a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

The summer garden

35 Comments

We don’t have a big vegetable garden. I like to have plenty of tomatoes for eating and also for freezing as sauce. This year they are very behind. It is the same tomatoes that I have been growing for some years but they are about a month behind their usual growth but it is the same for everybody else nearby. Instead, we have plenty of lettuce this year – just one cucumber plant grown from seed but you can’t win them all.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have sown parsley without success, so far (any hints gratefully received). I have planted my leeks for the winter as I am already thinking of winter soups.

It looks as if we are going to have at least one butternut.

I also grew some Uchiki Kuri plants from seed as I thought they were the same as the French Potimarron. I was also in search of the fragrant pumpkin flowers I raised in the garden one year. So far, I have not noticed any perfume from these flowers but it is very fleeting and maybe I was not around at a propitious time. I’ll keep sniffing them as the season advances.

Kourosh has always fancied a climbing grape vine. A friend brought us this vine and assured us it was a type that would climb. It looks as if we may get our first grapes from it this year.

The vegetable garden is hard work. I would rather be watching the Megachile bees building their nests in the bee house. These are leaf cutter bees and they seal off each cache of egg and pollen with either a piece of leaf or chewed bits of leaf. You may see some suspicious circles on your plant leaves as if someone has been at them with a little hole punch. I hope you don’t grudge them these little bits of leaf as it does not harm the plant.

Actually, it is tough to have favourites as I love finding the Tetralonia bees still asleep in the summer mornings tucked inside the flower of a Hollyhock.

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.

35 thoughts on “The summer garden

  1. Your bee pictures are so great. And it is lovely to see your vegetable garden. My tomatoes are behind this year, but I think I set them out later than last year. Good luck with getting lots of ripe tomatoes!

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    • Thank you. Gardens are very much dependent on the weather for the fruit and the flowers. We try to optimise what we get but do not always succeed :). I put my tomatoes in later too as I found they need the sun and warmth to spur them on at the early stages and we did not have that early in the year. Amelia

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  2. Parsley – Nothing to do with the soil. You need to work on your assertiveness skills!

    “ Where the mistress is the master, the parsley grows the faster”

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  3. Your potager looks really beautiful. Mine is in two large repurposed tile crates and some nursery cans, and all I have this year is peppers and tomatoes, the lettuce is already over and its really been too hot here to replant, as it will bolt. My tomatoes are also behind, and as yours, same as last year. The weather was wet and cold on and off, and is now a furnace (35), so just keeping everything alive is the priority.
    bonnie in provence

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    • The hot and cold spells are the most difficult to deal with. Now we have started a period with drizzly showers of rain and I fear for the dreaded “mildou” on the tomatoes. Amelia

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  4. Good Morning, From all accounts your weather has begun to improve.
    My tomatoes were stressed by the extreme heat we experienced for about five days in BC during the latter part of June. The plants survived but the flowers fell and I am only now beginning to harvest tomatoes.

    Our two beehives survived the winter. Many lost a high proportion of their hives. A neighbour has two hives as well that we treat with oxalic fog at the same time as ours. His hives came out of winter with a huge population, both Queens laying fabulous brood and storing honey in great quantities. Ours are extremely sedate .
    We are attempting to reQueen with the daughters from his hives.

    The leaf cutter bees have been out in force this year and punched perfect circles in the rose and grape vine leaves. Today we will harvest the golden plums and put most of them out with bags to share the bounty with those passing by. It is a marvellous old tree and produces the most perfectly formed large plums. I have five active compost bins under its branches and often wonder if they are the source of its productivity.

    Take care, always enjoy your posts.
    Regards Janine

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    • Our bees came through the winter well. We treat our bees in the winter by the dribble method of oxalic acid treatment. We always have a mild day to quickly open the hives. Our bees are out and about periodically throughout the winter and I doubt whether there is ever a broodless period, thus varroa treatment is even more important. I have been interested in the vapour method as it is reputed to be more efficient. We have no electricity near the hives so that makes things more complicated. Amelia

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  5. The fluffy ted bear is indeed a charmer 😊.

