Sunday, April 1, 2012


A couple of months ago I was writing on here about the unexpected snowfall that had arrived.

IMG_0929In that post I referred to my potted herbs collection as “looking particularly forlorn”

It turns out that statement was “particularly inadequate”!   With the exception of my rosemary and sage bushes, all the rest of my herb collection has been completely wiped out.  ~I’m still hoping that the rosemary and sage will survive and they are showing great promise.

So, today was spent recovering pots and sowing new seeds to recreate a new potted herb garden.

I have sown Thyme, Basil, Coriander,Parsley, Chives and Dill to add to the sage and rosemary.

Over in the vegetable garden there is also a bay tree which is also “looking particularly forlorn”

It’s been there for a couple of years and has struggled with poor soil and excessive heat.   I’m hoping that this last period of drought folloowed by extreme cold hasn’t finally finished it off.

I still have a couple more varieties of herbs to sow, but my day escaped from me today, so I’ll try and continue tomorrow.   I know I have chervil and maybe winter savoury amongst others.

Doyenne du Comice

This part of France suffered quite badly with drought last year, nine months passing with very little or, in some months, no rain at all. falling.

A consequence of this was water shortages that led the local authorities here to declare a ban on certain usage of water.  Of course, the “potager” was one of the first victims.

I admit to always being astounded by this particular action but it happens right the way around the globe.  Whilst I am being told that I cannot water my crop of fruit and vegetables, which are being grown simply for consumption here on the site, local farmers and industrialists can grow totally inappropriate, water hungry, crops.  which, in many cases, they irrigate in the Doyenne du Comicemiddle of the day when the sun is at it’s strongest, and which will be shipped to far and distant places, where, quite possibly, there is no local water shortage.

A consequence which I didn’t foresee, however, was that last autumn, lots of businesses were left with unsold plants and trees and, in particular, the solution for some supermarkets was to simply cut the prices, lower and lower in order to try and move the stock.   And so it was, that in October last year I was able to buy a standard pear tree, Doyenne du Comice, for a mere 2€.

I have a couple of very large pots that I use for holding big shrubs and trees which are about the size of a dustbin so I potted up my new tree and, put it near the house to afford it some protection.    To be honest.  I figured it was a gamble and was quite prepared to lose it.   When the really cold spell arrived and even the pots that I had moved into my unheated workshop froze solid, I was quite prepared to wave goodbye my tree.

However, the weather finally warmed and the little Doyenne du Comice seemed to have survived.

At about the same time that I noticed the new buds on the pear tree, I also found the same supermarket selling the same tree again, but this time charging 4€ !  Well, it was too good an opportunity to pass on so I bought another tree.

And so, during the past week I was able to expand my orchard by another two pear trees, bringing the total number of trees in the orchard up to almost 30.

Let’s hope that they find their feet and enjoy a long and fruitful life.

Managed Meadow

A couple of days ago, I spent the day doing one of the garden jobs I really enjoy.  Managing my meadow!

Many years ago, when I was laying out the garden I put aside an area of about 750 square metres to keep “wild”.  The land concerned had been farmed until we moved into the property, meadowbut since then there has been no attempt made to use the area.   I know that in the seven years I have owned the property there has been no addition of fertiliser at all.  A few years back, I also decided to check with the farmer who farmed the land before I arrived.   I asked the simple question, “Did you use chemicals on that piece of land?”   M.Gary, who back then was in his late 80’s looked me in the eye, with a wry smile and answered with another question…  “Why would I buy chemicals when I have all the manure I need on the farm?”     I have no need to doubt his word as in the seven years I have known him he has continuously farmed one of my fields and I have never seen anything going on the land except farmyard manure.    He used to keep goats, chickens and the odd cow and, in fact, his “home made” compost was highly regarded by local gardeners, if you could ever get hold of some!!    I said continuously and I meant it.  M.Gary is now into his 90’s and still farms, managing my field quite happily as a small mixed crop market garden.   Last year he grew tomatoes, melons, pumpkins, beans and a few other things.   I can certainly vouch for the sweetness of both the melons and the tomatoes from the ones that regularly got left on my doorstep!

So, if my meadow has remained “au naturel”  for very many years, how then do I manage it?  After all, I have just explained that I don’t feed it, or seed it, so….??

Well, all I do is cut it.   This was a tip I got from His Royal Highness, Charles, Prince of Wales  who, as you may know, is a very active organic farmer.    One of the great advantages of being first in line to the throne is that lots of people take a great deal of interest in what you do and how you do it, and because of this, very many television programmes have been made about how he manages his estates.  It was during one of these programmes that I learned all about managing meadow and I have followed the advice ever since.

Actually, It’s very easy!   Once a year,  about this time, I set my mower to the highest setting (about 100mm in my case) and cut the meadow.    All the cuttings are just dropped back on the ground.   It’s easy, it’s quick and, apparently, it is very helpful.  By cutting out the tall grasses all the delicate meadow flowers can flourish and it’s those wild flowers that attract all sorts of insects which in turn, drift next door into my kitchen garden.  The very reason I put the area over to meadow in the first place!

Lets hope that we see all the lovely species of wild flowers again this year.