The 1930s

In the 1930s the greenhouse industry in the Lea Valley reaches its zenith with more than 1,300 acres of crops grown under glass. The skyline is dominated by a 20-mile stretch of greenhouses along the Lea Valley corridor.

Vita Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicolson, purchase Sissinghurst Castle and the surrounding 10 acres where they begin creating their world famous garden of rooms, including the much imitated white garden.

The fledgling Beatrix Havergal’s School of Horticulture for women moves to Oxford’s Waterperry House which is to become its home for the next 39 years.

The realisation that by putting holes in the ground grass grows better sees SISIS offer simple hand fork and aerators on wheeled hand frames.

During the depression, the Dutchman J Parker, hailing from three generations of bulb growers and exporters, arrives in England and starts a mail order bulb business – J Parker Dutch Bulbs. The business prospers and today remains solely owned and managed by the founding family.

The first successful rotary mower, the Rotosythe, is developed and introduced by Power Specialities of Maidenhead and later acquired by J.E. Shay of Basingstoke. It utilises a disc or blade that spins horizontally under a safety hood and proves useful on rough, coarse or wet grass.

The first SISIS horse-drawn aerator is sold to Doncaster racecourse.

The Japanese nurseryman Koichiro Wada sends two Rhododendron yakushimanum plants to Lionel de Rothschild, the very first of their kind to arrive in the UK. They are planted at Exbury.

John Deere’s first row-crop tractor – the Model A petrol tractor with rubber tyres – goes into production.

Plant breeder WJC Lawrence begins to investigate the procedure of making seed and potting composts. By 1935 he has established the optimum amounts of N, P and K fertilisers and introduced two standard soils for use at John Innes Horticultural Institution where his trials are taking place; one for sowing and one for potting.

David Squire’s position as head gardener at the Police Orphanage in Twickenham is made redundant. With a young family to support he sets up his own business, which over the course of the following 80 years develops into one of the best-known family-owned garden centre groups in the industry – Squire’s.

Plant breeder WJC Lawrence examines the suitability of the composts he established in 1835 at the John Innes Horticultural Institution. He arrives at two composts and ‘John Innes Compost’ goes on to become a household name.

The government starts the Women’s Land Army under Lady Gertrude Denman of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to increase the amount of food grown in Britain.

The government bans growing luxury items including roses in greenhouses such as those in the Lea Valley. Production is geared up for fresh fruit and vegetable supply.

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