Kitchen Garden–Setting Up And Maintaining For Self Sufficiency

Productivity of a garden, especially the kitchen garden, rests on maintaining and improving soil fertility and structure.

The 3 essentials are:

(1) organic manuring

(2) liming

(3) fertilising

Under cultivation the organic soil content is lost more quickly than it is replaced. In light soils this means loss in moisture-retentiveness; in heavy, loss in aeration; in all soils loss of humus, the chief reservoir of plant foods. The soil needs a dressing of organic manure at least once every other year. In the scarcity of farmland and stable manure substitutes must be used, such as leafmould, peat, hop manure, shoddy and compost. Organic compost consists of organic refuse (plant remains, leaves, mowings, etc.) and household refuse (kitchen waste, vacuum cleaner dust, etc.), scientifically rotted with an accelerator of decomposition. A common method is to heap the material in layers like a sandwich; thickish layers of mixed organic debris being interleaved with an accelerator (dung, nitrogenous chemical mixture, or proprietary compound), sprinkling of soil and lime, and left 4-12 months to decompose. Such compost is roughly equivalent to good farmyard manure, and a compost heap should be a permanent asset in every garden.

With few exceptions, notably rhododendrons, certain ericas, cranberries, strawberries and raspberries, garden plants thrive best when there is adequate calcium (lime) in the soil. Lime also liberates other plant foods, and improves soil structure by causing the particles to flocculate. Sour clay soils benefit greatly from liming, so do acid sands, silt and peat. Also some crops need more lime than others. Onions, beets, celery, spinach, brassicas, lettuce and leafy greens need a well-limed soil. Peas, beans, carrots, sweet corn and runner beans need a moderately limed soil. Potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, marrows, cucumbers and melons need very little or no lime except when grown in most acid soils. The type of lime used influences the amount. Ground limestone or chalk is used at rates of 1-2 lb. Per sq. yd; ground burnt lime or quicklime at 4-1 lb. Per sq. yd; and hydrated lime at -1-1 lb. Per sq. yd. The last named can be applied at any time of the year. Other limes are best applied in autumn or winter.


Fertilisers are necessary to make good soil deficiencies and to get increased yields. Briefly, fertilisers are designed to supply 3 major plant foods: nitrogen, phosphorus and potash. The common nitrogenous fertilisers are:

Inorganic or chemical—

  • sulphate of ammonia (20.6 per cent),
  • nitrate of soda (16.0 per cent),
  • nitro-chalk (15.5 per cent);


  • dried blood (12-14 per cent),
  • hoof and horn meal (14 per cent).

Phosphatic fertilisers:


  • superphosphate of lime (17-18 per cent),
  • basic slag (9-18 per cent),
  • triple superphosphate (40-48 per cent);


  • steamed bone flour (27.5 per cent),
  • bone meal (20-24 per cent.)

Potassic fertilisers:


  • muriate of potash “(50-60 percent),
  • sulphate of potash (48.5 per cent),
  • kainit (14 per cent),
  • potash salts (20-30 per cent),
  • wood ash (2.5-6 per cent).

Certain fertilisers contain more than one element, notably:

  • guano (10-14 per cent nitrogen, 9-11 per cent phosphorus),
  • meat meal (3-7 per cent nitrogen, 9-16 per cent phosphorus),
  • fish guanoes (9-14 per cent nitrogen, 9-20 per cent phosphorus).

