasses for intensive gardening purposes, so that growers will have an opportunity of encouraging home industries, if the prices are reasonable.
Cloches, being obviously fragile, a good deal of care is necessary in handling them. They are generally placed in stacks of three, and by means of a specially constructed frame one man can carry as many as twelve—weighing about 66 lb.—at one time. He carries two stacks of three, back to back, in front of him, and two similar stacks behind him on the frame. So that the cloches shall not roll off, the cross-pieces next the man are slightly lower than those at the ends (see fig. 5).
The cloche carrier is only used for long distances. For a short distance a man can easily carry three cloches in each hand by inserting a finger between them.
When the cloches are not in use they are stacked away carefully in piles of any number up to ten. Five, however, is a safer number, as shown in fig. 6. Formerly wisps of straw, hay, or litter were placed between them to prevent breakages. It was found, however, that if the straw became wet the cloches were liable to crack. Now they are placed on firm ground on which some straw or litter has been spread. A small square piece of wood or block, as shown in the figure is put on the top of the first cloche before the second is placed on it. This prevents one cloche touching the other, and if the work is done properly the upper cloche will turn round easily on the lower. It is hardly necessary to say that the cloches are placed in positions sheltered from strong winds, otherwise an unexpected hurricane might do considerable damage. The stacks of cloches are placed in rows alternating with each other, and as a protection against sudden hailstorms in summer they are covered with straw or old mats. During the winter months it is never wise to place the cloches on their side when not in use, as the side touching the ground is likely to drop out if surprised by a hard frost, and especially if there is any water inside.
The interior of the cloches is kept clean by washing every year about November, when there is little danger of the sun causing the young plants beneath to flag or “wilt.” A wisp of hay, or old rye mat tied in the middle, makes a rough brush for the purpose. The cloche is plunged into a tub of water, and as it is twirled round with one hand the interior is brushed with the other. The glass is then well rinsed and comes out perfectly clean and as good as new. There is no need to wash the outer surface, as this is kept sufficiently clean by the rain. During the summer months, however, some of the cloches are covered with whiting for shading purposes, but this is easily removed by the hand when washing the glasses.
Occasionally a cloche gets broken, and old French gardeners became experts at putting the pieces together when prices ruled high. Those I have seen in gardens near Paris were mended with strips of linen or pieces of glass and white lead placed over the cracks. Curiously enough a once-broken glass generally has a long life after being mended, as it is handled with more than usual care. Now, however, it is scarcely worth while mending- badly broken cloches, as they are so moderate in price—about £5 to £6 per 100. Some of the special sticking glues like Seccotine would probably be a great improvement on the white lead and linen method.
By the use of cloches the gardener is enabled not only to protect tender plants from the cold and wet during the worst period of the year, but owing to the genial temperature beneath them, he can also raise his plants more quickly than in the open air in the ordinary way. By constant use over the plants, having due regard to ventilation and shading, each cloche serves all the purposes of a miniature forcing house.
As one might expect, coverings of mats or sacks were in use to protect plants long before even cloches or frames were thought of. In these days the mats mostly in use are made of rye straw. Each mat is about 5 ft. to 6 ft. 6 in. long, and 4 ft. 6 in. wide, weighs about 11 or 12 lb., and is kept together by means of five strings running across the straw stems (see fig. 7). Before use the mats are steeped in a solution of copper sulphate not only to preserve them, but also to prevent rats and mice from gnawing them, and to keep off fungoid diseases.
Each mat costs about 1s. 2d. to 1s. 6d., and with fair wear and tear ought to last three or four seasons.
The mats are useful not only for protecting the plants in the frames or under the cloches from severe frosts in winter, but in summer time they are almost as much in evidence for shading the lights and cloches from the scorching rays of the sun. Old mats are useful for covering the cloches that are stacked up in summer, to protect them against the sudden hailstorms that often do much damage. Although the rye-straw mats are reasonably cheap, it may be worth while to make them in gardens when bad weather prevents the employees from doing other work.
