BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

18 June 2014
Accessibility help
Text only
Legacies - Guernsey

BBC Homepage
 Legacies
 UK Index
 Guernsey
 Article
Gallery
Listings
Your stories
 Archive
 Site Info
 BBC History
 Where I Live

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

 
Work
Cooking the earth

Soil steaming
Soil steaming using grids
© Mr G Nicholson
The first mobile soil steriliser was produced around 1908 by Mr P F Dorey, but it required all the soil to be dug up and wheeled out of the greenhouses to be steamed. A more practical method of steaming the soil in situ was introduced in the 1920s, and for the next 50 years, from October to December, an army of men would steam the soil before the planting of the new crop, using over 100 “loco-type” boilers day and night. These “steaming men” had to be strong and hardworking, for their unusual job was not the most pleasant of tasks….

Steaming men

Various methods of soil steaming were developed over the years, the most common method probably that of using “grids”, whereby steam was piped from the boiler into metal grids buried up to 18 inches deep in the greenhouse soil. The steam escaped through small holes in these grids, sterilising the soil as it passed through it. Normally five grids were buried alongside each other across the greenhouse, and while one section of the ground was being “cooked” the next five grids would be buried in preparation. Each “cook” took about 45 minutes, and an average greenhouse could take anything up to 24 hours to steam thoroughly – it was very labour intensive.

Boiler
Boilers like this one were used to produce the steam
© Mr G Nicholson
Every year, the grower would hire the boiler for steaming from a specialist company like Gilroys. These boilers were a common sight on the island’s roads in winter months, as they were towed from one grower to another as soon as a job was done, even in the middle of the night sometimes. Three men worked with each boiler – one stoker, who was usually provided by the boiler company, and two grid men. In the days of coal, a lot could depend on the stoker – “with a bad stoker you did not have as much steam, and so you couldn’t steam as efficiently”, remembers Tony, a Guernsey grower.


Pages: Previous [ 1, 2, 3, 4 ] Next


Your comments




Print this page
Archive
Look back into the past using the Legacies' archives. Find nearly 200 tales from around the country in our collection.

Read more >
Internet Links
Guernsey horticulture
Priaulx Library
History of Guernsey horticulture
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Web sites.
North-East Scotland
Fishing boat
Related Stories
The future of Sheffield’s Little Mesters
The Whixall Moss Gang
"Hell-raising" nailers in Belper




About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy