Archive for the ‘wartime garden’ Category

Doctor Carrot and WW2 secrets

October 18, 2016

carrots-ww2

Secret carrots – part of our wartime zoo schools workshop trail.

 

Read more about the exciting wartime history of carrots on the Carrot Museum website (I don’t get to type that sentence very often!)

http://carrotmuseum.co.uk/history4.html

Another of our blogposts on the interesting story about how diets and rationing were linked to WW2 through the pioneering work of nutritionist Elsie Widdowson:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2016/08/18/elsie-widdowson-and-ww2-rationing/

Sadly I believe that the Tomato Museum on Guernsey (mentioned in the BBC TV 1990s The Wartime Kitchen Garden series)  is no more.

It’s amazing what  you find when you’re researching animal nutrition …

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, 18 October 2016

Digging For Victory

August 2, 2016

dfv postcard

Fairly random WW2 photographic postcard from our World War Zoo Gardens collection entitled “Digging For Victory”, the name of the Government backed drive to encourage all from schools, scouts, workplaces, families and even zoos to grow their own food.

The back gives really not much more for information, other than the jokey family tone and the cub scout hat.  It reads “Your daft-in-law, doing his turn. Good Scout”.

dfv postcard 2

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project. Newquay Zoo

 

Download my IZEA Journal article on World War Zoo Gardens Project (2014) as a pdf.

June 28, 2016

Check out my recent article on our  World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo.in the International Zoo Educators Association  IZEA  journal, this past copy is now available in pdf download form:

http://izea.net//wp-content/uploads/2015/03/World-War-Zoo-Gardens-wartime-zoos-the-challenging-future-and-the-use-of-zoo-history-in-visitor-engagement.pdf

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo.

A riot of vegetable colour in Newquay Zoo’s wartime garden

May 17, 2016

chard 2016

Just a few photographs to celebrate our World War Zoo wartime garden project here at Newquay Zoo, May 2016, entering its eighth summer.

A 1940s stirrup pump lies hidden amongst the colourful  Chard and Garlic, rusty but  still in fine working order.

The gardener’s  wartime steel helmet hangs on the garden gate, ready to grab in case the air raid siren sounds …

chard stirrup pump 2016

Bright Lights, a collection of colourful Chard overwintered and ready to cut as colourful edible bouquets for enriching our monkey diets. Delicious.

chard artichoke 2016

Another year of Globe Artichokes awaits, another monkey favourite, complete with earwigs.

The strange bird table affair is not mounting for an air raid siren but where we place our portable speakers for the 2.30 Lion  talk a few yards away.

Sparrows dustbathe between the Broad bean rows. The Meerkat section Robin follows the hoe or watering can. Pesky Peacocks nibble emerging shoots.

Rosemary, Curry Plant, Thyme, Mint, Lemon Balm, Nasturtiums,  Leeks and Broad Beans  are all waiting their turn, their moment and their edible or sensory enrichment use.

Dig for Victory, Dig For Plenty and  ‘Hasten slowly’ as Mr Middleton would say. Happy Gardening!

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo, 17 May 2016.

 

Happy Wartime Christmas?

December 22, 2015

wartime garden PZ  Christmas 2010 009

A rare survival of a cardboard Christmas stocking toy in our World War Zoo gardens collection alongside the excellent Christmas on the Home Front book by Mike Brown

Happy Christmas to all our World War Zoo Garden blog readers, another very busy year at our project base at Newquay Zoo.

Past Christmas blogposts

2015

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/12/10/peggy-skinners-wartime-christmas-1940/

2014

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/happy-90th-birthday-peggy-jane-skinner/

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Our trial War and Peace Christmas Pudding – before pretasting by keepers – at Newquay Zoo.

2014

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/war-and-peace-christmas-pudding-rationing-recipe-ww1-ww2/

oxfam unwrapped ecard

We have continued our tradition of buying an Oxfam Allotment gift again this year 2015 on behalf of the project:

2014

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/12/14/a-corner-of-a-foreign-field-football-gardening-and-oxfam-allotments-for-christmas/

2013

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/not-just-zoo-animals-get-adopted-even-wartime-allotments-get-christmas-presents-2/

wartime garden PZ  Christmas 2010 006

Noah’s Ark handmade by Ernest Lukey for his daughter (in our wartime collection) alongside a cocoa tin and wood pull along train. Wartime Christmas presents.

