The Potager 2017

Months have yet again gone past without a post! In my defence I spent March in Australia for my little sisters wedding and then packing up and shipping the rest of stuff that we had in storage – it was a frantic, busy trip. When I got home it was straight into mad gardening season including playing catch up with all the seeds that should have gone in or got started in March!

We had wonderful peas but they all got wiped out a couple of weeks ago when we had a heatwave come through:

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I’ve also extended my growing area into the space under the hoop house, a new round garden, a potato bed and a soft fruit bed. I’m growing butternuts, decorative gourds and baby watermelons on the edges of the hoop house and will train them up over the hoops. Tomatoes run down the centre with ropes hanging down to support them, I’m hoping it works really well, we are also going to install a drip system to help with the huge watering job.

We have so much in: beans, melons, tomatoes, 19 strawberries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries, 3 types of basil, courgette (zucchini) – both normal green ones and a climbing yellow variety, potatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflowers, kale, rainbow swiss chard, lettuce, carrots, radishes. Lots of companion plants in too – nasturtiums, calundula, marigolds and borage. The grapes look amazing this year and the plums, peaches, apples, walnuts, hazelnuts and figs seem to be no worse for wear even though we had a late frost that sent a lot of the new budding leaves black.

I’ll get some up to date pics shortly!

June 2016 veggie patch!

The garden is coming along really well and we’ve had lots of rain through the early part of June followed by some heat so everything is growing nicely!

Early June saw a big push to get  filled all places in the EL veggie patch (get it – shaped like an E then an L – ha ha) we now have 3 corguettes, 2 chillis, 2 cucumbers, 14 tomatoes, 1 cherry tomato, various lettuces, carrots (well about 6 of them), radishes, peas, snow peas, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, 100 onions, shallots, dead garlic (have given up all hope – accidentally dug one up and it was rotten ), strawberries and raspberries. Not a great pic in the harsh afternoon light but you get the idea.

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The hubby rotovated a further 2.5 x 10 metre bit on the next terrace up – the back is going to be a pumpkin patch (2 large unknown variety, 4 small unknown (Aussie variety I got from organic farmer and kept seeds) and as many butternut as I can fit. I got the 2 big ones in up the back – I thought I read do an 18 inch hill so made it big t (not 18 but pretty big) then read somewhere else 3 inches
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The front section is 2 beds a metre wide each and 4 m long with a path – OK it is a trench – didn’t mean to do it that deep but after I’d made my last paths I’d read you should put the soil from the paths you make onto the beds – I perhaps overdid it. Louis commented it looks like WW1!

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Plan to cardboard the bottom of the path for weeds then probably just put some straw for the moment and get something on the sides to hold back the soil and in effect make raised beds! Plan to have lots of basil and beans in this section.

By the end of the month this is how it was looking:

The zucchinis (courgettes) are growing really well, already had 6 lovely ones from one plant. I think I need to be a bit more careful with my watering in the heat though as there have been a few little ones that have kind of shriveled up, turned brown and died (unless there is some other unknown thing going on and if so please tell me!).

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The pumpkin patch (need to sort out the weeds – I regret not mulching straight away, it makes the most enormous difference!).

The other end has the beans which are coming u nicely – they are so big no in comparison – amazing how much growth happens in just 10 days!

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So we are eating lots of yummy fresh produce – mainly lettuce, radishes, courgettes, peas and the odd strawberry and some gooseberries.

Looking forward to tasting the rest!

Garden part IV – spring 2016 veggie patch

Back in early March I started my plans and work on the veggie garden. The original plan I was working to looked like this:

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Louis and I spent ages measuring and laying it all out:
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In the end hubby explained that it wouldn’t work to try to get all the little paths with the rotovator so we ended up just rotovating the whole thing and then I formed my paths later. The end result was a bit different from my drawing – it is basically a ‘L’ then a ‘E’. The paths are a bit messy looking but I need to re-cardboard them and I have just bought some wood chips to put on them so that should look much better!

By early May it was looking like this – lots of seeds in and small plants but not an awful lot to see!

