Sunday, May 22, 2011


Today, I planted out the last of my tomato plants.  I've cut back quite a lot this year and am growing just 31 plants. The ongoing drought is making cobra me a bit nervous of having too much stuff in the ground that needs lots of water and also, the ground has had so little moisture that it is baked pretty hard making planting anything quite a challenge.

This year I have planted 2 Ananas, 4 Marmande, 6 Veeroma, 8 Moneymaker and 9 Ian's Red Cherry.  These have all been raised from seed saved last year.   I had some excitement with my seeds over the winter and lost most of the Ananas seeds  and all my Golden Sunrise seeds to a passing mouse.

This year I'm also growing 2 Cobra for the first time.   This variety was recommended to me by the seedling man at Villereal market.  His produce is raised very close to here and his seedlings have always done well for me.  I chatted to him about different varieties of tomato some weeks ago and he persuaded me to buy two of his Cobra.  He claims they are quite an early tomato.   Looking at the photo taken today, the fruit is certainly far in advance of any other tomato plant in my garden.   As I said, I've never grown Cobra before so I'm waiting to see how it turns out.  I like the seedling man. He sets up his small stall well off the main market where he can park his van and simply gets out whatever you want.  He has a small table which looks very unprepossessing but I know his van to be a veritable Tardis, with far more coming out than it could possibly hold. Tjhe other thing is that he shares this bit of road with just one other trader.  This trader doesn't even have a table, preferring to simply open the back doors of his van and allow you to peer in.  If you want to buy then he will happily pull out the crates for you to select whichever live animal you have chosen.  Yes, that's all he sells, live animals, chickens and pigs mainly, but often a goose or some ducks.

The drought continues unabated with no rainfall at all recorded by me for the past 12 dayswalnuts but the garden is fairing with mixed success.   I had two olive trees that had been in the ground about 2 years.  They are planted adjacent to one another...  one is fairly happy with the drought and occasional drop of water I throw at it but the other seems to have dies, although I'm still watering it from time to time as it seems to be holding onto it's greenness.   I had a great crop of cherries but they came and went much faster than usual this year.  I guess that also is an effect of the drought.   My walnut tress are laden with fruit.  I've nowhere near finished eating the walnuts I collected last year yet and looking at the trees this should be another good year for walnuts   Elsewhere, I have some of the best roses I have seen since I moved here about 7 years ago and a pot of Iris has flowered for the first time since we arrived.  To be honest, I inherited the pot when we moved here and always meant to dig out the bulbs and do something with it.... but the best of intentions and all that,... but this year I needed to move the pot so I put it out in the sunlight a bit more, mainly to remind me that I needed to deal with it and, hey presto, beautiful Yellow Japanese Irises arrived.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Another Saturday and another visit to the market at Villereal.   Today however, I didn't take the kitchen table with me, mind you, I don't often take the kitchen table with me, it's just that my camera was still on it when I arrived at the market.

Today, the talk all around the market was of the "secheresse", the drought.   This spring has been extremely dry here, In fact, it was dry last autumn, through the  winter and now in spring.  It's getting harder to believe that this area might be known as Aquitaine because the Romans thought it was a wet place.

Normally, in this part of the world, we have a very dry summer and a dryish autumn, then the winter and spring rains come and refill all the aquifers, reservoirs and even restore the rivers and lakes.  Then the cycle starts again.  However, this year the cycle has been sadly distorted.

I read today that Biarritz, a little way south of here, normally gets about 138mm of rain during the month of January.  This January they had just 18mm.  Apparently, in the ten weeks from the 1st March, the weather authorities have recorded about 60% less precipitation than normal, with my own garden records showing just a few millimetres of rain in the past three months....  that's February, March and April, which should be the wettest quarter....

Laurent, one of the greengrocers at the market told me that he was already seeing price rises on fruit and vegetables and that he expected the situation to get worse.  Rene, a friend who runs a Permaculture farm just a few kilometres away was also telling me how the drought was affecting him.  He has just finished planting a field of potatoes, right next to the river so he can pump the water easily for irrigation.  Now, as a result of restrictions imposed because of the drought, he has been banned from extracting water from the river.   We all recognise the need to leave what water there is, still flowing to support the wildlife, but it's astonishing that these measures are needed in May

Here in my own garden things are equally bleak.   I've already taken the decision not to plant numerous beds this year as the drought really bites, and then, today at the market, I discovered that the "departement" to the north of us has now imposed restrictions banning the watering of gardens!

On the other hand, our vacationing guests are all enjoying the sunshine and hot dry weather!  I even took a dip in the pool myself today to cool off a bit

At the moment I'm still able to water and I have cut right back on plantings.  I'm hoping to get enough water to get beans and tomatoes but some of the other things won't go out unless we get a change in the weather.  I'm glad that most of my orchard is well established and hoping that I'll get fruit crops to make up for the other losses.  We got off to a good start with a great crop of cherries.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Broad Beans with ???


I'm a bit behind picking my Broad Beans and didn't get them in until today.  Most of them were fine, but quite a few had gone black and slimy insidediseased bean

I'm not sure what the cause is and would welcome any suggestions you all might have!

I've not had much problem with the beans.  They were sown last november and have over wintered.   This is the same way I grew them last year without problem.  The winter this year was milder but not much with temperatures dropping to minus 10°C or about 15°F.  This spring the weather has been unusually warm and dry with virtually no rain over the past two months until this week when we have had about 15mm (1/2 inch)

I had a slight problem with black fly which I treated by spraying with a white horticultural spray following a recipe given to me by Kate, mixing sunflower oil with a mild liquid detergent.  The resulting solution was diluted before use by adding two tablespoons solution to 2 litres water (1/2 Gal US).   I sprayed three times every third day

The photo isn't very clear but you can see the black slime inside the pod.  Some beans had just one end affected whilst others had the entire bean affected.  I guess about 10% of the crop was affected.  The beans are planted in a different bed each year and have never yet returned to a previous site.

I look forward to reading your comments.   Many Thanks