Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The Cottage Gardener's Calendar - January and February

I see that the funeral of Dennis Shaw, Jersey's much loved "gardening guru", takes place today. The notice in the JEP reads:

SHAW, Denis Richard Relatives and friends wishing to attend the funeral service are invited to meet at Ebenezer Methodist Church, Trinity, on Tuesday, 4 January, at 1 p.m. A private committal will follow at the Crematorium Chapel. Family flowers only, please. Donations, if desired, may be sent to Jersey Hospice Care, Mr Ian Richardson, Clarkson House, Le Mont Cochon, St Helier, JE2 3JB or Ebenezer Methodist Church, Trinity.

Ransom's Garden centre Twitter also had this:

"Lovely Dennis Shaw, died on Christmas day, true gentleman and gardener. He will missed. "

In tribute to him, and burrowing in my archives again, I have a piece from my copies of the Whitnash Parish Magazine of 1863. Whitnash is now a suburb of Leamington Spa, but until around 1850, the only access was "through paths and lanes across surrounded cultivated fields. It is likely that this relative isolation has bequeathed to the residents a strong sense of belonging to a distinct locality. There is no marked town centre but a handful of half-timbered thatched cottages centred on St Margaret's Church mark the nucleus of the old village."(1) Around 1850, still a small village, some roads began to connect it to other towns, but in 1863, it was still small and rural, much like the village centres of country parishes in Jersey.

This piece is "The Cottage Gardener's Calendar" for January and February, and when it was written, most people would have been working off the land, either as farmers or labourers, but even labourers, in their cottages, may well have also grown their own crops for home use. Here, then is the advice given:

All draining, trenching, and ridging should be got on with, so as to prepare the surface for spring cropping'. Hedges, boundaries, and corner pieces should be trimmed and made the most of. Paths should be made clean, tidy, and of moderate width, nor encroaching indeed on the public, or boundary way, but extending to the proper limit by a well marked line.

The manure heap which should have been thrown together in November, so as to exclude rain and snow, should be occasionally turned and broken up.

Store Produce.-Of course these have been secured before now ; take a peep at them, however, and see if any rot prevail; if so, let them be turned. Potatoes, especially, must be well examined, both as to seed and eating potatoes. Onions, also, must be watched a little; and towards the middle of February the remaining Parsnips in the soil be trenched out. Apples, too, should be picked carefully, and if in some dry place and beginning to shrivel, they should be covered closely. Exclude both light and air.

Seed-beds. - By this I mean your stores of -Cabbage, Lettuce, Cauliflower, and other little matters, provided by a wise anticipation for spring planting. Little protection has hitherto been needed, but we have not parted with the winter yet; let us not be betrayed at the eleventh hour.

Rhubarb.-Those who desire to have this early should cover the crowns with some open litter, or get chimney-pots and such-like over them, and if they have a little hot manure they may pile it round them.

Pruning.-Some of our readers have, doubtless, a few Gooseberry or Currant bushes in their gardens; now is the time to prune them; and I will offer a few simple rules for their guidance. Thin out Gooseberries much in the centre of the bush; thin also the exterior, so that the young shoots would be, on an average, two or three inches apart, and, of course, throw all the bearing powers of the bush towards the exterior; this will save trouble in gathering, and produce finer fruit; shorten the ends according to the condition of the wood. Black Currants bear best on the young shoots, like Gooseberries, and require similar thinning, but rather avoid shortening them, as it induces too many side-shoots and suckers, which rob the system of the bush.

Red and White Currants must have all the side-spray cut back to within an inch of each main branch, and in shortening the leading shoots leave about four or five inches annually.

Planting.-Those who wish to plant fruit-trees or bushes, and have not done it in November, should wait until the opening part of February.

Sowing.-Little of this at present. Early Radishes, and very early Peas may now be sown at any open period.

Finally, let those concerned take into consideration the great importance of using every spare hour, while the busy season is advancing, of carrying out all they can as to the forenamed maxims ; when March arrives, they will find a much greater pressure, and their hands tied as to improvements. The mere cultural operations of that period will be found enough. ;It is astonishing what the soil will do if handled with a little sense, and, above all, with industrious perseverance.



Anonymous said...

Nice find Tony. Looking at my list of stuff to do in the next 2 months, it hasn't really changed.

TonyTheProf said...

I hope to dig out March's stuff when the month comes round!