Inorganic fertilisers are quickly exhausted; organic fertilisers tend to have residual effects for 2-4 years. The essence of good fertilisation is to combine chemicals carrying the 3 major elements to suit the needs of the crop and the soil in which it is grown. Such combinations are known as ‘complete’ fertilisers. In practice, deficiencies of other elements, many known as trace nutrients, may occur, and other chemicals be used to correct them. Borax, for instance, is used to correct a boron deficiency. In the well-tended garden, however, unusual soil deficiencies are rare. One-sided exhaustion of the soil, and susceptibility to insect pests and diseases in the kitchen garden, can be minimised by crop rotation. In practice, this means that like vegetables of the same plant family do not follow one another on the same ground. For instance, peas should not follow beans; tomatoes potatoes, cabbage cauliflower, and so on. For a 4-year rotation the plots are four. In 1st year no. 1 plot is cropped with potatoes; No. 2 with peas, beans, onions, leeks, celery; No. 3 with root vegetables; No. 4 with brassicas and saladings. In 2nd year No. 1 is cropped as for No. 2; No. 2 for No. 3; No. 3 for No. 4, and No. 4 for No. 1. In subsequent years the cropping is rotated similarly until by the 5th year the rotation begins again, as for the 1st year. There are some exceptions to rotation. Perennial crops, like asparagus, and onions may be grown on the same soil for sev. Years. It is also permissible for swedes or turnips to follow carrots, since they are of different plant families. Insect pest and disease control are important aspects of vegetable growing, requiring some knowledge of their incidence and character, so that proper preventive or remedial measures can be taken. The chief preventive is good culture which fosters vigorous growth, robust health and resistance in the plant.

Kitchen Garden Calendar

A short calendar of operations for the year follows:

  1. January.—Rough-dig vacant ground; ridge stiff clay to be frosted. Fork in organic manure. On warm, sheltered border, sow round peas and broad beans; plant shallots and garlic. Under glass start tomatoes, cucumbers and melons in heat. Prepare hotbeds for early crops. Sow leeks, onions, lettuce, radish under ‘glass. Force rhubarb, chicory, seakale. Sow spinach and plant out lettuce under cloches. Complete seeds order. Treat vacant slug infested ground with dry Bordeaux mixture (1 lb. To cover 20 sq. yds) or use a proprietary slug killer.
  2. February.—Continue winter cultivations. Lime acid soil, if needed, or use basic slag. Box seed potatoes in light, frostproof quarters to sprout. Outdoors sow broad beans, round peas, parsnips, thyme and pot herbs; plant onion sets, Jerusalem artichokes and divide chives. Sow in heat under glass celery, onions, leeks, early cauliflower, lettuce, Fr. Beans, ann. Flower seeds. Cloche early strawberries.
  3. March.—Prepare seed-beds outdoors, dressing with complete fertiliser 7 days before sowing. Sow brassicas (Brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc.), spinach, oiiions, leeks, peas, carrots and vegetable seeds generally outdoors. Under glass in heat sow celery, celeriac, capsicum, tomatoes, marrows and cardoons for summer cropping. Divide globe artichoke roots. Clean, salt and fertilise asparagus bed.
  4. April.—Weed assiduously, especially seedbeds. Prepare marrow beds, celery trenches and plant new asparagus beds. Plant potatoes. Sow successional crops of brassicas, roots and saladings, and beet late in month. Under glass start sweet corn, marrows, etc. Prevent onion fly with calomel dust, flea beetles with gammaBHC, and slugs with metaldehyde bait. Thin out seedling crops, prepare ground for transplanted brassica seedlings.
  5. May.—Stake peas. Protect tender crops from wind and late frosts on clear nights following sunny days. Outdoors sow runner beans, Fr. Beans, beet, sweet corn and successions of saladings, etc. Sow spring greens and autumn cabbage. Earth-up potatoes. Plant out marrows, cucumbers and tomatoes late in month. Plant out leeks and maincrop brassicas. Check early aphides with systemic malathion, nicotine, or derris insecticide. Feed leafy crops with quick-acting nitrogenous fertiliser. Train cucumbers and tomatoes under glass.
  6. June.—Hoe to control weeds, but mulch growing plants to conserve moisture, using rotted compost, peat, sawdust, etc. Plant out cabbages, tomatoes, ridge-cucumber, marrows and capsicums out of doors. Sow vegetables and saladings for succession. Cease cutting asparagus. Continue earthing-up potatoes. Sow parsley for winter use, and early peas for autumn cropping. Prevent cabbage-root fly with calomel dust. Dust brassicas with derris or gamma – BHC to prevent caterpillar attacks. Control thrips on peas with nicotine. In greenhouse, ventilate to keep even temps. Shade glass in very hot weather.
  7. July.—Prepare ground cleared of early crops for winter greens. Sow turnips and beet after peas. Feed celery, globe artichokes, etc., with liquid manure. Stake and mulch outdoor tomatoes. Lift early potatoes, shallots and garlic. Sow runner beans, early cabbage, prickly spinach and salads for succession. Spray main-crop potatoes against blight. Begin cutting herbs for drying.
  8. August.—Sow spring cabbage, kale, cauliflower, endive, winter lettuce, yellow turnip, spring greens and onions for over-wintering. Earth up celery. Spray potatoes again against Blight. Stop outdoor tomatoes at 4 trusses. Mulch globe artichokes and cut down stems. Bend over tops of onions. Under glass sow Fr. Beans, cucumbers and tomatoes for winter cropping in heat.
  9. September.—Prevent weeds seeding. Lift and ripen onions. Begin harvesting potatoes, foots, etc. Dry herbs. Earth up leeks and celery. Plant out lettuce in frames for winter. Plant out endive, spring cabbage. Thin spinach. Sow corn salad, and quick-maturing carrots under glass. Control caterpillars on brassicas with derris. Dust with karathane or sulphur against mildews.
  10. October.—Complete harvesting of roots and potatoes. Lift salsify and scorzonera. Sow cauliflower for winter in frames; winter lettuce under cloches. Replant watercress beds. Collect spent, fallen leaves and plant debris for the compost heap. Make a first sowing of wintering broad beans in the S.
  11. November.—Early digging and trenching of vacant ground should go hand in hand with organic manuring and liming. Treat any pest-infested soil with soil fumigant. Plan next year’s rotation. Broad beans (Seville and Claudia Aquadulce) and round peas may be sown. Lift asparagus for forcing. Plant horseradish. Cover seakale and rhubarb with organic litter for forcing.
  12. December.—Crowns of perennial vegetables such as seakale may be planted. Overhaul mint bed. Check stored potatoes, carrots, etc., occasionally to remove rotting specimens. Hoe spring cabbage, etc. Rough-dig vacant ground. Under glass sow early horn carrots, and dwarf broad beans. Overhaul potting shed and equipment. Send for seed catalogues.