Boys, girls, or women would probably become more expert at mat-making in a much shorter time than men. A smart willing lad should earn from 30 to 50 per cent, more per day than a man at making mats. A special frame is used for the purpose, but I have seen mats made on the wooden floor of a barn equally well. The frame consists of two pieces of wooden batten 3 or 4 in. wide, and 6 ft. or more in length, as desired. These battens form the side pieces, and are kept the required distance apart by the insertion of two cross battens about 5 ft. long—one at the end, and the other at any desired distance from it, according to the length of the mat. Four or five nails or pegs are stuck into the cross pieces, at equal distances apart, cord or tarred twine is then tightly stretched from one nail to another. The straw is now taken in handfuls and spread evenly across the strings on the frame—the cut ends being pushed against the side battens. Sewing now takes place. A quantity of string or twine is wound on a bobbin or reel about 6 in. long. The string is passed over the straw, under the bottom string, made into a loop knot, and pulled tight, so that each layer of straw is pressed close up and does not exceed three-quarters of an inch in thickness. A similar tie is made at each string, passing always from the centre to one side or the other. Handful after handful of straw is added and sewn in the way described, until a mat of the required length has been made. The mat is then detached, and the strings at each end are knotted up tightly to prevent unravelling. Any ragged edges may be cut with shears or scissors.
Where an abundance of straw from rye or wheat is obtainable cheaply, it might well be utilised for making mats. The chief points to bear in mind are to add the same quantity of straw each time and keep it even and regular.
To preserve the mats, they are immersed in a large wooden bath or cement tank, in which a copper sulphate solution has been prepared. This solution is made by dissolving from 6 to 8 lb. of sulphate of copper in 22 gallons of water. When well saturated with the solution, the mats may be taken out and hung up to dry.
Frame “Tilts” #
This is the technical name given to small blocks of wood, or sometimes brickbats or flower-pots, used for propping up the lights of the frames either at the top or bottom, or on one side or the other. As more air is given at one time than another according to the season, the temperature, and the force of the wind, the tilts, as used in frames, are usually made with two or three notches—so that much or little air can be given at will as shown in fig. 9. The tilt may be used in four different ways: (1) flat on the side, (2) on the first notch, (3) on the second notch, and (4) on the top notch. When the plants are young and tender the tilt is usually placed on its side. As the plants increase in size and sturdiness, however, a little more air may be given, and notches 1, 2, and 3 are utilised in turn.
To avoid straining the framework of the lights when giving air, the tilt should be placed near the middle of the rail at the side, or at the top or bottom, instead of being nearer to one end or to one side than to the other.
Another important point to remember is, not to tilt the lights on the side facing towards the wind, but on the side away from it. The wind thus passes over the frames without causing a cold draught. Should the lights be raised on the wrong side, the wind enters freely and causes the leaves to “flag” or wilt, and they may perhaps receive a check from which they never recover. Besides, there is another danger from raising the lights on the wrong side, viz. that a strong breeze may easily lift the lights from their position, and break a considerable amount of glass.
It may be as well to mention—although it is well known to practical men—that when plants have been exposed for a week or ten days to the greatest possible amount of air that can be given by the tilt standing upright, they will have become so hardened off that the lights themselves may be taken off altogether on bright genial days. In addition to experience, the state of the weather and the season will, however, guide one as to whether it is safe to leave the lights off during the night time or not.
Cloche Tilts #
It is quite as necessary at times to give air to the plants beneath cloches as it is to those in frames or greenhouses. Special tilts (called “fourchettes” by the French gardeners) are made for this. They consist of a narrow, triangular piece of wood, about 10 or 12 in. long, made out of slating battens or staves, and with a couple of notches taken out at right angles on the longer side, or hypoteneuse, somewhat as shown in fig. 10. The pointed end is stuck into the ground and the cloche is lifted so that the rim may rest on either the first or second notch, as shown in fig. 12.
Very often before the cloche is lifted on to the first notch, when the plants are still very young and tender, a depression is made close to the rim, by pressing the closed fist into the spongy surface of the bed.
When “air is taken off,” that is, when the cloches are let down flat on the bed again, it is done by placing the index finger on top of the tilt and pressing it backwards. The cloche then drops to the surface by its own weight. In this way it does not occupy much time to “take the air off” a few hundred cloches.
If, however, the cloche tilt is badly made, and has the notches at any angle less than a right angle, it will be impossible to take off the air with the finger only, in the way described. Both hands will have to be used, and this means considerable waste of time. A badly-made cloche tilt is shown at fig. 11.
The cloches are, naturally, tilted up on the side away from the wind, and if the tilt is firmly fixed in the soil, there is little danger of the glasses being blown about by ordinary breezes. Sometimes, however, a storm springs up suddenly, and then the damage to the cloches is likely to be great.
These are similar to those in use in English nurseries, but have no legs. They are useful for carrying lights, etc., in the narrow alleys between the frames.
