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Rob Chester

WWI Allotments - What guidance was offered.

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Rob Chester

Does anybody know if guidance was offered to WWI allotment holders about what to plant and how to grow food etc. or were they just expected to get on with it.

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Susan Tall

As early as autumn 1914 the Board of Agriculture was considering giving technical instruction for inexperienced allotment holders.

Here in Kenilworth allotments were first plotted out in early 1917 and lots of advice came from the Board of Agriculture. There was a detailed lecture by a County Council expert on the best methods of producing the crops most needed: potatoes, beans, peas, carrots, parsnips, beet and different varieties of cabbage. Gardeners were urged to get the land broken up at once and recommended to use farmyard manure and soot. The town Surveyor managed to secure four tons each of King Edward (main crop) and Eclipse (early) seed potatoes to share out amongst the allotment holders.

As the season progressed advice was published in the local newspaper recommending forking and hoeing between the potatoes and earthing them up. A Board of Agriculture representative also gave advise on the spraying of potatoes.

The allotment holders obviously benefitted from the recommendations. All the crops seemed to do well and a depot was set up in a local school where surplus produce could be sold.

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geraint

The local papers here often contain interesting gobbets relating to food production.based on land provided by local farmers and landed estates. Lord Cornwallis West of Ruthin Castle - turned four hundred acres of his parkland to provide additional food. "The poor" were given strips of land for potato and vegetable production and stories regarding minor theft from these plots abound! Including grudges between farmers and gardeners. a local soldier wrote to his wife from France stating that if she was continuing to receive hostility from a certain farmer regarding her potato strip, then he would return immediately and sort the farmer out!

Terry's right regarding the food shortages. The local Prisoners of War - sectioned at a nearby farm, were instructed to forage the hedgegrows for fruit and nut "for jamming and for local consumption."

Interesting days!

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seaforths

They also cultivated allotments at the front.

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Anneca

Yes, and I have also read of prisoners on both sides cultivating allotments.

Anne

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geraint

I've a newspaper report as well in the local rag; that the local POWs were sent out in late September 1916 to gather conkers to be turned into charcoal to be used in gasmask filters.

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RobL

The North Eastern Railway issued a great deal of guidance as well as gave away books, arranged cheap rates/free transport of seeds etc etc

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CarylW

'The smallholder' offices, in London published a book in pamphlet form: 'How to grow your own food' Walter Brett

It's online here:

https://archive.org/details/wartimegardening00bret

' The country has appealed to all who cannot share in the fighting to see that our food supply is secured. This book tells you how to do it'.

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geraint

That's a very interesting book Caryl. I've just spent twenty minutes thumbing through it. What strikes me (as a keen gardener) is the emphasis on quick production, utilising boxes and containers and the concentration of seed and plants per square yard. The author claims that all the family needs would be supplied for free - highly optimistic!

The emphasis is also on a supply of eggs and rabbits for home consumption. It does give Adam the Gardener a run for his money!

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CarylW

That's a very interesting book Caryl. I've just spent twenty minutes thumbing through it. What strikes me (as a keen gardener) is the emphasis on quick production, utilising boxes and containers and the concentration of seed and plants per square yard. The author claims that all the family needs would be supplied for free - highly optimistic!

The emphasis is also on a supply of eggs and rabbits for home consumption. It does give Adam the Gardener a run for his money!

Yes, it was interesting. I can't remember ever hearing the term 'bastard trenching' before - in gardening terms anyway, for heavy clay - but having to cope with a clay garden in a previous house, I can understand how it might have come about!

Here's another one: Allotments for all: The story of the great movement. Not gardening tips, but more about explaining the movement. Rules of Allotment societies and that sort of thing.

https://archive.org/details/allotmentsforall00butcrich

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elewis

Locally to me the Evesham Journal carried very frequent (weekly?) items / advice on gardening.

Slightly of subject but remember seeing arial photographs of a very well camouflaged billets well behind the German lines ..... it was impossible to see the actualy billets but unfortunately the occupants had planted very clear gardens around them making the location obvious. A second set of arial photographs after a heavy long range bombardment showed that whole area covered in shell holes and the remains of some of the buildings - all due to the gardening which the soldiers thought would be a relief from the front and provide extra vegtables.

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Scalyback

Locally to me the Evesham Journal carried very frequent (weekly?) items / advice on gardening.

Slightly of subject but remember seeing arial photographs of a very well camouflaged billets well behind the German lines ..... it was impossible to see the actualy billets but unfortunately the occupants had planted very clear gardens around them making the location obvious. A second set of arial photographs after a heavy long range bombardment showed that whole area covered in shell holes and the remains of some of the buildings - all due to the gardening which the soldiers thought would be a relief from the front and provide extra vegtables.

Mentioned in Churchills Wizards that this was shown in the air photography. The men/women trained to note anything untoward in the area. Cant' remember of the photo you mention is in in the book but it does sound one I have seen.

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angelab

I saw it the other night in the repeat of a programme called something like World War I From the Air, with Feargal Keen. It was on BBC4, so probably still on iplayer.

Angela

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