Fruits succeed on a wide range of soils given good root aeration and adequate but not too free drainage. Heavy soil needs to be lightened by use of basic slag or lime and organic material. Light soils need liberal manuring, mulching and special attention to potash content. Aspect should be open, preferably southerly. Site must be frost-free. Fruit does better on hillside or slope than in valleys or frost pockets. Modern tree fruits are grown on selected rootstocks which modify growth and fruiting habit. Standards, planted 20-40 ft apart, and half-standards, planted 18-25 ft apart, are best for orchards, specimen planting and long yields. For small gardens pyramid and bush trees, planted 12-15 ft apart, and cordons, planted 2-3 ft apart, are best. In stone fruits, trained wall trees are best, not cordons. Apricot, nectarine and peach are usually grown as trained wall trees, but as bushes in warm dists. Medlars and nuts, planted 10-18 ft apart, are useful. Soft bush fruits, such as currants and gooseberries, need 44-6 ft apart, raspberries are planted 2-3 ft apart in rows 6-8 ft apart, and blackberries, loganberries and other hybrid berries are trained on wire fences 10-12 ft between plants, and 6 ft between rows. Strawberries are best planted separately, 12-18 in. apart, in rows 24-3 ft apart. Planting of all fruits can be done from Nov. to Mar. in mild open weather. Trees should be staked at time of planting; soil rammed firm around their roots; and a mulch of organic litter applied.


A good general plan is annual application of organic manure (dung, compost, hop manure, etc.), especially to raspberries, strawberries; application of bone meal (2-3 oz. per sq. yd) or basic slag (4-6 oz.) every 2nd or 3rd year) to all fruits. Dessert apples, red currant and gooseberries need potash most, and should get 14 oz. sulphate of potash and 1 oz. sulphate of ammonia per sq. yd in Mar. Cooking apples, pears, raspberries, bramble fruits and strawberries need 1 oz. sulphate of potash and 2 oz. sulphate of ammonia; while stone fruits, black currants and nuts respond to 4 oz. sulphate of potash with 2 oz. sulphate of ammonia per sq. yd in spring.


