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Crop Rotation in London's Early Market Gardens


An early nineteenth century treatise on how to rotate your kitchen garden crops.

While crop rotation practices in market gardening about London during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries varied from region to region, as also distance from market, the following passage from Mr Middleton, commenting about 1808, fairly accurately describes the market gardener's practice of this time:

The farming gardeners at Kensington, Fulham, and other places, raise a succession of, first, cabbages; secondly, either potatoes or turnips; and thirdly, wheat every two years. Although there is no fallow, their land is kept as clean, and nearly as rich, as a good kitchen garden.

Some of them have adopted the following valuable rotation, namely, they manure heavily a clover lay for, first, potatoes; secondly, wheat, and third, clover, and successively repeat the same rotation.

The potato crop is the cleansing one. The roots are taken up with three-tined forks (dung or manure forks), the haulm is removed and used in littering the farm yards.

The rubbish is then harrowed out, raked together and carried away. In this state the land is sown with wheat, which is covered by a thin ploughing, that being all the tillage it receives, excepting for the potatoes.

The crops are all great: the first is from seven to ten tons, the second is about forty bushels; the third, four tons of clover hay at two cuttings.

In the neighbourhood of Heston and Norwood, the course is beans, pease, and wheat; the former twice-hoed, and earthed up at the latter hoeing.

In the strong and common field lands between Harrow and Uxbridge, the rotation is now similar, but formerly it was fallow, wheat, and then beans, broadcast. The bean and pea crops are invariably grown in rows fifteen inches apart.

In the light-land tracts between Longford and Sunbury, the rotation is usually as follows: wheat, barley, hog-pease in rows twice-hoed; a few acres of beans, and two or three acres of tares; then wheat, barley, and lastly, clover. The latter is mown twice, and coming once only every six years, is generally a good crop. In this course the land is kept from exhaustion by the great quantities of manure obtained from the inns at brentford, Hounslow, Staines and other places.

On the eastern side of Middlesex, in the common fields which have been enclosed in the past few years, the ancient course was fallow, wheat and barely, but the fallow has now given way to potatoes or turnips.



Please also visit Old London Maps on the web as many of the maps
and views available there have plans and depictions of gardens from
the medieval period through to the late nineteenth century.

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