The text is taken from my copy of FIELDS, FACTORIES AND WORKSHOPS: or Industry Combined
with Agriculture and Brain Work with Manual Work, Thomas Nelson & Sons, London, Edinburgh, Dublin and New York, 1912.
P.-IMPORTS OF VEGETABLES TO THE UNITED KINGDOM.............447
That the land in this country is not sufficiently utilized for market-gardening, and that the largest portion of the vegetables which are imported from abroad could be grown in this country, has been said over and over again, within the last twenty-five years.
It is certain that considerable improvements have taken place lately- the area under market, and especially the area under glass for the growth of fruit and vegetables, having largely been increased of late. Thus, instead of 38,957 acres, which were given to market-gardening in Great Britain in 1875, there were, in 1894, 88,210 acres, exclusive of vegetable crops on farms, given to that purpose (The Gardeners Chronicle,20th April, 1895, p. 483). But that increase remains a trifle in comparison with similar increases in France, Belgium, and the United States. In France, the area given to market-gardening was estimated in 1892 by M. Baltet (Lhorticulture dans les cinq parties du monde, Paris, Hachette, 1895) at 1,075,000 acres- four times more, in proportion to the cultivable area, than in this country; and the most remarkable of it is that considerable tracts of land formerly treated as uncultivable have been reclaimed for the purposes of market-gardening as also of fruit growing.
As things stand now in this country, we see that very large quantities of the commonest vegetables, each of which could be grown in this country, are imported.
Lettuces are imported- not only from the Azores or from the south of France, but they continue until June to be imported from France where they are mostly grown- not in the open air, but in frames. Early cucumbers, also grown in frames, are largely imported from Holland, and are sold so cheaply that many English gardeners have ceased to grow them.*
* The Gardeners Chronicle, 20th April, 1895, p. 483. The same, I learn from a German grower near Berlin, takes place in Germany.
Even beetroot and pickling cabbage are imported from Holland and Brittany (the neighbourhoods of Saint Malo, where I saw them grown in a sandy soil, which would grow nothing without a heavy manuring with guano, as a second crop, after a first one of potatoes); and while onions were formerly largely grown in this country, we see that, in 1894, 5,288,512 bushels of onions, £765,049 worth, were imported from Belgium (chief exporter), Germany, Holland, France, and so on.
Again, that early potatoes should be imported from the Azores and the south of France is quite natural. It is not so natural, however, that more than 50,000 tons of potatoes (58,060 tons, £521,141 worth, on the average during the years 1891-1894) should be imported from the Channel Islands, because there are hundreds if not thousands of acres in South Devon, and most probably in other parts of the south coast too, where early potatoes could be grown equally well. But besides the 90,000 tons of early potatoes (over £700,000 worth) which are imported to this country, enormous quantities of late potatoes are imported from Holland, Germany, and Belgium; so that the total imports of potatoes reach from 200,000 to 450,000 tons every year. Moreover, this country imports every year all sorts of green vegetables, for the sum of at least £4,000,000 and for £5,000,000 all sorts of fruit (apart from exotic fruit); while thousands of acres lie idle, and the country population is driven to the cities in search of work, without finding it.
Q.-FRUIT-CULTURE IN BELGIUM
It appears from the Annuaire statistique de la belgique that, out of a cultivated area of 6,443,500 acres, the following areas were given in Belgium, at the time of the last census, to fruit-growing, market-gardening, and culture under glass: Orchards, 117,600 acres ; market-gardens, 103,460 acres; vineries, 173 acres (increased since); growing of trees for afforestation, gardens, and orchards, 7,475 acres; potatoes, 456,000 acres. Consequently, Belgium is able to export every year about £250,000 worth more vegetables, and nearly £500,000 worth more fruit, than she imports. As to the vineries, the land of the communes of Hoeylart and Overyssche near Brussels is almost entirely covered with glass, and the exports of home-grown grapes attained, in 1910, 6,800 tons, in addition to 34,000 tons of other home-grown fruit. Besides, nearly 3,000 acres in the environs of Ghent are covered with horticultural establishments which export palms, azaleas, rhododendrons, and laurels all over the world, including Italy and the Argentine.
R.-CULTURE UNDER GLASS IN HOLLAND
Holland in its turn has introduced gardening in hothouses on a great scale. Here is a letter which I received in the summer of 1909 from a friend:-
"Here is a picture-postcard which J. (a professor of botany in Belgium) has brought from Holland, and which he asks me to send you. [The postcard represents an immense space covered with frames and glass lights.] Similar establishments cover many square kilometres between Rotterdam and the sea, in the north of Heuve. At the time when J. was there (June 10) they had cucumbers, quite ripe, and melons as big as a head in considerable numbers, extent without heating. The gardeners sow also radishes, carrots, lettuce, under the same glass. The different produce comes one after the other. They also cultivate large quantities of strawberries in frames.
"The glass-frames are transported at will, so as to keep under glass for several days or weeks the plants sown in any part of the garden. J. is full of admiration for the knowledge of the gardeners. Instead of the usual routine, they apply the last progress of science. He was told that glass is broken very seldom; they have acquired the art of handling glass-frames with facility and great skill.
"Besides the frames represented on the photograph, the region between Rotterdam and the sea, which is named Westland, has also countless glass-houses, where they cultivate, with or without heating, grapes, peaches, northern cherries, haricot beans, tomatoes, and other fruit and vegetables. These cultures have reached a very high degree of perfection. The gardeners take the greatest care to fight various plant diseases. They also cultivate ordinary fruit- apples, pears, gooseberries, strawberries, and so on- and vegetables in the open air. Westland being very much exposed to strong winds, they have built numerous walls, which break the wind, and serve at the same time for the culture of fruit upon the walls.
"All the region feels the favourable influence of the agricultural school of Naaldwijk, which is situated almost in the centre of the Westland."