It is impossible to detail all the various systems of pruning followed, but the basic principle for fruit-tree pruning is severe pruning encourages shoot or wood growth, light pruning encourages development of fruiting wood. It follows that where new wood growth is wanted, as in training trees in early years, pruning should be severe. This is also true in the case of the trained trees of Morello cherry, apricot and peach, where new wood is needed each year to replace old. But once the framework of apples, pears, plums, sweet cheeries has been built up, pruning should be light to encourage bearing. Generally, the weaker the year’s growth the harder it may be pruned in winter. Summer pruning consists of tipping leading shoots in Aug. to help new wood growth to mature. Bearing trees generally need light pruning, thinning of crossing branches, and removal of deadwood. Care is needed as some trees bear on the tips of young shoots. Red currants are pruned like apples or pears. Black currants are pruned by removing about a third of the oldest branches at their base each year, letting new shoots take their place. Gooseberries may be pruned like black currants, or like red currants, especially if cordons. Raspberries are pruned by cutting away the fruited canes at the soil level each Nov. Non-fruiting apples and pears often respond to bark-ringing (removal of narrow ring of bark completely around the trunk and covering the cut , surface with waterproof tape) in May. Plums, damsons and stone fruits which fail to crop may respond to root-pruning, the roots being bared around the trees in winter, and all coarse roots 2-3 ft from the stem severed.


Adequate control of insect pests and fungus diseases depends on preventive spraying. All tree and bush fruits should be sprayed with a winter wash (tar oil, DNC petroleum oil or thiocyanate) while dormant, to kill eggs of aphides, etc., and to clean trees of moss and lichen. In spring there should be at least one pre-blossom and One post-blossom application of lime-sulphur or captan to control scab and other fungus diseases, to which may be added an insecticide (BHC or nicotine) to control such pests as caterpillars, capsid bug, etc., in apples and pears. Black currants need lime-sulphur in early April to destroy big bud mite. Derris, nicotine, and petroleum oil are used for contact control of insects in summer, while karathane fungicides are used for mildews.

Choice of Fruits

Fruit varieties are propagated vegetatively. It is important to begin with healthy, vigorous stock of good strain from reputable growers. Apples: Dessert—Beauty of Bath, Worcester Pearmain, Epicure, James Grieve, Ellison’s Orange, Lord Lambourne, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Blenheim Orange, Luton’s Superb and Winter King. Culinary_Emneth Early, Grenadier, Golden Noble, Lane’s Prince Albert, Bramley’s Seedling, Lord Derby, Edward VII, Crawley Beauty. Pears Dessert—Clapp’s Favourite, Laxton’s Superb Williams’ Bon Chretien, liteurre Superfiin, Doctor Jules Guyot, Beurre Hardy, Conference, Durondeau, Doyenne du Cornice, Winter Nelis. Culinary—Beurre Clairgeau, Pitmaston Duchess, Vicar of Winkfield, Catillac, Uvedale’s St Germain. Apricots: Breda, Moorpark, Shipley’s. Cherries: (plant in pairs) Elton Heart and Florence; Early Rivers and Waterloo; Napoleon Bigarreau and Governor Wood; Black Tartarian and Elton Heart; Bigarreau Schrecken and Monstrueuse de Mezel ; Belle d’Orleans and Frogmore Early. Plums: Blaidsdon Red, Belle de Louvain, Czar, Denniston’s Superb, Early Laxton, Jefferson, Kirk’s Blue, Victoria, Purple Pershore, Giant Prune, Transparent Gage. Damsons: Merryweather, Farleigh. Black Currants: Boskoop Giant, Mendip Cross, Seabrook’s Black, Baldwin, Wellington Triple X, Cotswold Cross, Victoria, Davison’s Eight. Red Currants: Laxton’s No. 1, Raby Castle, Laxton’s Perfection, Fay’s Prolific. White Currants: White Dutch, White Transparent. Gooseberries: Careless, Lancer, Whinham’s Warrington, Whitesmith, Lancashire Lad, Leveller. Raspberries: Lloyd George, Norfolk Giant, Pyne’s Royal, Red Cross, Mailing Promise, Golden Hornet. Strawberries: Royal Sovereign, Paxton, Tardive de Leopold, Giant Prolific.

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