By Thomas Smith
Published by Longmans, Green and Co. 1914 and Applewood Books in 2008
Reviewed here by Douglas Smith
Reading this will bring you bang up to up to date with the latest gardening techniques…of, well…1914 actually. But that said, the French Intensive garden system was the most intense and productive in Europe, and likely not matched since. It fell from grace due to increasing land prices around Paris pushing the market gardens further and further from the markets they hoped to support, combined with increasing scarcity of the crucial input of horse manure (up to 500 tons per acre per year!) as people swapped horse and cart for cars.
Some of the techniques (or volume of inputs!) aren’t applicable to us today, but others stand the test of time and are as relevant today as they were then. Cover to cover, this book has gems throughout and it’s a fascinating insight into the thinking of the time – and can only help you think of your own vegetable production methods in a new light and with new eyes. Some of the highlights for me included:
- Intricate glass cloche work and rotation on successional crops
- Landforming for early cropping using artificial south facing slopes followed by “hotbed” manure trench and broad bean windbreaks
- Frost protection – e.g. running shallow trenches with glass covers
- Detailed intercropping plans to make the most of space
The book’s available to download or read online at Archive.org for free – it will only cost your time. I came across this book in the small print in the back of Eliot Coleman’s New Organic Grower, and I’ve not been disappointed. A great historical read which still has relevance today. Highly recommended!
With thanks to Douglas Smith for his review.Subscribe to The Ruminant newsletter! Click here.