a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Problems in the potager


We are not great vegetable gardeners but I have always managed to raise lots of tomatoes.  This year, starting with the seeds of the excellent tomatoes I had last year, I have had problems.  The plants have been strong and healthy but the tomatoes are not ripening so quickly.  They are very large fruits and they taste good.  Last year the fruits were of a more even shape and I wonder if last year the bumble bees have been doing a bit of cross-pollination, giving me a different result this year.

I should not complain as they are starting to ripen now and I should have enough to provide enough tomato coulis to last us over the year.

This year,my sister sent me Golden Sunrise tomato seeds and I reluctantly put in two plants.  Actually, they gave great plants, well shaped fruit and ripened normally.  Of course, it goes without saying that my Sungold cherry tomatoes have been providing me lots of fruit for ages.

I think I will not keep the seeds of these tomatoes for next year and I would be grateful for the name of a good “heat resistant” tomato for next year.

My next enigma comes from the Pepper seeds “Havana Gold” sent to me by my sister.  These, unfortunately, germinated very easily from a few seeds.  As I am not sure what to do with them, I thought I would grow one plant as an ornamental in a pot and I put the other three into the garden to die quietly.

I quickly noticed that the pampered plant in the pot was being out paced by the plants in the garden, so I stuck it in beside them.

If you look carefully, you can see the small pepper plant between its sisters and the aubergine plants.  I cannot understand why the potted plant has stayed stunted.  Any answers?

The aubergine plants were bought and put in at the middle of May and are only now starting to grow and flower. (?).

The next enigma is the cucumbers.  We were given the seeds by a friend, as we both like these little cucumbers, and he brings the seeds from Lebanon.  To be economical with the seeds, we decided to start the plants off in pots.  Nothing. Replanted. Nothing.  Perhaps the seeds are too old now?  So we stuck them into the ground, much too late and they grew like Jack and the Beanstock plants to give us lots of cucumbers.

I would be grateful if anyone had any ideas of what might be happening.

I do have good news.  We scrapped the raised bed for the Butternuts (here in S.W. France it is much too dry for raised beds, I think) and let them run over the strawberries that I have ceded to the slugs.  This works much better and I am going to have plenty by the autumn.

The raspberries, both the gold and red, have fruited again – many thanks bumblebees for the sterling pollination effort.  I find the raspberries much less frustrating than the strawberries.

As always, Kourosh manages to find things in the garden.  This is a long-horned beetle – pretty obvious – and I had a problem getting a good clear photo and keeping its antenna in focus.  The coin is a one euro, about the size of a pound coin.

The Cerambyx scopolii lays its eggs in a variety of wild forest trees and the larvae bore into the tree and can excavate galleries of up to 8-10 cm.  A heavy infestation would be harmful to trees or plantations.  The adults eat pollen but I have yet to see it any on flowers.  I think they keep to the forest flowers such as elders and hawthorns and the umbellifers.

Yesterday, was the find of a caterpillar of Acherontia atropos outside our back door on the grass.  I recognised the funny spike on its rear and Kourosh Googled the photo to get the identity of the Death’s Head moth.  I checked out, on the web, what it might eat and came up immediately with potatoes.  I thought – not in our garden!  However, looking further I saw that it would be tempted by any of the solanacea, such as Deadly Nightshade.

I do have some in the garden and there is plenty outside in the woodland.  It has been recorded on other plants so I do not think it is as fussy as that.

This huge caterpillar will turn into the Death’s Head Moth.  This strange moth has the ability to fool bees to allow it to enter their hives and steal their honey.

We have already found the moth near our beehives, so click the link if you are interested to see the adult moth.




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.

21 thoughts on “Problems in the potager

  1. It’s all about serendipity, one of the most delightful aspects of gardening. Don’t ask why when you have victory…just enjoy it. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Good luck with your mysteries in the garden. We have found that, unless you plant only one of a particular item, it isn’t reliable to try to save seeds. (Or if the neighbors have a variety.) You just cannot know what you’ll get.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pollination affects the genetics of the seed within the tomato fruit, but not how the fruits develop. Observed differences would be caused by environmental factors, such as weather, watering or nutrient availability.
    The potted pepper plant is slower than the others because it is not as exposed as the others were as they grew. Also, the nutrients that it uses are already being consumed by the others. This late in the season, it may be more concerned with blooming and fruiting than vegetative growth.
    Cucumber seed may have been more susceptible to rot when potted. I do not know. I prefer to sow them directly.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely caterpillar. My tomatoes have also been slow to ripen but this week all came on at once! They are in a really hot sheltered spot and the heat is what stops them ripening here, strangely enough. Now the days are getting shorter they should get a move on. I would really recommend ‘Marmande’, which has proved to be very heat tolerant and is a lovely beef tomato. Loads of flavour! 😃

