Steam soil steriliser

Contributed by Folk Museum Guernsey

Steam soil steriliser

This steam soil steriliser was invented and patented by P F Dorey in 1911 and built by John Leale.

Tomatoes were brought to Europe around 1500 but were initially thought to be poisonous. However when medical experts began to laud the fruit's health benefits, Guernsey began to grow the crop in great quantity.

The new crop was soon beset by problems however, as soil-borne diseases like "Verticillium Wilt" took hold, causing plants to wilt and die. Several solutions were tested in the early years with limited success, from "drenching" the soil in carbolic acid and water, to pouring boiling water over the ground.

The real breakthrough came in 1902, when Guernsey grower Mr Poat, inspired by what he had seen in nurseries in America and Norwich, made his first experiments in soil steaming - by baking soil in his mother's oven. The plants subsequently raised in this soil were healthy.

This mobile unit could be taken from grower to grower but the soil had to be taken out of the greenhouse and into the contraption by wheelbarrow. It was superceded by more practical methods as the industry became more mechanised.

These units were also put to another use: steaming Christmas puddings.

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