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Category — History

Victory Garden Info-graphic marks 100 years since the start of the First World War

See the whole info-graphic here.

During the war, onions were in short supply. The Ministry advised that leeks were a good substitute

By Notcutts


During the First World War Germany’s blockade caused food shortages which increased the demand for allotments. One source of land suitable for allotments but not large enough for general agriculture was the land owned by railway companies. These parcels of land were often allotted to the railway workers and this is the reason you will often see allotments by railway lines today.

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September 2, 2014   Comments Off

First-ever motorised lawn-mower restored to its former glory


The mower, made by Ransomes, dates back to 1902 and cost gardener Andrew Hall £7,000 to restore over four years

By Tom Brooks-Pollock
The Telegraph
07 Aug 2014


At the time it was considered a feat of modern engineering, a 20th Century alternative to horse-driven and steam-powered mowers.

It was initially purchased by Cadbury’s and used in the Bourneville village in Warwickshire to maintain a sports field.

Car-makers Peugeot Talbot bought it second-hand in 1923 to mow their sports field in Coventry.

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August 8, 2014   Comments Off

1949 commuter train film shows Vancouver corridor land which today is in ‘community gardens versus railway dispute’

1949 film of the Interurban rail service from downtown Vancouver to Marpole and the Fraser River

Vancouver Arbutus Corridor Community Gardens could lose 60-70% of garden land space

City of Richmond Archives
Published on July 21, 2014

This clip shows the B.C.E.R. Lulu Island Line interurban on its run from downtown Vancouver through the Arbutus corridor to Marpole and the Fraser River Trestle. Filmed by tram enthusiast Ted Clark around 1949, the original 16 mm film underwent conservation treatment in 2012 and then was digitized. The complete film on DVD, along with a detailed shot list, can be purchased at the City of Richmond Archives for $20.00.

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July 21, 2014   Comments Off

Groucho Marx’s Victory Garden


Groucho’s morale-boosting message to the U.S. troops stationed in Suriname in 1943

From Letters of Note
Dec 16, 2011


I don’t want you to worry much about the 4-Fs back home — true, we have been deprived of a few things but nothing of any importance. We don’t get much meat any more — the butcher shops have nothing in them but customers. Fortunately, I don’t rely on the stores for my vegetables. Last spring I was smart enough to plant a Victory garden. So far, I have raised a family of moles, enough snails to keep a pre-French restaurant running for a century and a curious looking plant that I have been eating all summer under the impression that it was a vegetable.

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July 21, 2014   Comments Off

1943 Mae West Movie – Victor Moore sings ‘Victory Garden’ song

From the movie ‘The Heat’s On’ 1943

“The way my peas grow littler
You’d think I’d worked for Hitler”

Song sung by Victor Moore (1876- 1962) who
wore a ‘Gardening for Victory’ apron.

“I’ve always tried to be a good American
And when this country went to war
The corner grocer told me
I ought to be a farmer in my own back yard

“And as I struggled from the store
With all the seeds he’d sold me
He said, don’t worry pard
It really isn’t hard

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July 12, 2014   Comments Off

Cape Town’s Company’s Garden, begun in 1652, turns urban farm

The vegetable garden in the Company’s Garden.

It takes its name from the Dutch East India Company who first started the garden in 1652 for the victualing of their ships that plied the spice trade route between Europe and the East Indies, via The Cape of Good Hope.

IOL Property
June 24, 2014


‘This garden will showcase the historical origins of the Company’s Garden as a food-producing garden which supplied produce to the ships and sailors who travelled the spice trade route from the East Indies.

‘It will be an important means of educating people about urban agriculture, as well as the medicinal properties of herbs and vegetables.’

For garden manager Rory Phelan, promoting urban agriculture is the most important function of the project.

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July 2, 2014   Comments Off

Hampton Court Palace’s Kitchen Garden


The gardens produced horticultural baubles, edible novelties and actual food between 1702 and 1840

By Sandra Lawrence
June 12, 2014


King Hal’s jousting fields were ripped up and turned into six one-acre, up-to-the-minute kitchen gardens. They were given plenty of walls to provide warmth and shelter for tender new delicacies such as apricots and peaches, and plenty of room for Her Majesty’s every other veg-related whim.

Expensive luxuries like potatoes, tomatoes and runner beans. Tender peas, fresh from the pod, not the dried up pebbles that peasants ate. Asparagus, squashes, fancy salad. A lot of fancy salad.

