a french garden

The vegetable garden shapes up

25 Comments

We have a very moderately sized patch for vegetables.  We grow only the vegetables that we know we will use.

The summer’s main crop is tomatoes that I have sown from seed that I kept back from the most successful tomato plant of last year.  I have three rows of tomatoes but as I do not have a proper green house, I cannot sow the seeds too early and so the tomato plants have still some way to go.

I must confess, I did plant two yellow tomatoes I grew from commercial seed and these seem to have produced the first standard sized tomatoes.

The Sungold cherry tomatoes on the Wigwam have already produced green fruit, so we should be starting to eat them soon.  I always plant Sungold as I have never tasted a cherry tomato that I find as sweet flavoured.

Some weeks ago our friend Michel asked if I had planted any French marigolds.  I said I had but strangely they had not come up so I was just going to rely on the self-seeders I knew would appear.  He was not satisfied with this and said I really needed them to protect my tomatoes and that he had plenty of little seedlings.  Kourosh duly planted a line of the seedlings and added a couple of my French marigolds for good measure.  We have now found we have a line of Cosmos sulphureus coming up so Michel has either got his seeds or planting markers mixed up!

Today I planted out fifty leek seedlings that Michel has given us.  It is more than I think I will need but at least I am pretty sure that they are leeks!

Elsewhere we have green courgettes…

…and a couple of yellow courgettes.

Last year I tried to grow butternut squash in a raised bed without much success.  This year I have raised more plants and the fruit has already started to form.

We also have another small patch that is given over to experiments and herbs.  The big blue untidy patch is Echium vulgare that I have grown from seed.  It is a biennial.  I have never grown it before and it seems like a long time to wait for the flowers.  The bees tell me it was worth it.

I grew Echium amoenum at the same time but I only managed to produce two plants into the second year to flower.  They flowered earlier, in May, and were supposed to provide me with flowers for herbal tea.  As you can see, there is not much to show for such a long wait.  However, the bees liked the Echium amoenum just as much and I reckon it might be easier to sneak them in somewhere in the garden so I have kept back the seeds for another try.  I think the E. vulgare takes up too much space.  The bees disagree.

We have been having cloudy, dull weather lately and I have been surprised by our little Judas tree producing red seed pods that are very decorative and something new, as the young tree had only this year started flowering.

I was delighted to see that our old bee house in the front garden has been taken over by some bees.  They are using the drilled holes and the bamboo tubes.  At the moment there is a lot of cleaning out going on.

I have no idea what they are but from the time of year they could be a species of leaf cutter bees.  Once they start to fill up their holes with eggs and start working nearer the end of their tubes I will be able to see them better.  Also once the nests are sealed it will give me a clue as I will be able to see what materials they are using to seal the nests. As you can see from the end of the bamboo tubes, they are very small (internal diameter of the tubes approximately 0.5-0.6 cm.).

The Magnolia grandiflora is getting bigger.  We have planted an apple tree to close to it and have decided to remove the apple tree in the autumn.   The white perfumed flowers only survive one day once they open just enough for the honey bees to gain entrance.  After that the bees come in groups of five or six and the petals and stamens soon hit the floor.

The bees provide never ending entertainment in the garden.  Watch this short video of the honeybees visiting the Magnolia flowers.

 

 

Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

25 thoughts on “The vegetable garden shapes up

  1. Hello Amelia, It looks as though your veg patch is producing good amounts of produce already, and i liked the video of the bees in the Magnolia flower. The dilemma always seems to be that the more a flower appeals to the bees, the shorter it usually lasts…
    best wishes
    Julian

    Liked by 1 person

    • I see your point about the individual flowers. Perhaps it is true about some but there are others that produce prodigious quantities of small flowers, like borage. Others like symphoricarpus continue to produce flowers while the berries are forming at the same time. My potted blue perennial geranium continues to attract bees in abundance. This surprises me as I would not have thought a potted plant could produce such an interesting quantity of nectar. As we enjoy seeing plenty of variety in the plants we have in the garden, I am sure that the bees don’t mind having to find fresh flowers each day even though the turnover rate is higher in some flowers than others. Amelia

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  2. Hi Amelia. I arrived at my new house in south-west France three weeks ago, and am exhausted from the work needed to settle in. Reading your blog always gives me a lift – it’s full of the garden and nature exploration and trial and error that I love, and am beginning to start here. I’m sure it won’t be long before I can share some of my own experiences.