 

There’s always the tradition of handmade or recycled presents as well. One of my favourites remains this simple puzzle, handmade for a little girl.

Handmade sliding puzzle World War Zoo Children evacuation suitcase items 003

Handmade sliding puzzle made by a man for his daughter in wartime, from Australian Butter box wood and cut out calender dates, 1940s, Newquay Zoo wartime life collection

This featured in our  2010 Christmas blogpost:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2010/12/12/wartime-christmas-past-and-presents-from-the-world-war-zoo-gardens-newquay-zoo/

World War Zoo Children evacuation suitcase items 004

Back view of the wartime handmade sliding puzzle showing the Australia butter box markings

Remembering Mr. Middleton, died 18 September 1945

September 17, 2015

A Titchmarsh before his time ... C.H. Middleton, the radio gardener. This original wartime paperback has recently been reissued.

A Titchmarsh before his time … C.H. Middleton, the radio gardener. This original wartime paperback has recently been reissued.

18 September is the 70th anniversary of the sudden death in 1945 of BBC radio celebrity Dig for Victory gardener Mr Cecil Henry Middleton.

World War Zoo Gardens sign, Newquay Zoo, Cornwall, UK

Mr. Middleton rightly placed alongside our wartime garden, World War Zoo Gardens sign, Newquay Zoo, Cornwall, UK

First TV gardening programme?

Mr Middleton, 21 November 1936 – Middleton was an early pioneer of TV gardening before WW2, but sadly he died before the BBC gardening resumed on television.

Recently many of his simple and readable garden guides and radio talks have been reprinted for a whole new generation.

middleton calender cover

We have previously covered some of his garden advice – look through our blogposts earlier this year.

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/mr-middletons-january-gardening-advice-1943/

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/02/06/mr-middletons-february-and-march-gardening-advice-1943/

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/more-wartime-garden-in-bloom-pictures-and-a-little-mr-middleton/

Life, Work and Tributes

There is a very good Wikipedia entry Mr. Middleton for him, covering his life and published works.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/historyofthebbc/research/programming/gardening

There is also delightful  Pathe newsreel of his ‘chats over the garden fence’. 

This film footage is reused in the 1945 Pathe Newsreel “Passing of an Old Friend” which ends with Mr Middleton walking away up a country lane – becoming  his last farewell to his audience –  then footage  of the flower-bedecked funeral procession of Mr Middleton moving away from St. Mathews Church, Surbiton.

An animated cartoon Mr Middleton on Pathe Newsreel talks compost in wartime.

A comic 1938 gardening song “Mr Middleton Says it’s Right” by trio Vine, More and Nevard on Pathetone Pathe newsreel. Proof of his celebrity …

In 2012 an interesting Mr Middleton inspired modern gardening blog began with lots of links to his surviving media archive.

His memorial gates erected in 1955 at his original BBC plot at Langham Gardens are now outside the BBC written archives at Caversham.

A floral tribute (now lost?)  was a dark red Hybrid Tea Rose named after him, Registration name ‘C.H. Middleton’ was bred by Benjamin R. Cant & Sons (United Kingdom, 1939). This Hybrid Tea Rose was described as “Crimson. Strong fragrance. Large, very double, high-centered bloom form. Blooms in flushes throughout the season.”

Middleton Jan week 1

“Hasten slowly”: Mr. Middleton, fondly remembered.

He was and is the inspiration to our wartime garden:

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And our own attempt at being Mr. Middleton, albeit in modern podcast form in 2010: https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2010/06/25/from-bean-pods-to-podcasts-the-first-world-war-zoo-gardens-blog-podcast/

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Garden project, Newquay Zoo

 

 

 

 

The Wartime Garden in Bloom 2015

August 6, 2015

Our first memorial poppy, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, July 2015

Our first memorial poppy, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, July 2015

August 2015 – our first memorial Poppy finally flowers after two years of seeds!

This is particularly poignant as 2015 is the anniversary of the writing of John MacCrae’s famous WW1 Poppy poem In Flanders Fields.

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/05/03/poppies-poem-anniversary-written-3-may-1915/

The Wartime zookeepers’s garden allotment at Newquay Zoo is coming into ‘Bloom’, thankfully around the time that Britain / SW / Newquay in Bloom judges visited the zoo and Newquay itself recently.

