Growing your own

Living between the downs and the sea, with just one small village shop for most of their needs and little spare cash, everyone supplemented the weekly rations by living off the land and growing their own produce. The wise old gardeners knew how to get the best harvest and swore by planting in accordance with the stages of the moon.

During the waning of the moon (full to new moon), they would plant the root vegetables, during the waxing of the moon ( new to full moon), they would plant vegetables  that produce crops above ground, such as  runner beans and peas. They would never plant on a Sunday or on the day of the new or full moon. Spuds were planted on Good Friday. A toad was a welcome resident of the garden, keeping the slugs and snails at bay. The contents of chamber pots were beneficial if thrown on the compost heap, which was also handy if the gardener was ‘caught  short’;  the tomatoes thrived on it! 

Pat Tyrell remembers that fisherman, Alf Woodford on Brook Green: was quite a good gardener but not a perfect one. He’d gut fish and bury the waste straight in the garden. It rotted down and made beautiful manure!  I suppose it’s like this fishmeal you buy today, all quite natural with nothing added. He used to grow some good stuff there but I don’t think it was one of his first interests. I can remember him having potatoes, rhubarb and all the stuff they grew in those days. Robin Shepheard recalls how Meadow Cottage (opposite Hanover on Coastguard Lane): had a large garden and my great grandfather, John Newbery, was a very good gardener.  He grew all the old fashioned vegetables, he didn’t use any purpose-bought sprays, just good old farmyard manure and lime.  All digging was double trenched and I would follow behind with various buckets for collecting stones and weeds/roots.  

Brook and Hulverstone gardeners had, as now, the prevailing south westerly winds to contend with. All sorts of windbreaks were invented and one story is of a canny gardener up Coastguard Lane who had his runner beans on a pulley system which he could let down in stormy weather and pull up again when the ‘blow’ was over.

Ralph Cook remembers that people often specialised in one particular fruit or vegetable; in his father’s case it was small cabbages as hard and compact as cannon balls.  A good harvest of crops meant there would be enough for the family through the winter. Root vegetables would be ‘clamped down’ for winter storage and other vegetables could be salted down, then bottled. Fruit was bottled in Kilner jars and various things were pickled, including eggs.