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Our tomatoes are just beginning to ripen…. this year everything has been slow…. we’ve only just got flowers on the aubergines!!
    Needless to say, the courgettes are doilg their thing…. so, as our neighbours run a small market garden… and on the other side are all W/E visitors…. I am looking for recipes…. fortunately we have a small book “What do I do with all these Courgettes”…………
    Were your previous ones an F1 variety…. that might explain the difference.
    We have an F1 called Carrorich… this is an eggshaped tom, bright orange in colour…. but our new seed had yielded a beefheart shaped one like your big ones… the other two are as ecpected… the colouring at this stage is correct though…. we’ll see.
    You asked for a heat resistant variety…. have you tried Vanessa…. we have now grown it here for ten years…. come rain or shine, it produces supermarket sized “tomate en grappe” but are much fleshier, redder and way, way tastier…. good in a sandwich, wonderful in a sauce…. very rich.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My tomatoes were not F1. The seeds came from hand to hand via friends – that was why I was surprised by their change. I am surprised that your aubergines are just at the same stage as ours, so it looks like we can safely blaim the weather :). Thanks for the tip on “Vanessa” – I have never heard of that one. Amelia

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hallo Amelia, I read your post yesterday but as coincidental serendipity will have it whilst reading about my baby elm tree a few minutes ago I came across this article from savATree.com

    “Asian Longhorned Beetle – This insect damages the sapwood beneath the bark layer, preventing the elm tree from properly transporting nutrients and water. Once a tree has an Asian longhorned beetle infestation, it will generally die within 1-2 years. Learn more about the Asian longhorned beetle.

    Don’t let these diseases or pests destroy your precious elm trees. If you suspect a problem with your trees, call a SavATree certified arborist right away for an evaluation and treatment options. Our elm tree care experts can help protect your elm trees and keep your landscape beautiful.

    Diseased photo: Elm dutch elm disease 5038044 by Joseph O’Brien, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org”

    My text again from here….

    I am delighted with the spontaneous appearance of the baby elm here behind our temporary living quarters, otherwise known as a caravan.
    I used Plantnet app to identify it and every photo I take and submit to the app come back as Elm.

    I’m afraid it cannot stay where it is growing because that is at the back of the tractor shed, too near to the back wall.
    I am very worried about how to move her.
    I will have to in the winter though and hope she is forgiving of my messing her about.
    Elms are very rare here because of the Dutch Elm Disease. Which is caused and passed forward by the Asian beetle.
    It looks a bit like yours but has white parts as well.
    I don’t want to be interfering but maybe you should take extra care to keep your beetle find firmly out of your tree territory.
    Very best wishes, Lindy

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m afraid it is already off looking for trees to sink its mandibles into. We have a lot of Ash trees here, not so many Elms. The trees here, including the fruit trees often die suddenly but I think there are quite a lot of wood eating pests here.
      I am sure your baby Elm tree will not mind being moved once it is dormant, especially if you choose a good spot for it :). Amelia


  8. I am afraid I can’t help with your vegetable conundrums but we have another pest that gets in the way of our growing veg and that is cats. They use our carefully prepared patch as a litter tray and dig up the developing veg. It’s very annoying!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My tomatoes this year were a free packet of seed on a well know gardening magazine. It said on the packet, bush tomatoes, ideal for pots and hanging baskets. The one’s in pots in the greenhouse has grown like triffids, I have to keep removing some growth. They have though fruited very well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have tried “Amateur” some years ago as it was a favourite of my father’s who grew it as a bush tomato. I grew it on stakes and actually it performed very well, as did the rest of the tomatoes that year. I will keep that in mind. Perhaps I should grow more than one type. I just find keeping to one kind is easier at the potting up stage and I prefer the easy option. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Normal que vos plants de piment en pot produise moins et reste plus petit. En pleine terre, ils ont plus d’espace pour développer des racines et ca vaut pour toutes les plantes. Pour qu’un plant de piment produise bien en pot, ca lui prend 5 gallon et plus


    • You are quite correct. The plant did not have enough space in the pot to properly develop. Next year I will plant the seeds directly in the ground.
      As an aside, the pepper plants are still alive and the remaining peppers are ripening gradually although I do not need any more. Amelia


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