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Peas and snow peas (mangetoute) running the 2 lines under the teeppee thing (obviously not needed yet for growth but I’m needing to build all sorts of Rémy barriers) and the shallots / eshallots doing really well next to them.
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By mid-May more wsa starting to grow and I kept on with my plantings:

The lettuce patch – the ones at the back are still my winter ones I planted in October then cos at the front:
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This first section has radish and carrots to the right then the non growing garlic through the centre then on the left is some more peas (need to put up a support). The top left is a small cherry tomato, some peppers, aubergine and perhaps something else that I can’t remember then heading off along the top row is all the tomatoes with a row of basil right a long the top edge:
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The pea house and I’ve done a little bed on the end with some nasturtiums (must get some on the other ends as well):
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The brassica area, I’ve got 6 cauliflowers at the front then some brussel sprouts,there is now also 6 broccolis in as well then along the top edge are 3 zuchinnis and there should have been a cucumber as well but I killed it (decapitated it as I picked it up  ). Then on the right hand of the L bit there are 6 strawberries and 2 raspberries (I haven’t managed to move them and decided I’ll leave them this year, I think I could cause more damage than good to move them now):
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Looking down the long edge of the ‘E’ where I have the tomatoes and a few lettuce in the centre (trying inter planting)
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We had a very wet spring so everything has grown really well – I’m so impressed with my first effort! I’m actually amazed looking back at these pics just how far it has come along!

Garden Part III – Winter

Winter was quite good in terms of everything dying back and allowing us to see what on earth was going on in the garden! It was such a jungle last year we really had no idea at all what plants we have or what needed doing / pruning etc.

The back section of the garden is the ‘working’ area – it is split into a series of terraces (our whole garden is on a slope from left to right as you look at it from the house). The infrastructure is there for the chicken coop, a polytunnel plus the terraces for veggie gardens and the clothes line at the top. These photos are taken from the bottom (right) panning up to the top (left) of the garden:

My winter lettuces (which bizarrely were planted in October, due to be ready mid December but are only just being eaten now – I think it it was the total lack of rain in early winter!) and lots of leaf mulching to keep weeds down and on the right to try to build up the ground level in the tunnel as it is still sloped. You can see the little stable that is now on the land at the back with two lovely horses – we are all (especially Rémy) enjoying having them at the back of the garden:

This shot is from the top of the back looking back down to see all of it:


We had such a mild winter and I knew I had so much work to do that I started cutting back and pruning pretty early in the year. This is one of the days of carnage trying to clear the beds under the big hazel that we look directly over from the house:

I eventually got there and now have a reasonably clear area in those beds but still lots of creeping tree / bushes that I couldn’t pull up so will need to dig them out just haven’t had a chance to get back to them yet.

And of course planning for the veggie beds started. I originally tried to dig it over by hand but then we realised that it was easier to deal with any left over grass roots (what I was trying to avoid doing it by hand) and do it with the rotavater! This tiny patch took me hours! You can also see the start of our bonfire, we ended up with about 6 times this and spent a whole day burning stuff as we finished the bulk of the clearing in the garden.

 

Operation vine pruning!

Oops I found this post in drafts waiting to be published! This was originally written in the middle of March. We have massive grape vines at the front and back. After talking to the neighbour we think they are very, very old. Last summer they were just enormous and totally unkept but produced masses of tiny, sweet purple grapes. I’ve been reading madly to see how to prune them and I had a go yesterday as my neighbour said I really, really needed to do it ASAP as they are starting to bud (she has the same vine at the front of her house). The instructions were a bit confusing but I had a go, I was reading some other clearer instructions last night and I think I may have taken a bit too much off the one at the back so may have a poor crop this year but they can be pruned very hard so I’m hoping it will be OK and we’ll still get grapes this autumn!

This is what the back looked like pre-pruning:

Some of what came off:

And all tidy!

The good news is after worrying I’d taken too much (and seeing leaking where I’d pruned – a sign I’d done it too late!) a month later there are now lots of new leaves. I didn’t end up taking much off the front vine as I was worried about it so it will just have to be messy again this summer!