Manure Basket #
Owing to the fact that the ranges of frames have pathways of a foot or less between them, it is obvious that a man could not use an ordinary wheelbarrow between them for carrying manure or soil. The pathways are narrow chiefly to economise space (owing to the high rents in Paris arid the cost of manure), and even the handles of the lights are on top of the rails instead of the ends, so that another inch or two of valuable space may be secured. To enable the gardeners, therefore, to get between the beds and frames, a peculiar shaped wicker basket called a “hotte” is used for carrying manure, etc. This “hotte” (see fig. 13) has almost a straight back, in front of which are two straps which fit over a man’s shoulders, so that it is carried much in the same way as a glazier carries his frame and glass, as shown in fig. 14, These baskets hold quite a large quantity of manure more than a wheelbarrow. While it is being filled, it is placed on a stand called a “chargeoir” (see fig. 14). This is a tripod, made of wood or iron, having two upright posts or horns, one at each end of the platform. This is at a convenient height from the ground, so that there is no necessity for a man to stoop or rise when he wishes to take the laden basket on his shoulders. He simply places his back to the basket, arranges the straps over his shoulders, and marches off to the spot where the manure is wanted. To march steadily and quickly in an alley, about a foot wide, between rows of frames, with a couple of hundredweights of manure on the back, necessitates a good deal of skill which can only be acquired by practice. Having reached his destination, the workman tilts his basket to the right or left, and shoots the manure from it almost exactly in the same way as a coalheaver gets rid of his sack of coals.
Miscellaneous Implements #
In addition to the above, other tools will be required. Amongst those most generally useful will be found steel spades, shovels, dung forks and digging forks, iron rakes (of which the American pattern is best), dibbers and trowels for transplanting, line and reel, and other odds and ends that will suggest themselves from time to time.
are almost indispensable in a “French” garden so that one may see at a glance whether the temperature is too high or too low for a specific purpose. Hot-bed or plunge thermometers are particularly useful, as it is easy, especially for beginners, to misjudge the heat of a bed—and misjudgment may mean a serious loss at times.
As all gardeners must constantly keep an eye upon “the weather, and the setting of the winds,” a good barometer in the house will always be found of the greatest use, in addition to the thermometers.
These indispensable adjuncts to a garden vary much in shape and size, and those used in France are built on somewhat different lines from those used in this country. The French gardeners prefer water-pots as shown in fig. 15, from which it will be seen that the strong, curved handle runs from near the base of the can on one side to the extreme margin on the other. This style of handle enables the gardener to use two water-pots—one in each hand—without having to put them down for refilling. When carrying water the handle is held on top right over the body of the can. When, however, water is being poured from the spout, the gardener, with an expert jerk, brings his hands farther back along the handle. This naturally sends the water out of the spout with force, and thus the water-pot in each hand can be emptied without placing it on the ground. When empty, the cans are slid or jerked back into a vertical position, and filled and emptied again in the same way as often as necessary.
The best water-pots are made in copper, and last a life-time—indeed, they almost become heir-looms. They cost from 25s. to 30s. a pair, each one holding about 2½ to 3 gallons of water. English growers will probably prefer their own water-pots, which they can handle just as dexterously as the Frenchman handles his.
The long-handled spades, or shovels, and forks are not likely to commend themselves to English gardeners who have been so long accustomed to the loop-handled tools. They are, however, specially suitable for French gardening. It certainly appears much easier to fill a manure-basket with a long-handled fork than with a short one, and the long-handled spade or shovel is a convenience when filling the frames with soil.
Under ordinary conditions the proper application of water to the roots of plants requires a good deal of care and judgment, as every professional gardener knows. When, however, plants are grown under forced conditions under cloches and lights on hot-beds, it is more than ever essential that watering should be done carefully and judiciously. All plants do not absorb water from the soil at the same rate. The roots of some kinds are much more active than those of others; consequently, the gardener must have this knowledge “at the back of his head” whenever he waters his crops. The temperature, both outside and inside the frames and cloches, must be taken into account, also the particular period of the year, and the weather actually prevailing at the time. Sometimes an abundance of water will be given, but on other occasions perhaps a mere sprinkling overhead will suffice for the same crops. Over-watering—i.e. giving too much—must be just as carefully avoided as under-watering, or not giving sufficient when the plants need it. In the case of over-watering the soil or mould is apt to become sour and sodden, fresh air is excluded, the tender roots perish through suffocation or absence of oxygen, or the lower leaves are attacked with some fungoid disease which sets up rapid discoloration and decay throughout the entire plant. On the other hand, a lack of water at the roots causes the leaves to droop or “flag,” in which condition they are unable to assimilate even the small amount of carbonic acid gas floating in the atmosphere, or to perform their other functions properly. The result may be to induce the plants to “bolt” into flower prematurely. To strike the happy medium, therefore, is the constant aim of the cultivator, and this can only be done by exercising his intellectual faculties and making use of the knowledge he has already acquired.