It has been a year for poppies – not all of them real, such as the silk poppies from our Red White  and Blue VE day 70th anniversary  …

VE Day colours in our World War Zoo Gardens at Newquay Zoo  - blue and white edible borage flowers with a splash of red from some silk poppies.

VE Day colours in our World War Zoo Gardens at Newquay Zoo – blue and white edible borage flowers with a splash of red from some silk poppies.

Tower Poppies

Tower Poppies – the  famous, unexpectedly popular and very moving ceramic poppies at The Tower Of London in Autumn 2014.

to the famous, unexpectedly popular and very moving ceramic poppies at The Tower Of London in Autumn 2014.

Many of the blooms are on edible or scented plants, such as these Thyme herbs for animal scent enrichment at Newquay Zoo, great for enriching carnivore and big cat enclosures.

Thyme coming into flower, a good and edible bit of scent enrichment for the animals.

 

Fantastically  fiery colour and taste of nasturtium flowers and leaves

Edible white borage flowers

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More dark red ‘Empress of India’ Edible Nasturtiums  and some surprising Garlic seed heads, much loved by bees and macaque monkeys –

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Alongside queues to see our lively trio of lions, garlic flowers bloom and attract plenty of butterflies, bees and other insects.

Alongside queues to see our lively trio of lions, garlic flowers bloom and attract plenty of butterflies, bees and other insects.

It is BIAZA Big Bug Bonanza week this week (3 to 9 August 2015) in UK in zoos,  celebrating insectsand invertebrates; these edible flowers and garden plants are usually alive with insects.

A disappointing (too dry?) year for Broad Beans, whose simple flowers and smell I love. Many of these beans were saved seed from previous years.

However it’s been better for  colourful Swiss or rainbow chard, often mistaken by visitors for young Rhubarb:

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Thyme in flower and colourful Rainbow chard

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Finally another fantastic small crop of Globe Artichokes, again much loved by our Sulawesi Macaque monkeys. This is their fifth year growing. I tried these for the first time myself this year and wasn’t overwhelmed by them but the monkeys love them.

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Back to my first real Poppy – a flower of remembrance –  posted today 6th August 2015 on the 70th anniversary of the first atomic bomb at Hiroshima.

Remembering the many lives lost, changed and saved by this event.

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Remembering VE Day May 8 1945 and 2015

May 4, 2015

Our bunting is back out in the World War Zoo Gardens wartime allotment garden at Newquay Zoo to remember and mark the 70th anniversary of VE Day on 8th May 1945.

Celebration bunting, cabbages and mascot Blitz Bear out in the World War Zoo gardens at Newquay Zoo, Summer 2011

Celebration bunting, cabbages and mascot Blitz Bear out in the World War Zoo gardens at Newquay Zoo, late Summer 2011.

Remembering VE day May 8  1945 – many events are planned around Britain and the world to mark this 70th anniversary on Friday 8th May 2015, as the election news settles. The Gov.uk lists several VE Day 2015 projects.  BBC Radio Cornwall have also been collecting and featuring local memories of  VE Day events in 1945.

VE Day colours in our World War Zoo Gardens at Newquay Zoo  - blue and white edible borage flowers with a splash of red from some silk poppies.

VE Day colours in our World War Zoo Gardens at Newquay Zoo – blue and white edible borage flowers with a splash of red from some silk poppies.

Here is a local Victory Day programme (1946) from our World War Zoo Gardens collections at Newquay Zoo:

Marazion VE day 1945

Some interesting and unusual sports – Tip the Bucket, Slow Cycle race – amongst the familiar egg and spoon and sack races  to celebrate Victory Day programme for the Marazion Victory parade in 1946.

 

Marzaion VE day 1945 2

Note the last phrase “The public are asked to decorate their houses with Flags and Bunting for the occasion”.

Many local people were interested to see this original Victory parade programme near its origin at the Trengwainton National Trust Gardens 1940s event in June 2014. A copy has now been passed on to the local Marazion school and museum

We will be back at Trengwainton with part of our wartime collection  at its next Sunday June 14th 2015 event  – check the Trengwainton Gardens website for details. They had a fantastic display at their own wartime allotment, including this fetching V for Victory 1940s garden poster:

Wartime poster, Trengwainton NT, Cornwall May 2014 Image: Mark Norris, WWZG.

Wartime poster, Trengwainton NT, Cornwall May 2014 Image: Mark Norris, WWZG.

After VE  day instead of relaxing in the wartime garden and planting flowers,  there was a switch from “Dig For Victory” to “Dig on For Plenty“, realising we had much of Europe to feed.

