East Midlands Food

East Midlands Food

July in the garden and the hen house


The 1930 edition of the Tit-bits Yearbook included month by month advice about gardening. In July, ground cleared of early crops had to be cleaned over and raked up ready to plant winter greens, and loose soil pulled from around shallots ‘to hasten ripening’. Parsley running to seed should be cut back to encourage new growth, and herbs gathered as they came into flower, to be tied into bunches and dried for use in the future.

Gooseberries ready to pick

More salad vegetables could be sown ‘to provide succession crops’, and the growth of  ’backward’ vegetables encouraged by watering them with a solution of nitrate of soda, ’one ounce to the yard row, applying it after rain or watering with clear water’. Thinning of fruit should be continued, removing small or malformed fruits, and windfalls gathered up and burnt ‘for many will contain insect pests’.

Gardeners were also advised to give their potatoes a second spraying with Bordeaux mixture. I discovered from a gardening blog (see http://blog.gardenersworld.com/2010/04/16/potato-blight-and-bordeaux-mixture/) that this was commonly used as a fungicide in vineyards as well as to prevent potato blight – hence the name. It consisted of a mixture of copper sulphate and hydrated lime, and despite concerns about its poisonous nature and the time the copper sulphate takes to break down in the soil, a quick search of the Internet reveals that it is still freely available.

The same Yearbook also had monthly advice for poultry keepers, including ‘Reduce rations for two- and three-year old fowls in order to encourage early moulting, but as soon as the first feather is seen to drop, feed them generously’. Laying pullets should be given a summer ration of grain (equal parts of wheat and oats) and a wet mash consisting of five parts of middlings (a mixture of bran and coarsely ground wheat), two and a half parts of Sussex ground oats, two parts of maize meal, half a part of bran, one part of clover meal, and one and a half parts of meat and bone meal. Growing birds had to be separated according to their sex as they ‘must not run together after fours months of age… Allowing them to have full liberty over a meadow or about a large run or even over the lawn in the garden keeps back precocious pullets. Pullets must not commence to lay until they are about six months old’.

If there are any gardeners or poultry keepers among you (I am neither, as you might suspect) does this advice still apply now? I’d be interested to know.

Many museums and historic houses in the East Midlands have gardens, and July is a great time to visit some of them. The Workhouse at Southwell, for example, has a recreated working 19th century garden (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-theworkhouse/). At Calke Abbey in Derbyshire there are walled gardens with flower and kitchen gardens and an orangery (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-calkeabbey/), while the 12 acre site at Easton Walled Gardens near Grantham has been cultivated for around 400 years (http://www.eastonwalledgardens.co.uk/). There are lots more – see http://www.gardens-guide.com/maps/eastmid.htm for a few ideas.




    Bryony Robins July 6th, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    I like a bit of Bordeaux in the garden too – especially on a warm summer evening.


    Caroline Moore July 9th, 2010 at 8:56 am

    I have problems with catepillars that always eat the leaves on my Gooseberry Bush.


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A research project that looked at various aspects of food in the East Midlands, linking them with museum displays and objects in the region, and making the results available to as many people as possible in different formats.