Market gardening advice from 1882

I like reading old farming books; much of the market gardening advice given 50 or 100 years ago is still valid today. Here's some tidbits from a market gardening book published in 1882 called Gardening for Profit (the full document is available to download, see link at bottom of page.)

Quotes from the book are in italics, with my comments following. Bold emphasis in the quotes was added by me.

"Although we shall here show the business of gardening to be a profitable one, let no man deceive himself by supposing that these profits are attainable without steady personal application."


In other words, no one cares about your market garden as much as you do, and your success will be directly correspondent to the effort and attention you invest. You can't 'hire' your way to success; see the next piece of market gardening advice for more on this.

"A life long practice (of gardening) is not absolutely necessary to success, for I can see, from where I write, the homes at least of half a dozen men, all now well to do in the world, not one of whom had any knowledge of gardening, either practical or theoretical, when they started the business, but they were all active working men, "actual settlers," and depended alone on their own heads and hands for success, and not on the doubtful judgment and industry of a hired gardener."


While you don't have to know everything in the world about gardening to be a successful market gardener, there is one thing you do need - an entrepreneurial attitude. Small farmers and market gardeners are definitely entrepreneurs; you have to be able to chart your own course, make your own decisions, and plan, market and manage your business without reference to a 'boss'. It cam be scary, but is definitely rewarding if you pull it off.

"In these cases, no doubt, the consumer pays full double the price that the raiser receives, for they generally pass through the hands of two classes of "middle-men,"before they reach the consumer; besides which there are extra charges for packing, shipping, and freight. In most of such towns, market gardening, carried on after our manner, would, unquestionably, be highly remunerative ; for if these articles were offered to the consumer fresh from the gardens, he would certainly be willing to pay more for his home-grown products, than from the bruised and battered ones that are freighted from the metropolis."


This piece of market gardening advice boils down to “eliminate the middlemen” whenever possible, and keep more of the consumers' food dollars in your own pocket.

"On many occasions I have referred to the great importance of selecting a proper quality of soil for all gardening and farming operations, and the fact cannot be too often nor too forcibly impressed that success hinges more directly upon this than on anything else. Wherever a man of ordinary industry and intelligence has been fortunate enough to locate on land that is naturally good his success has been certain, while others that have not been able to procure such land have had to struggle far harder for less returns; in some few instances entire failure has been the case, for the reason that the soil started on was unfitted for the purpose."


If you are just starting out as a market gardener and have not yet secured property, pay particular attention to this piece of market gardening advice. While inadequate buildings may be replaced, and poor fencing can be rehabilitated, it is a long arduous process to fix land that is unsuitable. Check out the quality of the land before you commit.

"It is not always that choice can be made in the situation of or aspect of the ground; but whenever it can be made, a level spot should be selected, but if there be any slope, let it be to the south. Shelter is of great importance in producing early crops, and if a position can be got where the wind is broken off by woods or hills, to the north, or northwest, such a situation would be very desirable."


And while you are checking out the land, look for a spot like described above for your garden. A slope to the south-east is OK, too.

This next tidbit of market gardening advice is in reference to a man who attempted to cultivate 10 acres with inadequate resources, and was a failure.

"Had the same amount of capital and the same energy been expended on three or four acres, there is hardly a doubt that success would have followed. Those who wish to live by gardening, cannot be too often told the danger of spreading over too large an area, more particularly in starting."


In other words, start small, learn as you go, patiently acquire the equipment and experience you need to grow. Good market gardening advice in any century

You can download the full document Gardening for Profit at the link below; just right-click and use 'save as' or 'save link as' to save your own copy to your PC.

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