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Dales Plants and Gardens 1900-1960: project methodology

Article Index

  1. Dales Plants and Gardens 1900-1960: project methodology
  2. Interviewing
  3. Questions
  4. Verification and cross-checking
  5. Conclusion
  6. Endnotes and sources
  7. All Pages


Verification and cross-checking

Grandmother's Notebook - a double page-spread with handwritten dated entries recording the Rhubarb Garden in 1953 and 1954. Collection: R. Bundy.Grandmother's Notebook, 1953 and 1954. Collection: R. Bundy.Once we had gathered a few interviews, two researchers from the Parks & Gardens UK group came to advise us on how to verify, cross-reference and - as far as possible - corroborate what we had been told.

Memories are fallible, and with little evidence in the way of seed packets, catalogues, photographs, invoices, diaries or extant gardens, it has been difficult to verify some of what we've been told.

However, we do have some hard evidence, such as National School records for school allotments, two loaned notebooks showing vegetable names and year-on-year crop rotation.

Onion poster by Ward and Newton, Richmond, Swaledale. Copyright: Garden Museum. Swaledale, Richmond. Ward and Newton Onion Poster. Collection: The Garden Museum, Lambeth, London.Onion poster by Ward and Newton, Richmond, Swaledale. Copyright: Garden Museum.We have also been given some seed packets, and a photograph of a poster for show onions from a local seed company [4] , now a housing estate. (Seeds used for prize-winning vegetables are as conservative as the gardeners that grow them, and the same cultivar names exist today.)

We have also been able to verify some gardening techniques by actually doing them in front of interviewees. The St John's Centre [5] in Catterick Garrison, Swaledale has a garden where we work with Alzheimer's patients, who can't remember what they had for lunch but can remember what happened in their childhood.

As we garden we're watched, and told how to ridge up potatoes and shown how to ‘scrattle' under the surface of the soil to see whether tubers are ready for lifting.

The growing season is short - three months are usual, four if lucky. Families who relied on produce from the garden ate fresh food week by week, with April, May and the beginning of June being the ‘hungry' months, when the last of the winter's potatoes and cabbages were exhausted, and summer peas, beans and soft fruits had not yet cropped.