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Dales Plants and Gardens 1900-1960: growing food

Article Index

  1. Dales Plants and Gardens 1900-1960: growing food
  2. Interviewee backgrounds
  3. Land and weather
  4. Gardens and allotments
  5. Gardening practicalities
  6. Help in the garden, tasks for children
  7. And from the wild
  8. Cooking the produce
  9. Storage inside and outside
  10. Conclusion
  11. Endnotes and sources
  12. All Pages


Land and weather

The look of the Northern Dales is stone, grass and moorland. Outcrops of stone blend with bleached tussock grass, dry-stone walls and farms, barns and pinfolds (roofless stone shelters, usually on the uplands, used to hold sheep). Without trees and hedges on the moors and fells, livestock and crops need the protection of stone.

The growing season is short, 15 weeks at best. And if you live on a north-facing slope there may be no winter sun for weeks at a time. Few people then had greenhouses, fridges or freezers, all essential to us nowadays for either bringing on the growing season or extending it through easy storage.

Farmhouse with leadminers' cottages attached. Farmhouse with leadminers' cottages attached, Swaledale.  Photograph copyright: Sally Reckert.However, there is rain in every month and it often alternates with sun and surprising warmth. Food had to be put on the table and so people were pragmatic about what they could grow and how. Cold-hardy basics worked with the weather and could be stored in the ground until needed: cabbages, sprouts, potatoes, beetroot and parsnips.

Their pragmatism didn’t stop people experimenting. Shows and competitions demanded dedication and skill, for instance in growing onions and leeks. Exotic vegetables such as purple sprouting broccoli might be tried, but if it failed it wasn’t grown again. If you go hungry, you make sure that mistakes do not happen again.