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June 22, 2014   Comments Off

Guerrilla gardening started in New Zealand – ‘Vacant lot of cabbages’

Hugh Walton watering the cabbage patch. Keen, Justin (photographer), c1978, Wellington. N.Z. Click on image for larger file.

In 1978 in downtown Wellington New Zealand artist Barry Thomas with friends Chris Lipscombe, Hugh Walton and others planted 180 cabbage on a private CBD site – as a work of art. This started a 6 month long occupation of the site which was named in the local press as ‘soap box art corner’. (From Wiki.)

From: ‘Vacant lot of cabbages’ documentation enters Te Papa’s archives
By Sarah Farrar
Tepapa Gov’t Blog NZ
Nov 2, 2012


In 1978 contemporary New Zealand artist Barry Thomas undertook a public art project in inner city Wellington. Utilising a vacant lot on the corner of Willis and Manners Streets, the artist and his friends cut through a wire perimeter fence, delivered a truckload of top soil to the site and planted 180 cabbages.

The project Vacant lot of cabbages (also known as ‘The cabbage patch’) immediately caught the public attention and received extensive media coverage. Barry was interviewed in local newspaper The Evening Post where he challenged Wellingtonians to occupy the vacant lot and claim the site as their own. The lot was quickly filled with all sorts of objects—which the city council promptly cleared away—except for the cabbages. For several months the vacant-lot-turned-urban-garden became the site of informal gatherings, events and a one-week arts festival called ‘The Last Roxy Show’.

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June 12, 2014   Comments Off

1658 – First Children’s book – ‘Orbis Sensualium Pictus’

Potherbs grow in gardens, as 1. Lettice, 2. Colewort, 3. Onions, 4. Garlick, 5. Gourd, 6. The Parsnip, 7. The Turnip, 8. The Rhadish, 10. Perselie, 11. Cucumbers, 12. Pompions

The World of Things Obvious to the Senses Drawn in Pictures

By Joh. Amos Commenii
Lothbury, London

Excerpt from Open Culture review by Colin Marshall:

The Orbis holds not just the status of the first children’s book, but the first megahit in children’s publishing, receiving translations in a great many languages and becoming the most popular elementary textbook in Europe. It opens with a sentence that, in McNamara’s words, “would seem peculiar in today’s children’s books: ‘Come, boy, learn to be wise.’ We see above a teacher and student in dialogue, the former holding up his finger and sporting a cane and large hat, the latter listening in an emotional state somewhere between awe and anxiety. The student asks, ‘What doth this mean, to be wise?’ His teacher answers, ‘To understand rightly, to do rightly, and to speak out rightly all that are necessary.’

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May 27, 2014   Comments Off

Egyptian Model of a Garden from Middle Kingdom ca. 1981-1975 B.C.

See larger image here.

Pond surrounded by sycamore fig trees with red fruit growing from the trunks and branches

From the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art
Period: Middle Kingdom
Dynasty: Dynasty 12
Reign: reign of Amenemhat I, early
Date: ca. 1981–1975 B.C.
Geography: From Egypt, Upper Egypt; Thebes, Southern Asasif, Tomb of
Medium: Wood, paint Copper

Excerpt from the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art:

This model of a garden and portico was discovered in a hidden chamber at the side of the passage leading into the rock cut tomb of the royal chief steward Meketre, who began his career under King Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II of Dynasty 11 and continued to serve successive kings into the early years of Dynasty 12.

In the center of the garden is a pond surrounded by sycamore fig trees with red fruit growing from the trunks and branches. The pond is lined with copper and could have been filled with water. Facing the garden is the porch of a house. Two rows of columns support the roof made of palm trunks split into halves. The rear columns have capitals in the form of papyrus stalks bound together, the capitals of the front columns imitate bundles of lotus. Rainfall is rare in Upper Egypt, but such an eventuality is provided for in three projecting spouts.

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May 24, 2014   Comments Off

A Green and Pleasant Land: How England’s Gardeners Fought the Second World War


‘War is the normal occupation of man – war and gardening’ Winston Churchill

By Ursula Buchan
Windmill Books, part of Cornerstone Publishing

The wonderfully evocative story of how Britain’s World War Two gardeners – with great ingenuity, invincible good humour and extraordinary fortitude – dug for victory on home turf.