You can see more of Trengwainton’s wartime ‘victory’ garden and our part in their Victory Day  2014 events here:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/05/02/trengwaintons-wartime-garden-project-cornwall/

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/05/12/trengwainton-gardens-hurrah-for-the-home-front-1940s-event-2014-in-pictures/

However for my family and the nation there was still VJ Day to work towards, an a anxious and tired wait for the end of the war against Japan, which finally happened in August 1945.

This was covered in our zoo keeper and botanic garden staff FEPOW and Burma Star blogpost in January 2015: https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/remembering-zookeeper-and-gardener-far-east-pows-70-years-on-2015/ 

Remembering VE Day 1945 …

Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens Project, Newquay Zoo.

Remembering William Donald Pascoe April 1915, Primrose Day and Percy Izzard

April 20, 2015

Cross-posting from another research post about a local war memorial in Cornwall, I featured a lyrical couple of pages from Homeland, a book written in 1918 from press pieces by garden writer Percy Izzard.

April 19th and 20th entries, Homeland: A Book of Country Days (1918) Percy W D Izzard

April 19th and 20th entries, Homeland: A Book of Country Days (1918) Percy W D Izzard

He later wrote the more prosaic Daily Mail guide to Dig for Victory in WW2, which I have used as topical advice of the time for our World War Zoo Gardens WW2 allotment project here at Newquay Zoo.

Preface to Percy Izzard's Homeland (1918)

Preface to Percy Izzard’s Homeland (1918)

One can imagine the solace that Izzard’s  writing gave during wartime to anxious relatives and soldiers far from their Homeland”, all part of the healing power of nature, albeit a slightly romantic and vanishing countryside.

Lots more could be written about his book (available second hand on the web) and I will feature more about Izzard and his book Homeland close to its centenary in 2018.

Lyrical and lush, maybe even painterly in places, it chimes with contemporary efforts like the Wildlife Trust’s My Wildlife campaign and Project Wild Thing, to value the healing power of nature and get people outdoors. Gardening Leave the ex-forces horticultural therapy group would no doubt agree.

The Future of Nature Writing?

Continuing the Izzard tradition, nature writers like Gerald Durrell  inspired (and continues to inspire?) a whole generation of conservationists who work alongside me in zoos and wildlife parks.

I wonder what the next generation of nature writers will be like and how they will communicate?

I shall have to ask the Wildlife Education and Media students next door at Cornwall College Newquay.

The slow calm and quiet headspace created by good nature writing from people like Richard Mabey in Nature Cure and others, pioneered in the past nature writing competitions by BBC Wildlife magazine, still has a power to engage people with conservation and wildlife, even in the manic days of tweets, podcasts, dramatic whizzy films and apps.

Good nature writing can be as calming as  a quiet country churchyard full of wildflowers but on a page and at your own pace.

Interesting compilations of nature writing can be found online including the Guardian based  Country Diary (see article about 1914) collected as The Guardian Book of Wartime Country Diaries (Martin Wainwright, 2007) or an older US compilation The Nature Reader by Daniel Halpern.

By the way, whatever happened to Primrose Day?

Does anyone still celebrate this?

Primroses seem to be doing well enough in Plantlife’s http://www.plantlife.org.uk/wild_plants/nations_favourite_wildflower

You can read a little more about Percy Izzard (who will feature in a forthcoming blog here in 2016/7)  and William Pascoe at the original blog I wrote:

https://devoranwarmemorial.wordpress.com/2015/04/20/remembering-william-donald-pascoe-died-20-april-1915/

Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo.

Back to Nature: The quiet  riches of a country churchyard where William D. Pascoe, WW1 casualty is remembered on the family plot amongst wildflowers, pinecones and primroses. Devoran Churchyard, Cornwall,  April 2015.  Image: Mark Norris

Back to Nature: The quiet riches of a country churchyard where William D. Pascoe, WW1 casualty is remembered on the family plot beneath the fir tree amongst wildflowers, pinecones and primroses. Devoran Churchyard, Cornwall, April 2015.
Image: Mark Norris

National Growmore Fertiliser – a brief history

March 4, 2015

The Little Man with The Spade - unofficial logo for the National Growmore Campaign 1940, replaced by the iconic hobnail boot on spade image of the Dig for Victory campaign in 1941 Image from adverts in The Vegetable Garden Displayed, RHS (image from the World War Zoo gardens archive, Newquay Zoo)

Our poor soil is getting tired, entering our 7th growing season in the World War Zoo Gardens project at Newquay Zoo, just as it would have been for gardeners entering the 1945 growing season.

