Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tomatoes

On 14 June last I recorded 32mm of rainfall and the week prior to that 51mm.  However since then, now more than three months ago, we've had no rain.

Actually, to say we've had no rain is a blatant lie.  Of course we have had rain in the past three months... on one day I recorded 2mm of the stuff and on another just 1mm fell.  But, apart from those two days, we've had no rain.

Now I know that to lots of people, this is perfectly normal....  after all, I am talking about the period of high summer... and this year it's been a very high summer....my unheated above ground swimming pool reached over 30 degrees for a few days and the temperature I record each day (air temperature with no reflective surfaces nearby) reached well into the upper 30's, fortunately staying just below 40C.

However, this week the drought has relented and we had 35mm fall and again today we have a light drizzle, soaking gently into the ground.

Many of you will know that before I came to live in south west France my home had always been in Britain and for the last 30 years or so it was in a particularly wet part of Britain, Wales.   Indeed some family members who lived near Washington DC at the time used to claim that whenever they crossed the river Severn, which forms the boundary between England and South Wales it would always start raining.  So, it's not really surprising that I have absolutely no idea how to deal with drought.  Drought to me means it's stopped raining for a few hours!!!!  The problem with gardening in Wales is keeping the land drained, not trying desperately to get enough water into it. And, of course, all that rain means a very damp atmosphere, I remember Kate coming to visit and happily ensuring that everything was carefully stored in plastic bags in the fridge, only to be horrified to discover that actually, putting things in plastic bags is a particularly bad idea in our climate when she removed a black soggy mass that had once been a tasty lettuce.

Consequently, I have lost most of the crops I tried to grow this year.  Don't get me wrong, I have had some successes, and of course, the orchard has produced, but things like salad greens, cabbages, onions all dried up into shrivelled heaps.  Even my garlic was looking distinctly dry by the time I got around to harvesting it, although it is delicious and I'm hoping to plant some of the cloves again next month.

I lost all my bush beans to this drought.. just simply not being used to the fact that they needed watering so frequently.    Those who read my blog rather more frequently may remember that I had already lost much of my seed stock to mice over the winter so the two things combined together mean that I now have none of the Black Valentine bush beans that were so generously given to me by Miss Fuggle, or Patrick's delicious Dog bean that I have had quite a bit of trouble growing but had at last got enough to eat a few last year and keep a few beans to grow!!!!  Or so I thought.

Melons are another crop that have suffered quite badly for me...  I managed to harvest just six melons although I do have plenty of new seed from those.

One of the things that seems to have hung on despite the drought, helped with my kind addition of liberal amounts of waterharvest 100904, is my tomato crop.  I grew six varieties of tomato this year....   Ananas, grown from seed I saved last year, but originally given to me by Chaiselongue, Veeroma, a very tasty Italian plum tomato originally given to me by Miss Fuggle.   A couple of new varieties that I bought seed for this year were Moneymaker and Marmande.   I decided to grow Marmande as the town is no more than 30 kms from the Kitchen Garden in France.   I also grew some Golden Sunrise.  I brought these seeds with me when I came from the UK and have spent five years acclimatising them to the climate here.  This year they have produced beautifully tasting fruit, and produced it copiously.  The sixth variety for this year was my own Ian's Red Cherry.  This is a variety I have developed here in France and again this year I have been rewarded by truss after truss of dozens of wonderfully sweet cherry tomatoes.

I'm intending to save seeds from all my varieties of tomato this year and offer them under the Blogger's Seed Network later this year.  For more details of the seeds I'm offering take a look at http://kitchengardeninfrance.blogspot.com/2010/09/seed-exchange-list-2010.html.  In the picture above you can see Ian's Red Cherry, Veeroma and Golden Sunrise.

The other day I went to collect water from the local spring.   Yes, many of you will buy French Spring Water in plastic bottles but I'm lucky enough to be able to take my container and collect litres of it direct from the source.  Indeed, the local town hall even tests it from time to time to make sure it remains drinkable.  The location of the spring is such that I have to park the car and then walk a little way down an old track.  The views when I get there are quite spectacular.   However, I was walking back up to the car and arrived at the village square only to notice a vine of beautiful tomatoes growing just to the side of the road.   They looked delicious but I couldn't believe they were wild so I left them  for their owner to harvest.

4 comments:

Patrick said...

The weather was strange this year! Sorry you lost so much of your garden. I hope things go better next year.

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

I know exactly how you feel. I did manage to keep my garden hand watered, and I had a reasonable selection of vegetables, but very little help from any rain that we had so little of!! I will be back, looking forwrd to seeing what you grow next year. Diane

Saskia said...

Hi Ian,
I had the same surprise with drought when we moved to SW France (I'm from Belgium, it must rain there at least as much as in Wales?). Moreover I'm aiming for a minimal maintenance garden and one of my goals is not to water. In fact I only water seedlings and recently transplanted plants. My first few years were pretty disastrous :-). 10 years down the line I have found two solutions that work: 1. sow extremely dense (or even better, interplant different species closely) and the plants will keep a moist and relatively cool climate going under their leaves. and 2. Keep the soil permanently mulched as from April-May. I use a 15 cm thick layer of grass clippings which degrades over the growing season and can be incorporated in the soil in autumn or spring. This does wonders for the melons! And what a treat it is for a northerner like me to be able to grow melons without a greenhouse! All the best!

Ian said...

Hi Saskia,
Thanks for the comments
I have just collected some bales of straw to use as mulch, although I do often use my grass clippings as well. Here in the Perigord the melons are fantasticallly tasty and I have my seedlings ready to drop in the ground in a week or so.
Oh, and I did some checking.... Cardiff, the capital of Wales gets an average annual rainfall of about 1,000mm whereas Brussels only clocks up 600mm