Watering in Winter #
So far as early crops or “primeurs” of Carrots, Radishes, Lettuces, Cauliflowers, etc., are concerned, no water, as water, is actually applied to the hot-beds on which they are raised or growing from January to March. These early crops secure sufficient moisture from the damp, hot manure beneath them, and this obtains its supplies by capillary attraction from the rains that run into the narrow pathways from the lights. It thus becomes necessary to open the lights only when absolutely needful, and the danger of chilling the plants by cold water is thus avoided during the coldest period of the year.
In the spring and early summer, and then onwards during the growing season, the application of water becomes an important feature in the day’s work. Generally speaking, it is best to give water either in the mornings before ten o’clock, or in the afternoon after three, four, or five o’clock, according to circumstances and convenience. Watering should always be avoided during the middle of the day when the sun is very hot. Tender-leaved plants especially are liable to be severely scorched and spoiled by having water upon them at this time, especially if any happen to be under a cloche or light, as the glass in either case acts as a lens, and concentrates the rays of the sun upon certain portions of the leaf surface.
When crops are well established and in full growth during the summer months, water is applied freely by means of a hose attached to the nozzle of a standpipe. Standpipes should be fixed about every 20 or 30 ft. to the 2 in. or 3 in. water-pipes running underground along the main pathways. This enables one to attach the hose to the nozzle of the most convenient standpipe, and if the latter is provided with a good screw-valve, the flow and force of water can be easily regulated.
In French market-gardens an ingenious contrivance is used to prevent long lengths of hose from trailing over the plants in the beds or frames. An iron stand, something like the capital letter H in shape, is pressed into the soil at the corner of a bed or row of frames. On the two upper arms, and on the cross-piece, is a movable metal reel. The hose-pipe rests on the cross-piece, and as it is pulled along, its progress is made easy by the movement of the reels. In this way, no matter how sharp the turn or bend, the hose-pipe does not “kink,” and the free flow of water is in no way checked.
Under the headings of the various crops mentioned in this book instructions are given as to sowing the seeds in each instance. It may be well, however, to speak of seed-sowing in general a little more fully here.
Seeds vary much in size, shape, and colour, but most of those we are dealing with may be described as “small”—the only large ones of any note being those of the Dwarf or French, and Haricot Beans.
No matter how small a seed may be, it contains all the rudiments of the future plant tightly packed away within its protecting coats. So long as the seed is alive and has been properly ripened, it possesses all the powers of germination or sprouting. It is a matter of common knowledge, however, that certain conditions are essential to induce seeds of any kind to germinate. These are: (1) a certain degree of warmth, according to the natural requirements of the species; (2) moisture; and (3) fresh air. When these conditions exist in conjunction with a properly prepared compost, we have everything essential for the good germination of seeds.
Even with these conditions there is a danger that young plants may never appear if the seeds are sown improperly. This danger arises only when the seeds are buried too deeply in the soil. One must, therefore, be careful that the smaller the seeds are the less deeply should they be sown; in other words, they must not be covered with too much soil. A good general rule amongst gardeners when sowing seeds in warmth is to cover them with a layer of soil equal to twice their own diameter. Some tiny seeds, therefore, are practically not covered at all, as they sink sufficiently deep into the miniature holes in the surface of the prepared compost after a gentle watering has been given. Seeds sown in the open air in early spring, or in autumn, however, may be covered rather more heavily as a protection against cold nights or frosts.
It is obvious that if the seeds are not to be covered with too much soil, the beds upon which they are sown must be carefully prepared, and the particles of soil must be rendered sufficiently fine by passing through a sieve. In addition to this, the seed-bed must be made firm by pressing down with a piece of board, or even by treading down with the feet, afterwards finishing off the surface as level as possible by passing a straight-edged board over it, and even by patting it down gently with the flat side. The seeds are thus prevented from sinking too deeply into the soil, and when they germinate the seed-leaves soon reach the light and air from which they draw their food and energy.
