Friday, May 21, 2010

Ornamental Shrubs?


Back last September, Kitchen Garden in France hosted an  international get-together for gardeners over a weekend.    On the Sunday morning we visited some local gardens and one of the things I saw and really liked was a neighbour's "Physalis".   A few days later, the same neighbour turned up at my door with a handful of the seed pods, exquisite things with tiny little orange fruit mounted in a papery husk.

I sowed the seeds and up came the shrub, well, about ten of them actually. 


They are growing quite strongly and will be planted out in the garden just as soon as the soil temperature rises a little bit more.

I was originally going to plant them in the general garden as an ornamental shrub, but just recently, I discovered that the fruit is not only edible but, I believe, quite delicious.  I'm therefore rethinking my plan and wondering whether to grow them as fruit somewhere in the Kitchen Garden.   I might plant then as an extension to the orchard, or maybe in between the hazelnut bushes.


Out in the general garden, I've been waiting for the rhododendron to flower.  I have to grow this bush in a pot as my soil, being a mix of clay and limestone, is far to alkaline for these acid loving plants.  However, in a large pot, filled with an ericaceous compost they thrive in the sun here.

This week, my patience was rewarded as all the buds that have been sitting on the bush for  weeks, slowly started to open up.

It makes a spectacular centrepiece to my terrace.  What a pity that the flowers are so short lived as no sooner are they all open than they have started to fall.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I have a small strawberry bed with just a dozen plants in it.Strawberries

Of course, this was one of the beds in the garden that suffered badly from my absence for almost four months, with prolific weeds taking over and squashing out the little strawberry plants.  The plants were only raised last year so they really haven't established themselves that well yet.

And that particular bed is still on my list of beds that urgently need weeding.

All that said, today, whilst giving some lettuce a badly needed drink, I noticed one or two bright red fruit in amongst all the  "herbes" so here they are.  This year's very first strawberries from the Kitchen Garden in France.

I'm always amused that the French word for weeds is "herbes", whereas the French word for herbs is... well, actually, that's "herbes" as well!

Now, tomorrow, I really must weed that strawberry patch....  unless.... I'm forced to eat....sorry, pick, the cherries which will be becoming ready.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

First fruits

For the past couple of years, here in south west France, we have not had very good fruit crops.  Late frosts orchardhave descended on the region and prevented lots and lots of fruit from setting.

I'm pleased to say that this year, it's looking like once again it's going to be a bumper year in my orchard.

A walk around it today revealed that there were masses of fruit hanging on the apple, pear, plum, cherry and walnut trees.  Even my new little peach tree, which was planted just at the start of last year, is helping out with a dozen or so peaches.

As I walked around I had to duck below branches being dragged low from the sheer weight of fruit they were carrying.... and most of that fruit is not yet fully grown!

The branches of the big old cherry tree were almost touching the floor, laden with fruit just waiting for a few drops of the promised rain to swell up to magnificence.   I was even able to pick my first cherry of the year, which was delicious.... but there were only two or three ready.  but in the next day or two, more will arrive.    peach Tiny apples, pears and plums are quite evident on the trees as well, although, I must admit, I have difficulty telling the difference between plum and cherry at this time of year.   I know the plum has shorter and fatter leaves and the cherry has more rounded fruit, but when I was walking I really had to study them to know which was which.  I ended up making  chart and identifying the trees and their positions on it!

I took photos for you but they are not very good, with the trees blending quite superbly into the green of the grass!!!   I have posted the best two, my apple tree, and the tiny new peach tree.   I counted at least a dozen peaches so I am now hoping that they will survive and grow and that later this summer, I will get to eat, for the first time, home grown peaches.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Leek Harvest

Many of you will remember that I went to the UK at Christmas and was unexpectedly delayed, not getting back to the Kitchen Garden in France until early March.

leeks I've now been back here more than two months but it seems that there is still not a day that passes without having to deal, in one way or another, with the fallout from that trip.

Today was just such a day.

One of the consequences of not being here, and one which I had given absolutely no consideration to at all, is the fact that when I wasn't here, I wasn't eating the produce.  Now it's true, I did tell my neighbours that they were welcome to pick anything they wanted and I know they picked some winter brassicas and herbs and enjoyed them   But I guess they didn't feel comfortable, picking the produce which would still be edible when I finally got back.

So it is that I find myself in the position where, quite suddenly, I have large crops of things which are just about to start to go to seed.  Last week, when I wasn't looking, the Brussels Sprouts quite suddenly all went brown and the plants flowered

Walking around the garden yesterday I noticed that large  amounts of leeks were just about to do the same and I decided that rather than lose the harvest I would gather them all in and preserve them.  Apart from the obvious problem of the leeks going to seed, there was also the fact that, before very long, I shall be wanting the bed they are in to grow my melons.

There has been some discussion here at the garden during the course of the day but the consensus is that the best thing to do with them is to freeze them, so this evening, after putting this to bed, I'm off to the kitchen to prepare those leeks for freezing.  I hope it works, I've never frozen leeks before.  I have a feeling that one or two close friends may be hearing their Skype phones calling this evening

I am however, already, looking forward to having leeks from the garden from time to time, right through until the new crop is ready...