The first year or two in 2009/10, our Lion House lawn turned wartime allotment must have had a certain amount of stored natural goodness, being cultivated for the first time, along with good helpings of zoo bedding and zoo manure well rotted down.

The last two autumn / winters of 2013/14 we’ve given it an organic boost with green manures of mustard and clover grown and dug in before flowering. Like Heligan, we have used the traditional seaside remedies of using seaweed solutions or mulched sea weed dug and rotted down.

Since 2009 we’ve been keeping  it ‘semi-organic’, as our garden produce is not just for show but practically for our zoo animals. I have to be wary of chemicals and pesticides that would have been the quick fix for soil and pest problems in WW2.

It’s International Year of the Soil in 2015 (IYS) and December the 5th is now an annual World Soil Day, focussing on the growing challenge of feeding a growing world’s population with a potentially finite resource of soil. Much the same food security challenge faced farmers and food ministers in the wartime and post-war wrecked economy after World War 2.

The Soil Association's clever fusion of Renaissance artist Arcimboldo and the WW1 Kitchener poster (Source: Soil Association / World War Zoo gardens collection, Newquay Zoo)

The Soil Association’s clever fusion of Renaissance artist Arcimboldo and the WW1 Kitchener poster (Source: Soil Association / World War Zoo gardens collection, Newquay Zoo)

 

In future blogposts I will look at the organic and hydroponic movement that arose out of wartime and post-war  food production and intensification of farming. Few realised in the desperate state of wartime a nd positive view that ‘Science’ would solve all post-war problems until the slow discovery that some ‘miracle’ or quick-fix wartime pesticides like DDT would lead to the ‘Silent Spring’ of pollution in the 1950s and 1960s, as Rachel Carson christened the disastrous impact on wildlife and human health.  But  for now, I shall look at and try out the wartime solution of a simple and still much-loved  chemical fertiliser.

Update 15 March 2015:  As compromise and inspired by 1970s dandruff adverts, I will feed one half of the allotment National Growmore chemical fertiliser, the other half of the plot I will the leave as organic green manure fuelled or maybe Organic Blood Fish and Bone as an experiment.

Modern Growmore next to the campaign signs of what replaced the National Growmore Campaign, Dig For Victory! World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo, January 2015

Modern Growmore next to the campaign signs of what replaced the National Growmore Campaign, Dig For Victory!
World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo, January 2015

 

This year for the first time, I’ll be using ‘Artificials’, taking my wartime gardening advice from the Ministry of Agriculture leaflets for 1945.  We have acquired many of these Ministry of Ag original leaflets for our archive but for muddy garden use and display we use a recent reprint.

These have been reprinted recently as Allotment and Garden Guide: A Monthly Guide to Better Wartime Gardening published by Sabrestorm  (www.sabrestorm.com) in 2009 edited by Garden historian Twigs Way. It describes Growmore in January 1945 as:

A SOUND GOVERNMENT FERTILISER
“To meet the needs of gardeners the Government arranged for the supply of a good standard fertiliser at a reasonable price. It is called “National Growmore Fertilser” and contains the three important plant foods – the analysis being 7 % N. (Nitrogen), 7 % Phosphate and 7 % Potash …”

“On most soils 42 lb of National Growmore Fertiliser should be sufficient for a 10 Rod Plot (300 square yards). A few days before sowing  or planting, scatter 1 lb. evenly over 10 square yards and rake in.”

“To give this general dressing to a 10-Rod allotment will take 30 lbs. this will leave 12 lbs for giving an extra dressing  for potatoes, winter green crops and spring cabbages. 4.5 lbs should be reserved for potatoes and should be applied at planting time. 5.5 lbs should be kept for applying during August to the autumn and winter green crops when they are making active growth. The remaining 2 lbs should be used during March as top dressing for Spring cabbage.”

How every well dressed gardener should appear on the allotment - National Growmore Fertiliser illustration from the January 1945 Min of Ag Allotment Guide

How every well dressed gardener should appear on the allotment – National Growmore Fertiliser illustration from the February 1945 Min of Ag Allotment Guide

The January 1945 leaflet goes on to suggest bulk buying if you can organise enough people to spilt the volumes ordered. This reminds me of childhood trips with my Dad to the local allotment society ‘potting shed’ on a Sunday to buy his share of the bulk bought fertiliser, seeds and such. With no car, we must have carried it or wheelbarrowed it home. The  smell of such places is quite evocative, dusty, fish, blood and bone, quite different from a modern garden centre.