A Green and Pleasant Land tells the intriguing and inspiring story of how Britain’s wartime government encouraged and cajoled its citizens to grow their own fruit and vegetables. As the Second World War began in earnest and a whole nation listened to wireless broadcasts, dug holes for Anderson shelters, counted their coupons and made do and mended, so too were they instructed to ‘Dig for Victory’.

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May 19, 2014   Comments Off

Which Major League Baseball team had the first “organic, edible garden?

Head Padres groundskeeper Luke Yoder in the bullpen garden at Petco Park. —

San Francisco Giants vs. San Diego Padres vs. New York Mets

By Matthew T. Hall
Mar 26, 2014


This wasn’t your garden-variety controversy between baseball teams.

On second thought, that’s exactly what it was.

Wednesday the San Francisco Giants tweeted that they were the first team in Major League Baseball with an “organic, edible garden.”

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April 3, 2014   Comments Off

In 1969 Joe Pignatano Grew a Vegetable Garden in Shea Stadium

Joey Pignatano tending to his tomatoes using bats to prop them up in mets bullpen. Pitcher Jack Dilauro over his shoulder. 1969.

“In 1969 I discovered a wild tomato plant in the bullpen and nurtured it the rest of the season,” he remembered. “We got some tomatoes off it, but most important we won the whole thing. After that, I kept up the garden as long as I was with the Mets as a good luck charm.”

By Albin Krebs and Robert McG. Thomas
New York Times
October 8, 1981

It was back in 1969, Joe Pignatano recalled yesterday, that a stray tomato plant pushed its way up through the dirt beyond the right field fence in Shea Stadium. That was also the year the Mets won the World Series, and to Mr. Pignatano, a Mets pitching coach and amateur gardener, the plant was a good omen.

So the next year he planted a few omens of his own. The Mets never did win another World Series, but Mr. Pignatano never gave up on his bullpen garden: by this year, the 30-foot-long plot held not only tomatoes, but also vegetables such as pumpkins, eggplants, squash, zucchini, radishes and lettuce.

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April 2, 2014   Comments Off

April 1944 – Actress Laraine Day poses in Victory Garden cover shot

Actress Laraine Day (1920 – 2007) poses in a gardener’s costume while surrounded by various vegetables for the April 1944 issue of PIC magazine, New York. Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images.

Excerpt from her obituary in the New York Sun (Nov 11, 2007): Laraine Day, 87, Film Actress and ‘First Lady of Baseball’

After a quickie Mexican divorce of her first husband in 1947, the Mormon movie starlet married Durocher, the foul-mouthed New York Dodger’s skipper who up to that point was despised by all but the team’s fans. The pair settled down for a decade or so of married bliss that saw Day, who kept her movie-star name, dubbed by the press “the First Lady of Baseball.”

Durocher, in the meantime, incurred further obloquy by bolting the Dodgers mid-season in 1948 for the crosstown rival Giants. Yet the marriage seemed to soften his image as well, especially after Day began broadcasting a pre-game show on WPIX, the Giants’ station at that time, in which she focused on players’ human side rather than game action. By her own account, the first time Day encountered Durocher, her first question had been, “What is a Dodger?”

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March 31, 2014   Comments Off

1736: Unearthing the History of Sheffield’s Allotments

Ralph Gosling’s Plan of Sheffield in the year 1736. See larger image here.

Gardeners professions: Button makers, Shoe makers, Cutlers, Bakers, Innkeepers, Widows, Clerk, Grocer, Schoolmaster, Husbandman, Gardener

Jane Withers, Adam J Smith
Furnace Park
Mar 17, 2014


As shown in the above map (the Cathedral is circled in red), urban gardens dominated Sheffield city centre (seen by the yellow arrows radiating from the Cathedral). Although the gardens illustrated in 1736 cannot be proved as allotments (very little documentation survives alluding to the use of these plots) it was thought that the total number of gardens shown could be in excess of 200.

These plots were popular with craftsmen of the time, whose green fingers itched with creativity and cultivation. The popularity of the city centre escapes grew, and by 1780, Flavell claims that there is evidence of between 1500 and 1800 allotments being leased within the city boundaries of Sheffield (see the ‘Further Reading’ section at the end of this post). This expansion could be accredited to the discovery of a more efficient crucible method for producing steel, thoroughly placing Sheffield on the industrial map and causing a need for an alternative past time, away from the grime and smoke of the industrial sites.

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March 27, 2014   Comments Off