And they're not even sown yet!

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Bamboo is grown extensively in this part of the world as a screening hedge.  A couple of years ago, I decided that it would make a good screen alongside the road, to hide the swimming pool from view.

bambooSo, I set about getting cuttings to grow.  One or two neighbours very generously told me to take "as much as I needed" as, once it is established it can be a bit invasive

Some people have told me how easy bamboo is to propagate whilst others have told me how very difficult it is.   Apparently, bamboo is very susceptible to shock.

I have tried cuttings where I have taken a piece of bamboo incliding two complete nodes and buried it up to the first node, then keeping the bamboo full of water, I've tried taking a bit of root and planting thatand I even had chaiselongue of Olives and Artichokes bring me one of her rooted cuttings last year.  But it was all to no avail as one after another, all attempts at propagation failed.

And then, a couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me to look over his empty house as he was away for a while and I immediately said that I would and that I would also take some cuttings from his bamboo.  I did everything I was supposed to do but, almost as I expected, the nurtured bamboo cuttings remained simple bamboo stakes. 

BUT....   at the same time, I just stuffed a few bits into a pot and kept it moist... and lo and behold, after three years of constant failure, I  at last have several cuttings which appear to be growing on.

Now, I just hope I can keep them going long enough for the roots to establish so that, in the future, I'll have the problem of keeping this invasive plant at bay!!!!

Another red cherry tomato

Once again this year, I'm growing a tomato that I have grown and saved for the past couple of years.

A few years ago, I bought a couple of nice looking tomato seedlings from some people who specialise in growing organic  seedlings.  The sellers just said they were red and cherry....

The first year I grew them, they produced a nice crop of cherry tomatoes which proved to be sweet and tasty.

AtIans red cherry the end of the season I saved a few of the tomatoes.... but didn't do anything other than wash and dry the seeds.  I cut the tomatoes open and washed the seeds out from the pulp.  Then I dried them in a paper coffee filter.  and put them away.

The following year I grew them again and again they produced a nice crop of bright red cherry tomatoes and again I saved seeds from the three plants I had.

Sadly, over that winter, something happened in my workshop and the envelope the seeds were stored in got wet.   I discovered this in about late January/early February of this year, when I found the seeds all stuck, in a mass, to the envelope.

Eventually, I decide to sow the lot and see what happened.  I simply scraped all the seeds off the paper onto a seed tray of sowing compound, watered it  and left them to it.

To my astonishment I got what must have been a couple of hundred seedlings.

I thinned them down and nurtured them.  I potted them on as they developed, pinching out a dozen tiny seedlings into a pot.  Later I split those pots into individual plants. I gave away some of the pots of 12 and also the individual plants until,eventually, people were crossing the road when I approached for fear of being off loaded with another tomato seedling. 

I called them Ian's Red Cherry Tomato as I felt they had survived unfair stress and I owed them some recognition.

Again, the one's I planted cropped heavily and I saved seeds at the end of the season.  Last year they seemed to crop better than ever and I had great reports from those who had grown on the seedlings foisted upon them.

Now, I'm not the world's best seed saver and, as I have already written on here, again, over last winter I lost many of the seeds, this time by being eaten by mice.  However, emergency action was taken and seeds were saved from some of the later crop and again, I have produced hundreds of seedlings.

I'm just about to put them out in the garden and am looking forward to another good crop of tasty cherry tomatoes.

I'm again intending to save seeds from these tomatoes and offer them under the Blogger's Seed Network.

If any one would like some seeds, please drop me a line at and I'll keep some for you.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


IMG_0724I've started to plant out my tomato seedlings.

This year I have grown five varieties from seed, my Ian's Red Cherry, Veeroma and Golden Sunrise, all from seeds I saved last year, and Marmande and Moneymaker from seeds I bought.

I'm also hoping to get a couple of varieties from a neighbour who has promised to bail me out with a couple of the varieties that got eaten in my mouse invasion.

IMG_0712Last year, I was very pleased with my new spiral tomato stakes and have put them in the ground again this year

I've also laid in a sprinkler hose under the straw so that when I turn on the tap the ground gets soaked, but not much else.

Now, the beds are prepared and the little seedlings are big enough to plant out, so I put the first four varieties in the ground and was rewarded with two days of light rain.....

A Look Over the Bay


My long absence from the garden earlier this year, I was away from the New Year until the beginning of March, left me with several casualties.  Many of them were expected but some were quite surprising, succumbing to the particularly harsh winter that this part of France endured.

One such casualty was my Bay tree.

I planted this little tree during early summer in 2009 and had looked after it fairly well throughout the hot dry spell that followed.

When the time came to leave for the UK, I was happy to think that with the colder wet weather of winter, the tree would fare ok on it's own.

Imagine my sadness, when, after my return, I found the view opposite waiting for me.   The cold had been accompanied by a very harsh  dry spell, and without me tending it, it suffered from drought.

In desperation, and somewhat without hope, I dripped water around the roots for a whole day and then left it to tend  for itself


Imagine my pleasure, the other day when a closer examination showed some new growth bursting forth. 

I'll look after it better throughout this summer and hopefully, I won't be away for so long over the next winter.

Well done, little bay tree