Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The Gardener's Calendar - June 1863

This is from Whitnash Parish Magazine, in 1863, and here is the section that begins June, and the gardening tasks.

Measurements are given in "bushels" - the name derives from the 14th century buschel or busschel, a box, although the modern usage of the term is now weight rather than volume. As volume, a bushel would be 4 pecks, and a peck would be 16 dry pints. I thank goodness we now have the metric system. I don't remember bushels, but I do remember doing calculations at primary school in both imperial measures, and the old currency of pounds, shillings and pence, and being hugely relieved when everything went metric. As bushels are now weight, rather than volume, there is a further complication in that a standard weight is assigned to each commodity that is to be measured in bushels!

It is estimated that the productivity of wheat was about 19 bushels per acre in 1720 and that it had grown to 21-22 bushels in the middle of the eighteenth century. It declined slightly in the decades of 1780 and 1790 but it began to grow again by the end of the century and reached a peak in the 1840s around 30 bushels per acre.

It is also interesting in that the weeds are used for manure, which of course they can be if they are not treated with weed-killers; something for the organic gardener to consider, and which was natural not special in 1863.

For the seasonal poem which follows, the following terms are useful to know:

Woodbine is another name for honeysuckle
Convolvulus is a name for bindweed
Purple ramping-fumitory is a species of hedge-banks
Small Mouse-ear Hawkweed, known commonly as Mouse-ear is still collected and used by herbalists for its medicinal properties.
The cinquefoil is quite easy to recognize in the wild. The herb is a rather pretty and dainty species of plant. The name of the cinquefoil is after an Old French word that means "five-leaf."

I have retained the original spellings. Nowadays, "brocoli" is spelt "broccoli" and "Brussels-sprouts" has lost its hyphenation and capital letter; it is salutary to see how modern "standard" spellings are actually fairly recent in origin, less than 200 years old.

The Gardener's Calendar - June 1863

In June the foliage of the are trees is completed, and vegetation advances on all side:, very rapidly. The grass grows thick in the meadows, and is generally ready for the scythe by the end of this month. The days are at their longest: hot weather alternates with cold north winds and storms of thunder and hail. The fields and woods are full of flowers; the hedges are covered with "May," which seldom comes to its full perfection in its own month, and the stately chestnuts are covered with their scented blossom.

The Garden - keep the soil loose among growing peas and other crops. Water and mulch if dry. Sow spinach, lettuce, and all salads. Plant brocoli, Brussels-sprouts and cabbages for succession, brocoli for main crop. Sow parsley for winter ; sprinkle asparagus and red beet beds with salt; water strawberries and protect the fruit by putting grass or straw between the rows. Sow biennials and perennials; take cuttings of choice pinks, carnations, wallflowers, and lavender. Train box edgings and laurel hedges early in this month.

Weeds are very troublesome both in the field and garden during the summer months. They should be removed and reduced either by burning or in the pig-yard to state of rottenness and utility as manures. They are thus made useful agents instead of causing serious loss.

A striking proof of the destructiveness of weeds in corn fields is given by the Bath and West of England Agricultural Society. Seven-acres of land were sown broadcast - of these one acre was measured, and left unweeded for experiment, the other six were carefully weeded.. the unweeded acre produced eighteen bushels of wheat; the six weeded averaged twenty-two and a half bushels per acre. Again, six acres were sown with barley, and well prepared in every respect: the weeding (charlock abounding there) cost 12s. per acre.

The produce of an unweeded acre was thirteen bushels, of the weeded twenty-eight bushels ! - and besides this, the land in the one case was in good order for the succeeding crop, and in the other in a bad state. But further, six acres were sown with oats,-one acre ploughed but once and manured, produced. only seventeen bushels; the rest ploughed three times, manured and weeded, produced thirty-seven bushels per acre: of this increase, one half of the excess was attributed to careful weeding, the other half to the manuring -a good practical lesson in both results. It will be thus seen that though the trouble and expense of getting rid of weeds are very great, yet they are amply repaid by the increased value of crops. The soil will only produce a certain amount of vegetation, and the careful farmer and gardener will take care that. the vegetation shall be, as far as possible, only what he desires.


Who does not love the balmy hours of June
When, book in hand, we stray,
The streamlet singing us its loving tune,
Along the lone pathway ?

By tangled hedge-row now how sweet to wander,
'Neath trees that arch on high
The gray church-tower, just peeping dimly yonder,
Pointing from earth to sky.

The wild rose blushing, as from tree-top height
Her graceful arm she flings,
Luring the summer butterflies to light
And close their brilliant wings.

Gather her roses for our summer wreath,
But not the fully blown ;
Choose the green buds with dainty pink beneath,
Nor cull the rose alone-

But blend the woodbine, with its fragrant breath,
That woos the passing bee ;
They grew in life together, so in death
Let them united be.

Cull too their playmate in the sunny day,
Convolvulus all white ;
Then add the purple fumitory's spray,
Mouse-ear and cinquefoil bright.

Now where the streamlet bubbles into life,
We'll twine our wreath together,
And far from scenes of sorrow and of strife,
Thank God for summer weather


alane said...

This is a really sweet and interesting musing, Tony. Thank you!

alane said...

This is a really sweet and interesting musing, Tony. Thank you!