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  3. We grow most of the same vegetables. We’ll branch out to new things next year–but we have some ironing-out of garden issues to finish first. We also do garlic (a lot) and potatoes. Added to your squash types, we do delicata (which I highly recommend as it’s delicious and a long keeper.) Your garden sticks look lovely and European, compared to my metal tomato cages. And, Yes! You cannot beat Sun Golds.

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  4. I love your posts, Amelia. You and Kourosh always make my day. I miss my garden now that I am in a retirement community, so I have to live a bit in yours. Thanks for sharing.

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    • And you have made my day with your comment! You are very welcome to share our garden. When we lived in Aberdeen we were close by the gardens of Crathes and Drum castle but we lived in an apartment. We visited the gardens so often that we felt they were ours. Gardens are for sharing :). Amelia

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  5. You are so lucky to be able to ripen tomatoes outside, do you have problems with blight in your climate?

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    • Starting them out not too early seems to work well for me. They grow well until it gets cold but that is usually September. In fact, with these mild years I don’t even get green tomatoes for green tomato chutney. I think the warm weather keeps them healthy (touch wood!). Amelia

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  6. The bee looks like a leafcutter to me, in fact it resembles a silvery leafcutter (M. leachella) but without the two spots on the terminal section of the abdomen. Time will tell!

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  7. I did check M.leachella out in Falk’s book but I got the impression, I think wrongly, that they were ground nesting in sand. The scopa is definitely silver and not yellow as the case of many Megachiles. I have not seen the male, which is rather a pity as I like his green eyes. I think you are probably correct, I hope so as I have not had that one nesting in the garden before. Amelia

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    • M.leachella is ground nesting in the UK, in sandy soil and mostly coastal. Fresh males do have beautiful green eyes.
      I wasnt suggesting you had this species but I was wondering if you had a continental relative/variant. Hopefully you will see it again and get more information.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the clarification. I wonder if it could still be the same species, it is very similar. This year we have a lot of bird’s foot trefoil near us, this is unusual but perhaps due to the wet spring. When we get some sunshine I shall see what I can find. Today was warm but dull so it was only the bumble bees.

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  8. Your vegetable patch is so charming. I think the supports you have made make it look quite pretty and traditional. Good luck with all the vegetables. Echium vulgare flowers at the roadsides here from June onwards. I grew it in the garden once but it didn‘t set seed or return the following year. I have never seen that pink one before though. Pretty!

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    • I am glad your Echium vulgare did not set seed. There are so many flowers at the moment I had visions of the garden being invaded by it. I suppose being a biennial there is less chance, it must look lovely by the roadside although I have never seen it near us. We made the supports last year from the willow we cut every year so they have lasted well. The weather was not with us to make any more this year. Amelia

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  9. We normally plant our tomatoes only once annually. The indeterminate sort are fine with that. However, the determinate ‘Roma’ types produce mostly within a limited season, and might finish before autumn. If I planned better, I would plant another later phase of them to continue producing until frost. Do they tend to produce through the entire growing season where the growing season is shorter?

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    • We have very variable weather here. It is advised to plant tomatoes after all risk of frost is finished which is traditionally after 11 May. So the tomato crop varies with the summers that can vary between cool and damp tp hot and sunny. I think this is why this region is traditionally a wine/cognac area. The grapes are tougher and take the changeable weather. The grapes are picked in October usually. Amelia

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      • Well, that complicates things . . . or simplifies things. It is best to just plant all tomatoes on time, and take what you get in the end, even if the ‘Roma’ types finish early.

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  10. You have a beautiful garden and a lovely vegetable plot !
    We don’t have a green house, so we sow tomatoes in the attic under a velux, 4 weeks before planting out.
    It works well. We also have had our tomatoes plants in front of the French window in the lounge.
    The same with courgettes and squash, but they need to be sown 8 weeks before planting out.
    We also keep our seeds, so the plants are used to our climate.

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    • I remember seeing your plantings. A friend does the same thing in a spare bedroom. We have no rooms with sufficient light although I usually have a couple of seed trays in the dining room but only for a very short time as it is not convenient. Amelia

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  11. Looks like you will have an abundance of delicious fresh tomatoes! Love the photos of the bees snug in your bee house.

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    • My tomatoes are further behind friends who have bought plants started in greenhouses. It would be a good idea to perhaps have a couple of plants further ahead. The bee houses have done well this year and have been keeping me amused with the comings and goings :). Amelia

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