A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


It is difficult to summarise shortly the amount of material contained in this report and at the same time there are many aspects of the problem upon which our particular inquiry did not touch.

In particular there is the problem of the quality of cultivation. About this subject our general impression from our field workers reports and own visits to allotments in various parts of the country is that there is a good deal of room for improvement. Almost everywhere local authorities commented to us upon the failure of many gardeners to adopt the best methods for success. In almost all cases where new ground was broken there were large piles of turf made into marrow heaps or made into dykes to separate plots; this turf might well have been used for manure. Amongst most new gardeners there appeared to be the tendency to rely on the watering can rather than the hoe in dry weather. We had numerous examples shown to us of crop failure through the omission of elementary precautions.

Although these impressions are not supported by statistical evidence, it does seem that there is a field for improvement in the quality of cultivation.


Our analysis of the proportion of new gardeners and allotment holders each season (Paragraph 2.1 5) show that the results of the campaign has been fairly satisfactory throughout the war. In spite of the fact that as time passes, the difficulties faced by the organisers in persuading more persons to undertake cultivation are increasing; there has only been a small decline in the proportion of persons undertaking new cultivation in the third year of the war.

The result of our regional inquiry shows that over half of the families in this country are now growing some of their own vegetables and our section on gardens showed that almost all households with gardens have been affected by the campaign to grow more vegetables. (Paragraph 2. 19 7).


The analysis of reasons given why gardens were given over to vegetable cultivation or allotments were taken showed that although the Ministry of Agriculture publicity had been effective, it had not been obvious to those who had undertaken cultivation. Only a small proportion mentioned the “Dig for Victory” campaign by name, although a large proportion mentioned many of the aspects of cultivation which had been stressed by the publicity. Gardeners in the middle classes seemed most conscious of direct publicity.

That the campaign had been effective in “selling” gardening to the public is shown by the fact that nearly 60% of all those cultivating gardens or allotments could find no disadvantages worth mentioning when they were asked.


Our results show that newspaper gardening notes were the most used source of gardening information, followed by broadcast talks and leaflets. The local authorities information services were used by only about one-third of gardeners and less than one-third had visited demonstration plots. Apart from these organized sources of information a little less than two-thirds of our sample used the advice of their friends or neighbours when faced with gardening problems, so that any publicity which reaches only a section of gardeners at any time is likely to be disseminated quite rapidly during the course of the season. This fact is shown in the case of the publicity about potato blight where a larger proportion, 68.5% of our sample understood correctly the importance of potato spraying, whereas only 62% were conscious of the publicity. The fact that 75% of all gardeners are making compost heaps is evidence of the effect of the campaign on practice.

Nevertheless, the fact that only one-tenth of all gardeners used the Cropping Plan as the main guide for their cultivation and only a further 15% made some use of it, shows that in this respect there remains a very considerable amount to be done before the Ministry of Agriculture really has gardening habits in this country under anything like complete control.


Nearly half of all gardeners considered that their experience with last year’s crops had been good or excellent, one-fifth said that their experience had been all right or fair, and only 2% said that their crops had been bad. The remainder who did not answer this question should most likely be added to the one-fifth who said that their crops were fair or all right.

The most important crops were potatoes, grown by 85% of our gardeners, and greens grown by 96% of our gardeners. The effect of the campaign to grow more winter greens is shown in the following result: whereas 14% of our gardeners grew no greens last year, only 4% are not growing greens for this winter.


The tentative conclusions drawn from our section on Women Gardeners suggest that women gardeners have been reasonably successful in their cultivation, but that the publicity directed towards them has not been nearly as effective as it might have been.

We use cookies to track usage and preferences.

Privacy & Cookie Policy Accept & Close