Whether the seeds are to be sown in tiny furrows, called “drills” or scattered more or less evenly over the surface “broadcast,” depends upon circumstances. As a rule such root crops as Carrots and Turnips are sown in “drills,” while Radishes may be sown in drills, or broadcast, or even in patches between other crops. The different ways in which the various seeds are to be sown are mentioned under each particular crop.
In “intensive” cultivation it is essential to sow seeds evenly and thinly as a rule, to save trouble later on, although it is generally permissible to sow much thicker than in the open ground.
Thinning Out #
With crops like Carrots, Turnips, and Radishes that are grown for their “roots,” it is detrimental to lift the seedlings and transplant them to another place. All the roots would be spoiled by doing so; they would become “fanged” or “forked,” instead of being symmetrically shaped, owing chiefly to the original tap-root being injured by moving, no matter how carefully done. Such root-crops, therefore, are allowed to mature in the spot where the seeds are sown. If the young plants, however, are too close together, they suffer sooner or later, owing to lack of air and light. Hence it becomes necessary to pull out the weakest seedlings, thus allowing more root space and air space for the sturdier plants. This is called “thinning out.”
Pricking Out #
Crops that are not grown for their roots, but for their heads, such as Cauliflowers, Lettuces, Cabbages, etc., are generally moved from the bed in which the seeds are sown. This moving is an advantage, as more root fibres and consequently more feeding agents are thus produced, and more nourishment is absorbed in a given time from the soil than would be the case with an unmoved plant.
In “intensive” cultivation, French market-gardeners do not leave their seedlings so long in the seed-bed as is customary in England. Soon after the first true leaves appear beyond the seed-leaves, or cotyledons, the baby seedlings are “pricked out” into prepared beds, either in frames or under cloches. They are then gently watered, shaded from strong sunshine for two or three days, during which period also no outer air is admitted. This method ensures the more rapid establishment of the young plants, which consequently come earlier to a state of maturity.
When French gardeners are pricking out seedlings of Lettuces, Cauliflowers, etc., on the soft beds, they rarely use a dibber or stick. The index-finger is used instead for making holes in the compost, and it is astonishing how rapidly seedling after seedling is put into its place and made firm with the fingers. The French gardener literally carries a dibber at the tips of his fingers, and he nearly always inserts the plant right up to lower leaves or seed-leaves.
Sometimes—as will be noted from time to time in the following pages seedlings are moved a second time before they are placed in their final positions. In such cases, however, they are considerably larger, and the roots will have branched further into the soil in all directions. Under these conditions, each plant is carefully lifted with a “ball of soil” attached to the roots. It is then placed in position with the aid of a trowel—the lower leaves just on the surface of the ground—and the new soil is pressed firmly round the base of the plant and the roots.
Shading and Ventilation #
These two operations almost go hand in hand, and a good deal of common sense is necessary to enable the gardener to know exactly when to do one or the other or both.
As a rule, young seedlings that are just pricked out or transplanted are shaded from strong sunshine by covering the lights or cloches with mats. At this particular period, when the plants have been more or less injured at the roots by lifting, it is advisable to check the evaporation of moisture or vapour from the millions of minute breathing pores on the surfaces of the leaves. As evaporation goes on more rapidly in sunlight and in a dry atmosphere than it does in the shade and in a moist atmosphere, it is obvious that the latter conditions are most likely to help plants, as the injured roots for the time being are unable to suck up moisture from the surrounding soil. These injured roots, however, soon heal up under normal conditions, and masses of new fibres develop behind the injured tips of the older roots. In this way, after the temporary check, the plants are really better off than they were before, by having more feeding roots, and the effect is soon apparent by the way the leaves stand up, and by the development of fresh growths. When the gardener sees this he knows the plants have established themselves in their new home. Therefore he removes the shading material, except perhaps when he considers the sun to be still too powerful.
When freshly moved seedlings are shaded from the sun, the frames or cloches also are shut down tightly. In this way the moisture or vapour arising from the soil is prevented from escaping. It is kept in the air immediately round the leaves and stems of the young plants, and thus prevents the sap in the tissues from being given off freely into the atmosphere. When the lights and cloches are kept shut down in the way described, the plants are said to be kept “close”—meaning that the outer air is not allowed to circulate freely about them for a certain time. Once, however, the plants are again in a growing condition, or have “picked up” as gardeners say, it is essential to allow them as much air and light as possible, consistent with the necessary warmth and moisture. Otherwise they would become weak and lanky—“drawn,” as the saying is—and the tissues would be so soft, tender, and flabby, that the plants would be quite useless for any purpose—scarcely fit for rabbit food even.