“You will be able to get National Growmore Fertiliser from most sundries merchants. Allotment  Societies  and similar bodies, which have hitherto bought their fertilisers in bulk, are able to buy National Growmore Fertiliser in bulk at reduced prices.”

“On some allotments or in some gardens it may be necessary to give an additional top dreessing of a nitrogenous fertiliser (such as Sulphate of Ammonia) to any growing crops, applying it at the rate of about 1 lb per 10 square yards.” (January 1945 Min of Ag leaflet  p. 3-4)

Sundries merchants, hitherto – they just don’t write paragraphs like that anymore. As vanished as the evocative small of the local allotment society potting shed shop? Thankfully National Growmore Fertiliser is still alive and well available from most garden centres from several manufacturers such as J. Arthur Bowers and Vitax still made “to original ‘dig for victory’ formula” – http://www.vitax.co.uk/home-garden/vitax-growmore/

It also appears again on the REMINDERS monthly page for January 1945 Get Your Fertilisers Now. “Make sure of your fertilisers now, so that you have them at hand when needed”

Maybe gloves should be worn today ... How to dress to scatter National Growmore Fertiliser illustration from the January 1945 Min of Ag Allotment Guide.

Maybe gloves should be worn today … How to dress to scatter National Growmore Fertiliser, illustration from the January 1945 Min of Ag Allotment Guide.

So important was Growmore to tired wartime soil and tired wartime gardeners that it was mentioned again in the February 1945 Allotment and Garden Guide Vol 1 No. 2. The end of the war was in sight after hard fighting but still the need to grow postwar crops meant that these leaflets carried on being published well past the end of the war in August 1945. Dig for Victory became Dig for Plenty, as rationing carried on for almost another ten years until 1954. Crop Rotation, compost, all these were important reminders to the winter gardener: “But before you get down to planning, have you yet got or ordered what you will need when you start outdoor operations? These are the items : SEEDS * SEED POTATOES * FERTILISERS *

Lovely Black and White line illustrations, National Growmore Fertiliser illustration from the February 1945 Min of Ag Allotment Guide

Lovely Black and White line illustrations, National Growmore Fertiliser illustration from the February 1945 Min of Ag Allotment Guide

A page or two later it has another reminder: “Have you got your NATIONAL GROWMORE FERTILISER? you will need it for dressing your land before sowing and planting. it contains the three essential plant foods in balanced proportions …”

It crops up again in the Jobs Reminders, in March 1945: “Feed Spring cabbage … Lettuces and Spinach  … but keep the fertiliser off the leaves” and then onwards month by month in the Reminders. By July 1945, the war in Europe and VE day was over but things were still uncertain in the Far East. Reminders continued to gardeners to plant and sow to bridge the hungry gap next Spring 1946.

Handy topical monthly hints from the Ministry of Food's 1945 wartime gardening guide.

Handy topical monthly hints from the Ministry of Food’s 1945 wartime gardening guide.

What is National Growmore Fertiliser?

National Growmore is an inorganic or chemical fertiliser, broadly similar in its 7% each of Potash, Nitrogen and Phosphoric acid balance of nutrients (NPK 7:7:7)  to more traditional organic fertilisers like Blood, Fish and Bone.

Before the war,  nitrogenous fertilisers had existed in large numbers since Victorian times thanks to Chemists like Leibig and Humphry Davy. Prewar it would have been manufactured or sold by seed companies such as Sutton’s who offered a range of fertilisers:

  • Icthelmic Guano (sea bird poo, the reason some of our sea birds like the endangered Humboldt Penguins at Newquay Zoo became rarer when their Peruvian beach nest sites were mined or dug  back to useless bare rock )
  • Poultmure, treated chicken manure,  although no longer sold by Sutton’s or by this name is  still available in garden centres.
  • Garotta, still made under this name by several companies to speed or encourage compost breakdown.

