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Hallett’s “Gardening for Profit” – April 2014 Edition of History & Heritage

Updated: Apr 18

Welcome to April’s edition of History & Heritage. Our purpose is to acquaint you with our mission to preserve the town’s rich history, highlight the legacy of those who have gone before and show how our past has shaped our present. We are a non-profit with 501(c)(3) status.  

Credit and thanks goes to The Caledonian-Record who published this article on April 30, 2014

Hallett’s “Gardening for Profit”

In a year when Spring seems to flirt with us about just being around the corner or the next, I thought we would lift our spirits by looking at gardening in the early 1900’s up in St. Johnsbury Center. Many years ago Roland Leterneau told me about his grandparents and the gardening lecture his grandfather had given at the Vermont State Horticultural Society’s 19th annual meeting in Randolph in 1913. Roland’s interest was peaked by the fact that he had the box of 3-1/2 by 4 inch glass slides that went with it. Was there a machine that could project them at the Museum? A machine yes but safely was the question! I was remembering that conversation one day and inquired of his widow Mary if they and the lecture still existed; thankfully the answer was yes. The gardening took place in St. Johnsbury Center. There was more than one Hallett family in the Center so we are not quite sure at which place this gardening took place. In the Bible Hill area there was land that was sold to Henry Veilleux by Henry and Mabel Hallett in October of 1943. So somewhere between Bible Hill area and down closer to the Breezy Hill Road was the scene.

Mr. Hallett with his market wagon

Mr. Hallett with his market wagon

E. H. Hallett used a green house building that was 33 feet long and 11 feet in width. The heat was provided by stoves which maintained safe temperature even when it was 15 below zero. In this space, he was able to have “30 to 50 thousand average size plants, by filling all of the beds and shelves.” Getting plants to market early was the way to better your income; almost a third of your price might be gained by this. This being cold country meant protection of germinated seeds and he told of such in the planting of squash. In the field he made boxes for squash that were 9 inches wide and 3 inches tall with glass 12 x 14 laid on top. “Peas are a crop that bring a gross income up a good deal, while the net income is not as much as we would like.”  His peas were never on the ground and the cost of the wire and effort was around twenty dollars an acre. In his slide, he points out that the pods are long and filled from the labors of allowing them to climb. Spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, peas, squash, melons, beans, beets, strawberries, rhubarb, water melons are all crops mentioned in his lecture.

Mr. Hallett's garden

Mr. Hallett’s garden

Tips are given to please the customer such as – “the first thing we must do is to wash the vegetables clean” so that the products are in “just as attractive condition as possible…” When carrying produce to the homes, “always fill the baskets or measures full so that no one can have any fault to find.” He used a wide wagon for market so that he was able to place goods so that they could be seen. “Our load on one occasion contained two bushels of strawberries, 21 bushels of peas and something like 1500 of beets and other things.” He wrote about the popularity of flowers and one they grew was the sweet pea. Quite an income could be gained from the sale of this item.

Garden tools - the garden rake is leaning again the wall

Garden tools – the garden rake is leaning against the wal

Tools for the garden are well known but Mr. Hallett has high praise for the rake! “There is one tool that we use the most and it is one that if used enough we need not fear very much drouth or short crop, and that is the garden rake. It is not used as much as it should be.” Instructions as to how to rake are, “as you start down a row, rake behind yourself so that you will not track between the rows. By so doing the capillary action will be low and if that is done there is seldom a dry spell that will trouble the plants at all.” Hallett addresses the need for help; there is the kind you have to pay for and some you don’t. In the latter, he has high praise for the toad: “and I want to impress upon you to never in any way injure any of them if you can possibly help it.” He speaks of finding them away from home and bringing them back to the garden. He speaks well of the robin and highly of the crow whom he feels does more good than harm. High marks are given to the skunks and their ability to find worms. He had a problem with grubs eating strawberry plants until “Jimmy” appeared and that was the end of the grubs. “The skunk will never trouble you if you do not trouble him, but if you undertake to abuse him there is something doing.” Last but not least is his approval for cows and sheep. The manure is a great fertilizer and milk is a source of income during the winter months. Sheep manure makes excellent filling for hot beds. Words of wisdom from a gardener from St. Johnsbury Center can make you anxious for the growing season to get going!

We are located in the Summer Street School building while we seek a permanent home. We are currently raising money to purchase the former law offices of Primmer & Piper at 421 Summer St. A 250 Club has been started where you can give a thousand dollars as an individual, a family, a business, a club, group or any other creative donation you might have. We have until the end of March to achieve the goal of 250 thousand dollars. WE HAVE HIT THE HALFWAY MARK! Please check out our web site at and our Facebook page. Our mailing address is P.O. Box 223, St. Johnsbury, Vt. 05819 and our phone number is 802-424-1090.

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