 

Garlic!

50 gorgeous pink Lautrec garlic cloves ready to go in the ground!

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I was absolutely thrilled to discover I could plant garlic in the spring. Apparently yields are slightly less than for autumn planted garlic but who cares – I get to grow garlic! This variety have a lovely flavour and nice big plump bulbs, they are quite expensive in the shop too so well worth growing, fingers crossed they do grow for me. I can’t wait to see how they go, I’ll definitely update!

 

Garden Part II – summer 2015

The summer of 2015 was hot, hot, hot with days well into the 40’s and most days well over 30 with no rain for months so plans for veggies etc didn’t come through as it was just too hot and dry. Most of the summer was spent just trying to keep the lawn alive, clear up any obvious weeds (including our nightmare Japenese Knotweed problem) and I also got a small herb garden and rose garden planted by the terrace where we spent most of our time when it was warm (right up until November actually as it was such a mild autumn as well!).

This was how I did the miniature rose garden, I dug up the grass as best I could then planted the roses (pink and white alternating – although some had lost all their flowers in the heat so it was a bit of a guess that did work out!):

Then I covered with thick brown cardboard with holes cut out for the roses and covered it all in soil:

Then a final layer of mulch to help further with the weeds and keeping the water in:

In hindsight I definitely did the right thing with the cardboard, I had very few weeds come through. I shouldn’t have used dry grass as the mulch as I think there were still the odd seed in it and I also should have been more thorough clearing out the grass to start with as it has been my main problem! The other thing I should have done was put an edge on as I’m always having grass creeping in. There are lots of things coming up for sale now it is coming to spring so I’ll get something soon to add. Despite the heat they did very well and flowered all summer and right through until November or December. I also don’t’ know how big these mini roses get and I fear I may have planted them too far apart so I’m going to attempt to move them closer to each other I think as I’d like to get a hydrangea in on the end of the bed! If anyone thinks this is a very bad idea please tell me!

I didn’t take many garden pics over the summer but my lovely sister in law Naomi just sent me some so I could share, including this fabulous panoramic one – it makes the perspective a bit odd – the wall is actually on right angles to the herb beds but gives you a bit of an idea:

Our lovely basil and other herbs and gorgeous niece Zelda (her and Rémy are only a few weeks apart and it was so lovely having them spend lots of time together!):

And a little montage of some late summer blooms!

I’ll make sure I get more pictures to share this summer!

 

Homemade nettle tea!

Sorry for the lack of posts – our house has a been a constant stream of illness ever since we came back from our Christmas trip to the UK! It is a combination of us not having any European immunity and the mild winter which hasn’t killed off all the bugs! This week we all have shocking colds, luckily it is the holidays (again!) so at least the kids aren’t missing yet more school.

We are getting more and more interested in natural remedies and with lots of lovely young nettles springing up after all the rain we’ve had the man decided to make some nettle tea! I was a little sceptical and unsure how it would taste but I was pleasantly surprised! Nettle tea is good for a number of health issues, it contains lots of fabulous vitamins and trace minerals and is a great support for the immune system. The man felt much better after we had it – I wasn’t feeling as rotten yesterday to notice a difference – but I’ve just sent him out now to harvest some more!

 

Garden part I

One of the things we loved as soon as we saw the house was the garden. I thought I better do some posts about it as it has started featuring heavily in my life again the last few days with some gorgeous spring like weather!

It was pretty bare when we viewed the house as it was the end of winter. By the time we got back to France in May it looked like a jungle and scared the life out of us! Here are some photos of what we had to work and deal with!

The figs outside the back door!

The greenhouse all set up and ready to go (not – but at least the bones are there!).

Looking back up at the house from the greenhouse door:

Stood on the terrace (next to the house in the first photo) looking back down the garden (yes we do have our own windmill!!):

Panning left:

And left again (our land ends where the tree line is):

Some massive ancient yukkas at the front:

Wow that makes me exhausted just looking at that!