When war broke out many of our European supplies of chemicals and chemical fertilisers such as (Sulphate of ) Potash became unobtainable, fell into enemy hands or found other competing wartime uses. Since the 1860s much of the Potash came from German or Prussian mining towns like Stassfurt.  Changing times meant fewer horses meant less available farmyard manure. Meanwhile a nation of gardeners was being mobilised to replace the same food supplies that had vanished into enemy hands and that (like today) we had become dependant on from foreign imports. A simple, easy to apply and multipurpose fertiliser at low cost and  widespread availability was required. National Growmore Fertiliser was the answer!

The Little Man with The Spade - unofficial logo for the National Growmore Campaign 1940, replaced by the iconic hobnail boot on spade image of the Dig for Victory campaign in 1941 Image from adverts in The Vegetable Garden Displayed, RHS (image from the World War Zoo gardens archive, Newquay Zoo)

The Little Man with The Spade – unofficial logo for the National Growmore Campaign 1940.

Why Growmore?

Growmore appears to have  got its simple name from an early version of the Dig For Victory campaign name and its popular Grow More food  leaflets. Eventually the campaign name changed to the more familiar Dig For Victory, its little gardener man logo replaced by the famous foot on spade  and postwar Dig for Plenty campaigns. Growmore remains the same name and composition to this day.

“Specifically Prepared to Produce Maximum Crops Of Vegetables”

Researching the introduction of Growmore, the National Archives files for the Ministry of Agriculture  MAF 51/24 suggest a start date of 1942 “National Growmore Fertiliser, a general purpose compound fertiliser”.

Looking at selections of historic newspaper archives through family history websites such as Find My Past as  a very rough sample reveals 7 mentions of National Growmore for that year, mostly in the later part of 1942,  whereas there are 166 for 1943 and so on.

The Ministry of Agriculture had made great use of the well-known garden writer Roy Hay (20 August 1910 – 21 October 1989) from 1940 onwards as part of its Dig for Victory campaign. In late 1942 he was used  to introduce National Growmore Fertiliser in his syndicated garden columns “Garden Hints”. Announcements appeared in many different papers ranging from  the Gloucester Journal on November 11 1942, Sussex Agricultural Express on 13 November 1942 to the Essex Newsman of the same week. Much of the copy Roy Hay provided and packaged in his garden columns was reproduced or recycled in the 1945 Allotment Guide:

A Standard Fertiliser

“At last gardeners and allotment holders can buy a standard fertiliser … to sold at prices not exceeding … 1 Cwt 25 shilings .. and authorised manufacturers will be permitted to put it on the market under this name. Many fertiliser manufacturers have already done so.”

There are a range of adverts from local newspapers that back this claim up of regulated prices “not exceeding”, such as this one from the Western Morning News 22 May 1943:

Fison’s National Growmore fertiliser for all vegetable Crops. Orders dealt with in strict rotation.Directions in Every Bag. 7 lbs 2/9 (2 shillings, 9d) 14 lbs 4/6, 28 lbs 7/6, 56 lbs 13/6 and 1 Cwt 25 shillings Carriage paid home.  It’s FISON”S for FERTILISERS. From seedsmen or direct from Fison’s Ltd Gardens Dept, Harvest House, Ipswich. Pioneers of Granular fertilisers.

 

The Government's November 1939 leaflet on obtaining an allotment to Dig For Victory. By 1945 wartime soil and wartime gardeners would be showing the strain of tiredness. (Image source: World War Zoo Gardens Collection / Newquay Zoo)

The Government’s November 1939 leaflet on obtaining an allotment to Dig For Victory. By 1945 wartime soil and wartime gardeners would be showing the strain of tiredness. (Image source: World War Zoo Gardens Collection / Newquay Zoo)

The Government's November 1939 leaflet on obtaining an allotment to Dig For Victory. By 1945 wartime soil and wartime gardeners would be showing the strain of tiredness. (Image source: World War Zoo Gardens Collection / Newquay Zoo)

The Government’s November 1939 leaflet on obtaining an allotment to Dig For Victory. By 1945 wartime soil and wartime gardeners would be showing the strain of tiredness. (Image source: World War Zoo Gardens Collection / Newquay Zoo)

A similar advert in the Yorkshire Post of 30 march 1943 boasts the royal credentials or patronage of another authorised maunfacturer:

By appointment to HM King George VI

NATIONAL GROWMORE FERTILISER

The “Humber” Brand is manufactured by the makers of the famous “Eclipse” Compound Fish Manure. both of these aids to better gardening are packed in bags of 7 lbs, 28 lbs, 56 lbs, and 112 lbs, and supplies are available from your seedsman. Note – Special  terms are offered to Allotment Societies buying in bulk. Licensed manufacturers, the Humber Fishing and Fish manure Co. Ltd, Winchester Chambers, Stoneferry, Hull.