When growing Lettuces, Cauliflowers, Carrots, Radishes and other crops mentioned in the following pages under lights or cloches, the gardener will at once recognise the great importance of giving light and air at exactly the right moments, in accordance with the instructions given; and in doing so he must always take the state of the weather into account.
By using the tilts (see figs. 9 to 12) for lights and cloches, or even bricks or blocks of wood, as much or as little air may be given as desired. On very cold days, perhaps only a “crack” of air, as gardeners say, is given by placing the tilts on the lowest notch or on the thinnest side; and even then perhaps no air will be given until near mid-day—just for an hour or so according to climatic conditions. On other occasions, such as a bright balmy morning, air may be given quite early, and perhaps the cloches or lights will be opened to the full extent of the tilts used. This is called “putting on full air.”
Whether much or little air is given, it is always advisable, as already stated, to note the direction of the wind. The tilt is then placed on the opposite side of the cloche or light, so that the draught does not blow directly on to the tender heads of the plants, but passes over them without causing a chill, and a possible check to the growth.
Combination and Rotation Crops #
One of the most interesting and striking features of intensive cultivation is the way in which the same piece of ground is made to carry several crops in the course of a season. The crops are generally dissimilar in vegetation, and to secure the best results quick-growing plants are grown with those of a slower development. Thus it is usual to sow Early Radishes and Carrots on the same bed, and to plant Lettuces over them. The Radishes germinate quickly and do not interfere with the slower-growing Carrots, as they are taken off before the latter reach any size. The Lettuces on the same bed have grown into saleable produce in the meantime, and when they are gathered, the Carrots then have the soil, air, and light to themselves—but very often the borders of the beds are planted with Cauliflowers, which mature after the Carrots have been pulled.
Even in the open air this system of combination crops is generally practised. I have seen in the neighbourhood of Vitry ground covered with Lettuces and Endives in various stages of growth, and between the rows quick catch-crops like Spinach and Radishes have been sown. Before these attain any great height, the other crops will have been taken off the ground.
In the following pages numerous examples of combination crops, and intercropping, are given, and there can be no doubt that, practised judiciously, the system has much to recommend it. At no season of the year need the ground be without a crop of some kind.
The principle underlying the “rotation of crops” is also carried out regularly in gardens devoted to intensive cultivation. Thus, the ground which this year, perhaps, is carrying crops of Carrots, Cauliflowers, Lettuces, Radishes, Endives, Spinach, etc., etc., will be utilised next year for the production of Melons, and open-air crops generally, and vice versa. In this way a certain portion of the garden is always more or less exposed to the weather, and is kept “sweet and in good condition for other crops, by the fresh air circulating amongst its particulars.
The Vegetable Market in Paris #
In a volume devoted to the French system of gardening, it may not be out of place to refer to the produce that is sent to the markets of the French capital. The differences in taste and custom between the French and English peoples naturally result in totally different kinds of fruits and vegetables being grown for commercial purposes. What the French market-gardener therefore finds to be a remunerative crop in his own market, the English grower would most likely discover to be a drug in Covent Garden, or in any of the large provincial markets in the kingdom. From the following remarks of mine, in the American Florist, the reader may readily see how very different the vegetable produce in the Paris market is from that generally sent to Covent Garden:
“Almost in the centre of Paris on the north bank of the Seine, and opposite the famous church of St. Eustache, are to be found the famous markets of Paris known as the Halles Centrales. Meat, fish, poultry, fruits, flowers and vegetables are all to be found beneath the roof of the famous building erected by Baltard in 1874, which embraces altogether an area of about 22 acres. To see the markets at their best, a visit should be paid about five o’clock in the morning. Amongst horticultural produce, the vegetables seem to be of far more importance here than either the fruits or flowers. Most of the business in the vegetable market is done by women, and row after row of stalls are laden with produce sent in from the market-gardens all round the city.
“There is a general similarity between the Halles Centrales and Covent Garden, London, so far as noise, bustle, and activity are concerned, but there is a great difference in the produce displayed for sale. Vegetables that one rarely sees in Covent Garden, such as Aubergines, Butter Beans, Black Radishes, Haricots Verts, Cantaloup Melons, etc., are greatly in evidence in Paris, and it is evident that a flourishing trade is done in produce that would probably fail to find a customer in London. Salads always constitute a large proportion of the vegetable market in Paris, where, of course, the marketing is largely in the hands of the mothers and daughters of the various families who deal direct with the growers.
