Despite my dramatic title, I’m actually writing about gardening. Yesterday I shared an extract from a ninety year old book, Practical Gardening and Food Production by Richard Sudell. One of the chapters is a month by month guide to work in the garden, including vegetables, fruit, trees, flowers and herbs. The instructions are so clear and so precisely written I’m sure any gardener today would find it a useful volume. Continuing from yesterday, what to do inn the April vegetable patch:
Food plots: Main crop potatoes are planted now. Reduce the number of sprouts on each tuber to one or two strong ones, and then set the tuber carefully in the open furrow. A little extra care such as the amateur gardener can well give to the planting will make considerable difference to the crop.
As rows of seedlings gradually show, run the hoe through the soil that divides the rows, and at the same time, pull out by hand weeds actually in the rows.
If seedlings are disturbed by hoeing or weeding, press them immediately back; unless the roots are in close contact with moist soil, the plants cannot grow.
Sowings delayed through bad weather in March must be carried out now. Seeds that must be in the ground before the month ends are onions, main crop carrots, radishes, summer spinach, swedes. Other seed sowings for the month include beet, salsify, scorzonera, endive, kohl-rabi, lettuce (for succession) peas (tall varieties), and perpetual spinach.
Plant out hardened seedlings only; remember that frosts are still probable. Keep light litter, mats and other material handy for the protection of open-air plants should severe frosts come.
Thin crops sown on the plots as soon as convenient: two things are best, taking out the seedlings only as they crowd each other.
When potatoes and other vegetables come through the soil, and frosty weather is not yet past, a little soil drawn up over or against the young stems will protect them.
Slugs on the food plot can be fought with slug killers from the sundries shop.
Sage, mint and chives can still be planted. These will be found specially useful in the wartime garden, as flavourings for meatless meals.
Use derris powder on vegetables to prevent attacks of caterpillars.
How comprehensive is that! Bang goes the idea that British food was dull, even during the war – look at the number of different vegetables suggested – fourteen, plus herbs and elsewhere in the book there are countless varieties of each to suit each taste, to favour particular soils and conditions and for particular uses. In the next sections – still in April and on a double page spread, he gives guidance for the fruit garden, the flower patch and more seven more vegetables which are grown under glass, at least to begin with, runner beans, cardoons, marrows, ridge cucumbers, tomatoes, celery and brussels sprouts.