Austin (Jeb) Hill's Garden

    Austin (Jeb) Hill's Garden

I am a Yorkshire man, born and raised in Doncaster. My interest in gardening started quite early in life, in fact when I was about 7 years of age. I had for some time been accompanying my father to his allotment and when the next plot to his became vacant he asked me if I would like it and he would pay the rent. I had no hesitation in saying YES. That was the start of 70 years enjoyment and hard work.

Generally speaking the soil in Yorkshire is of a deep black colour, very fine in texture and well draining. It is because of this that Yorkshire men are well known for their extra large Leeks, Onions and long Carrots. Being in the midlands area of the country the weather was very unpredictable. You could get exceptionally cold, wet or even very mild weather in the early months of the year so it was usual to delay the sowing of seeds as much as three weeks, just to be on the safe side.

Over a period of time I think that allotment plot must have grown practically every type of vegetable imaginable plus a good supply of cut flowers for my mothers table. A thing that still remains in my memory to this day, is, after a gardening session, sitting in an old wicker chair outside my father's old tool come potting shed and listening to all the old boys from the other plots reminiscing on not just gardening but life in general and of course putting the world to rights.

My gardening days stopped in late 1946 when I joined the Palestine Police and for the next two years served in Palestine.

When I returned home I rejoined the Signal Engineering Deppartment of British Rail and after a short while was asked if I would go to London to assist in the Liverpool Street electrification. It was while working in London that I met and, on the 31st of March 1951, married my dear wife Jean. We eventually bought a bungalow in Wickford, Essex.

My gardening days were about to restart. The property was new, which gave me a free hand regarding design. The rear of the bungalow was approx: 300ft x 36ft, was unmade and just as the builders had left it. The soil, if it could be called soil, consisted of solid clay to the extent that during the summer months the sun made the clods that hard you could make bricks of them. For the next few years I dug into the ground trailer load upon trailer load of manure from some local stables plus as much home made compost as I could lay my hands on. All this paid off and today I have a good crumbly, fertile soil. Over the years my garden has changed shape and usage many times. Cordon grown apples 'Sunset'When I first started I planted 32 cordon fruit trees ( pears and apples ), 3 fan trained plum trees and 2 espaliers. Cordon fruit trees are well known for the quality of fruit they produce but on the down side they have a very short life span, 30 to 40 years.

About three quarters the length of the garden from the bungalow, and separated by a trellis rose fence, I had a 50ft x 25ft vegetable plot.

Opposite that was another plot that I kept solely for growing Chrysanthemums. At that time I was growing Chrysanthemums to exhibition standards and showing them in local shows. After a number of years I stopped showing and grew them as cut flowers.

As happens to us all, age started to catch up on me and as a consequence I grassed over my vegetable plot, stopped growing the Chrysanthís and now use the area for Runner Beans, Beetroot, Marrows, Onions and anything else that takes my fancy. I also have three large greenhouses that I still put to good use ( for how much longer I donít know ).

All in all I have no hesitation in saying that I have had great enjoyment from my garden and still do.