Whereas in the Lincolnshire Echo, 14 January 1944 Barkers and Lee Smith Ltd of Lincoln urge people to “Book your order now for spring delivery. Up to 3 cwt delivered tp premises at 25 shillings per cwt. No permit required.” Similarly a sense of urgency is found in this Cornishman advert of 1st July 1943:

BUMPER CROPS can still be obtained from your GARDEN if you use NATIONAL GROWMORE FERTILISER NOW. You can purchase up to 3 Cwts free of permit from stocks at T.F. Hosking and Co., Marazion and Helston.

National Growmore made it into the regular Ministry of Agriculture adverts on

Wartime Gardening No. 22: SOWING TIME IS HERE

“If you’ve broken down rough ground till it is fine and level, and raked in National Growmore Fertiliser. take a last look at your cropping scheme. If you,ve allowed less than one-third of your space for growing winter greens, send at once for Dig For Victory Leaflet No 1 which shows you how to correct this serious mistake. You must make sure of enough winter gardens for next season. write to the Ministry of Agriculture, Hotel Lindum, St Annes On Sea, Lancashire.”

This address and the Hotel Berri Court Lytham St Annes seem to be the regular correspondence address for obtaining leaflets from the Ministry of agriculture which had dispersed or evacuated like many wartime ministries and organisations such as the BBC to a  safer ‘rural’ address or requisitioned seaside hotels.

Roy Hay even suggests National Growmore Fertiliser for Christmas 1942 in his column headed  “Tool Gifts for Gardeners” in the Essex Newsman 19 December 1942:

“A good present would be a bag of the new National Growmore Fertiliser – it has the advantage that you can buy quantities varying from a 7 lb bag at 2s, 9d to 1 Cwt at 25 shillings.”

 

Interestingly, the work of promoting National Growmore switched to Tom Hay, Roy’s retired gardener father in early 1943:

“They are fortunate who have a compost heap and for those less fortunate, the new National Growmore fertiliser…”  writes Tom Hay in the 18/2/43 edition of the North Devon Journal and Herald

Tom  Hay Plans  Your Victory Garden

“Roy Hay the national broadcasting gardening expert, whose articles in the Journal-Herald from time to time have been much appreciated by readers, has gone overseas on important work. Contrary to the Biblical story the mantle of Elisha has fallen in Elijah; in other words Mr Hay’s father Mr Tom Hay CVO, VMH, ex-superintendent of Royal Parks contributes this article:

“At no season is the great advantage of a carefully planned cropping system more evident than at present…”

and so Tom Hay goes on to talk about Crop Rotation, a major feature of the Dig for Victory campaign.

Exploring Roy Hay’s biography on Wikipedia reveals why he handed over many of his press columns and radio broadcasts on the BBC “Radio Allotment” to his father. He had been recruited as a Horticultural Officer to the besieged George Cross winning island of Malta to oversee its food production. He resumed his broadcasting career postwar with Fred Streeter on “Home Grown”, a Sunday forerunner of BBC Radio Gardener’s Question Time.

Roy Hay went on to found the Britain in Bloom movement in 1963, inspired by one in De Gaulle’s France. So another influence on the Newquay Zoo wartime garden which has featured as part of the zoo and Newquay’s efforts  in these ‘Bloom’ competitions.

As well as posters and radio allotments, newsreel films were well used to encourage reluctant diggers – you can see this in a lovely short 6 minute Dig For Victory MOI film with Roy Hay the radio allotment gardener http://www.thebigworld.co.uk/howtodigforvictory.htm.

Other garden writers like George H. Copley (N.D. Hort) in “Your Wartime Food Garden”  in the Lancashire Daily 26 May 1943 mention National Growmore Fertiliser in relation to fruit trees, advice later recycled again in the 1945 Allotment Guide.

For more on Fertilisers today check the RHS website https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=451

Enjoy the coming gardening season,  as March begins a busy period of sowing in the garden.

Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo

Postscript

There is an excellent section on wartime allotments in the new City Library of Birmingham, where I recently researched for information on the Birmingham Botanic Garden archives.
http://www.libraryofbirmingham.com/allotmentsinwarandpeace


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