“At the time of my last visit to the Central Markets I was particularly struck with the large quantities of Globe Artichokes on sale. They were on every stall, and were selling for about 6d. to 1s. a dozen heads. Mushrooms also were in fair abundance and were realising about 8d. to 9d. per pound. A rather long tapering turnip known as ‘Croissy’ was in great abundance, and although it has been grown by Parisian market-gardeners for several generations, it is still considered one of the best all-round varieties. Radishes, the small red varieties with white tips, were of course in evidence everywhere, and they looked so nice and fresh and enticing that it is no wonder they sell in enormous quantities. The Melons of the Cantaloup Prescott variety were on almost every stall, but they were cheap in comparison with what they had realised earlier in the season. Indeed, the street hawkers had barrow-loads of these Melons which they sold in portions at the rate of 2d. or 3d. a pound to passers-by during August.
“Carrots, the short stump-rooted varieties, are always great favourites in Paris, while there was also an abundance of Golden Celery, Cauliflowers, Sorrel, Garlic, Endive, and Lettuces. I was rather struck with the quantity of small green Vegetable Marrows offered for sale. The fruits were not more than 6 or 7 in. long and were obviously as fresh as they could well be. I was informed that they sold remarkably well, as also did the small Prickly Cucumbers known as ‘cornichons.’ White-fruited Cucumbers were fairly conspicuous, and as they are not extensively grown, they realise fairly good prices. The long green-fruited Cucumbers are, however, the most highly appreciated. The Black Radishes, which look like intermediate carrots or Croissy turnips that have been smothered in soot, cannot fail to attract attention. All over Paris these curious-looking vegetables were to be seen in the greengrocers’ shops.”
Extension of the French System #
Although the French system of intensive cultivation is regarded as being confined to the production of vegetables and salads, there is no reason why the cloches and frames in use may not be turned to good account in connection with other crops. From the nature of the implements, it is obvious that short-stemmed or dwarf-growing crops are likely to lend themselves successfully to the treatment, and the following may be regarded chiefly in the light of suggestions.
Amongst important fruits, Strawberries may be looked upon as being particularly suited for growing under lights or cloches to produce early crops. At present these are grown in pots in greenhouses, close to the glass, and require considerable time and attention in regard to watering, syringing, regulation of temperature, and keeping free from mildew. Grown under cloches, or in beds that will accommodate the frames and lights used for salads, it would be possible to secure early crops of Strawberries in spring from young plantations without going to the trouble of lifting the plants and potting them in the autumn. For instance, in the case of beds, it would be possible after placing the frames and lights over the plants, to fill in the pathways with manure from which heat would be generated in the frames in accordance with the requirements of the season. A certain amount of the short, warm manure could also be worked in between the rows of plants without disturbing the roots, and when the fruits were swelling, a layer of clean litter could be added for the sake of cleanliness. In this way the Strawberries would come into bearing more quickly, and watering and ventilation could be attended to without inconvenience. Once the fruits are gathered, the frames and lights, and manure in the pathways, may be used for other purposes. Of course Strawberries grown in pots could also be forced in the frames if necessary.
Cloches would be found useful for placing over the crowns of the Strawberry plants, if these were planted in three angled rows in the same way as Lettuces, as shown in fig. 41. Each plant would have a cloche to itself, and in cold weather warm manure could be packed in between and around the glasses to keep the plants warm. Later on, when the weather became warmer, it might be possible to have a Cos or Cabbage Lettuce planted in the spaces between the cloches; and these would probably be useful afterwards for placing over the Lettuces, according to the season.
