A History of Early Market Gardening

which is not quite as boring as it sounds!

Growing vegetables and fruit has never attracted the same attention as growing trees, shrubs and flowers.   Rhubarb and radishes aren’t quite in the same league as roses and rhododendrons or the great Edwardian border, and rows of potatoes or radishes  don’t somehow figure in the same “must-go-and see” quality as Sissinghurst or Hampton Court. BUT things are changing. And now there is more interest not only in growing food crops but in uncovering their history.

Surprisingly market gardening around London  didn’t really start around London until the late 16thc.  Before that growing food crops was largely the preserve of farmers.  Huguenot immigrants bought new ideas which English gardeners slowly copied,  and within a hundred years the capital was surrounded by profitable smallholdings and commercial gardens.   They developed new technologies for growing food out of season – such as hot beds, cloches, greenhouses. They introduced new crops , and in the process altered our diet.  And being resourceful they often sold their plots for building and moved further and further out as London expanded, often growing rich in the process.

Although we have no early business books or illustrations to tell us what these market gardens were like we can discover a lot about them and the peoplewho ran them  from a whole range of sources such as cookery books, account books and household bills, leases, tax records, maps and wills & inventories.