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The Walled Kitchen Garden

Article Index

  1. The Walled Kitchen Garden
  2. The site
  3. The walls
  4. Layout
  5. Other features
  6. Fruit and vegetable production
  7. Glasshouses, frames and pits
  8. Pineapple pits
  9. Vineries
  10. Back sheds
  11. The workforce
  12. The future of walled gardens
  13. Sources and images
  14. All Pages
 

 

The workforce

Unless it was a very small establishment, the walled garden would have its own team of gardeners who only worked in the kitchen garden. The number depended on the size of the garden: a rough estimate is that two to three gardeners were needed per acre. This team might be further sub-divided into two teams: those that worked solely in the glasshouses and others who worked outside.

There was a strict hierarchy in the gardening profession. To become a head gardener took years of training ‘on the job' as there was no formal training until the late 1880s (Campbell 2005, p.21).

A boy could start as a gardener's boy as young as 13 and would remain in the garden for about three years, doing most of the menial work - stoking the fires and boilers, washing pots, weeding and watering, and general fetching and carrying.

He was also expected to learn from the other gardeners, and to do a certain amount of studying in his spare time. Only then could he progress to the level of journeyman, and extend his knowledge by working in other gardens for varying amounts of time, which increased his range of skills.

As they were unmarried, it was the journeymen who lived in the bothies. Standards of accommodation varied enormously: in large establishments there might be purpose-built accommodation in the form of a house divided into cubicles, a kind of hostel. In others he might not be so lucky and could end up in a bunk under the draughty eaves of a leaky back shed.

Having served as a journeyman in several different gardens, he could now think about applying for a position as head gardener, although in some establishments there were opportunities to become a foreman (Goodway, p.21).

The head gardener's position carried a certain amount of status. A first-rate head gardener could make all the difference between success and failure in a garden: a good one therefore, was much sought after. His was essentially a managerial role, being in charge of the workforce and a budget. He ordered the seeds, supervised when and where to grow the produce and liaised with the family regarding their needs.

A good head gardener was an intelligent man, who would enhance his master's reputation by entering - and hopefully winning at - flower and produce shows, and perhaps breeding new varieties of plants. Many became well known for their articles in the horticultural press and for their particular area of expertise.

The head gardener invariably had the best accommodation - a cottage or villa, often set into the south facing wall of the garden so that he could keep an eye on the precious contents of the glasshouses.