In most parts of the kingdom it is dangerous to place Tomato plants in the open air till the end of May or early in June, owing to the frosts and cold nights. If, however, hot-beds of the regulation width to accommodate three rows of cloches were prepared, and a gentle heat from the manure were secured, it would be quite possible to sow Tomato seeds under a cloche or two as early as January or February, in the gritty mould that would be placed over the manure. The strongest plants would be pricked out in due course, and after becoming established, air would be given more or less freely by tilting the cloches on all favourable occasions. This would keep the young plants sturdy and actively growing at the same time. If by chance they grew too tall for the cloches before it was safe to dispense with the latter (one being placed under each as soon as possible), the glasses could be raised on three tilts, bricks, or blocks of wood, in the way described for Cucumbers at p. 128. When frost is no longer feared, the cloches may be dispensed with, and the plants will continue to develop and ripen their fruits without having to undergo the usual check to the roots caused by moving. The plants, of course, should be staked, and during the season all the side shoots (“laterals”) from the main stems should be pinched out when they appear. Only four trusses of flowers should be allowed to set their fruits. The tops should be cut off about two leaves beyond the upper truss of flowers. The leaves, however, should not be cut off or mutilated in any way, except when they turn yellow at the base of the plant.
Early Potatoes #
Where these are valued it ought not to be difficult to secure a good crop early in the year, with the aid of cloches and frames, and warm manure, the operations being much the same as described for Tomatoes—except, of course, that tubers instead of seeds are being dealt with.
These are an important crop when the fruits can be secured early in the season. The Bush Marrows, as well as the creeping kinds, might be very easily established early in the year in the following way: About February, or early in March, dig out a few spadefuls of soil where each plant is to grow. The hole thus made should be filled with a layer about a foot thick of hot manure, and covered with about 6 in. of nice, rich, gritty mould. When the rank heat, if any, has subsided and the temperature is about 70° to 75° Fahr., two or three Marrow seeds should be sown about 2 in. deep in the centre of each little bed, and after being watered in, should be covered with a cloche. As many little hot-beds as are required can be made in this way, allowing enough space between each for the development of the plants later on. After germination air is given as freely as possible, considering the weather, and by the middle or end of May, or before that period in many parts, it will be possible to remove the cloches altogether. Attention to copious waterings and pinching the shoots afterwards constitute the chief cultural details to secure an abundance of early Marrows.
This is another useful and highly appreciated crop when it comes in with the early Potatoes and Green Peas. It could be grown quite easily in the hot-beds in the frames, and could be forced into tender growth as early as required by lining the frames with warm manure if necessary.
Where one can draw upon a plantation of Rhubarb, clumps may be lifted for forcing from December till the end of March, as the young and highly coloured leaved-stalks often realise good prices at this period of the year. For lifted clumps the process of forcing is almost precisely the same as described at p. 76 for the production of green Asparagus, the one essential difference being that the Rhubarb should be grown in the dark. Rhubarb may also be forced without lifting, in the same way as described for White Asparagus (see p. 73). The varieties called “Linnaeus,” “Champagne,” and “Myatt’s Victoria” are the best for forcing.
Passing to flowers, perhaps the single-flowered and double-flowered varieties of Violets may be regarded as a good commercial crop early in the season, owing to their delicious fragrance. The general custom is to lift the clumps early in autumn and replant in frames of rich soil. This operation might be carried out in the same way with hot-beds, but later in the year altogether. It would also be possible to have the Violet-beds arranged so that they could be easily covered with frames and lights, or cloches, without the plants being moved at all. Indeed, the treatment described for obtaining early Strawberries (see p. 60) might be carried out with advantage in the cultivation of early Violets; and with good annual mulchings of manure and plenty of water when required the plants would continue to yield large crops of blossoms for years.
Christmas Roses (Helleborus niger) #
During December and January large numbers of these pure white blossoms find their way to market and are highly appreciated. To secure these, the clumps have to be lifted and carried into a warm greenhouse to open their blossoms. If, however, the beds on which they are grown were to be only the width of the frames and lights, it would be an easy matter to force them into early blossom by filling up the pathways between the frames with hot manure, in the same way as for Strawberries (p. 60). With cloches, however, it would be possible to cover each crown, and place the manure between. As great heat is not necessary, the Christmas Rose seems to be particularly well suited for this system of cultivation.
Several other popular plants, such as early Tulips, Lilies of the Valley, Primroses, Polyanthuses, Auriculas, Forget-me-Nots, etc., might be brought earlier into blossom if desired by the judicious use of frames and cloches.
During July and August, when the lights and cloches are usually stacked away in heaps and piles in French gardens, many of them might be utilised for the propagation of Roses and other beautiful, shrubby plants from the half-ripened summer shoots. Indeed, it is possible, with the enormous varieties of plants now in cultivation, that there are many different ways still unthought of, to which the use of the frame and cloche may be extended. It should, however, be borne in mind that excursions into these other branches of gardening would necessitate more land, labour, etc., and the results might not be worth the trouble in all cases.