    Are you tomatoes later because if poor weather earlier in the summer? Your squash look great, anyway!

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    • Yes, for the tomatoes, I seeded them later and put them out later and still it was cooler and cloudier than usual. I am glad you like my little grey bee. She has such a lot of character speeding through the lavender ignoring all the huge queen bumbles as if everything belonged to her. Amelia

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      • I forgot to mention yesterday about parsley. I had trouble growing parsley until I switched from growing in the ground to in compost in a pot.

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        • We decided to do that with the basil some years ago and I get enough from the pots. This year I am trying it with the dill. This year I tried starting the parsley off in little pots and planting them in a line once they were well up but that did not work. I am back to planting it now in the ground as I want a fair quantity. One year I did manage a huge crop. Perhaps I would be better looking for big pots.

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  6. Your garden looks lovely. I love that you track the various bees. We merely note whether they’re ours (honeybees), or not (native bees.)

    Our tomatoes are slow, too. The squash are wildly out of control, and they were planted at the same time. Go figure. Indeed, everything is doing well–I’m about to plant round two–cabbages and a renewed set of lettuces, radishes and greens. This is our best garden to date. We have finally addressed the myriad challenges of poor soils, bugs and bad water. Finally, this year we’ll need the root cellar.

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    • It is great that you are savouring success after all that hard work. I think one basic step is knowing what works well in your garden and that takes trial and error. I like the idea of “wildly out of control” squash. I only manage to squeeze a few out of each plant but, thus saying, it is plenty for the two of us. Amelia

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      • In past years, our garden could best be described as spindly. But trial and error has prevailed! Now we may have to re-think spacing, as vigorous, healthy plants take up a lot more room (and produce more.) That’s not a problem with the winter squash, they’ll store. But, with zucchini and crook necks, we’ve become the annoying neighbor with baskets for the taking.

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  7. Oh my! I SO miss Lombardy poplars. (I know they are not a topic here, but could not avoid noticing them in the first picture.) I grew six in an evenly spaced and straight row for my Mother, who thought that they look very French. I then put nine in another evenly spaced but slightly curved row along my driveway. I am now growing copies from the fifth of my Mother’s six, but do not yet know what to do with them. They are nice substitutes for willows in swampy situations. They make the mud a bit less muddy, and slow erosion. Besides, they make reasonably good firewood that replenishes within a few years after harvest!

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    • The poplars were already here when we arrived. I am sure they must have been originally planted for just the reasons you have mentioned. The wetlands nearby have now dried out as farming, especially for maize, has increased over the years. Some years ago we lost nearly half of one in a storm. It was too tall for us to do anything but it has grown again, which surprised us. Amelia

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      • Yes, that is what they do. They grow back. It can be a problem if trying to eradicate them. I never wanted to get rid of them. Once they matured, I could cut one down for firewood each year, and by the time I cut them all down, the first one to be cut down was big enough for firewood again. The firewood is not great, but works fine if used within the winter after getting cut. (It eventually rots on the wood pile.) While regenerating, the roots remain intact, which is helpful if the roots are stabilizing the banks of canals. Some consider them to be weed trees, but they are useful. Common cottonwoods are used similarly here, but because they have broad canopies, they can not be crowded together as closely as Lombardy poplars, so are not as useful for erosion control or bank stabilization.

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  8. Wonderfully to see the garden growing well. I planted a dozen butternuts, who are crawling all over the place without a single “fruit” What does one do ?

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    • Mine seem to produce more male flowers than female. Is it a strategy to make sure that there is plenty of pollen to go round? With a dozen plants I am sure that the female flowers will be forming and you will have more than enough butternuts to go round :). Amelia

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  9. I have found it a difficult year in the vegetable patch with some sowings of seed failing completely. Lettuce and scallions have done well and are used almost each day. Mange tout peas also did very well as did potatoes, British Queens. Runner and French beans are just beginning, along with courgettes so we may not starve this year!

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  10. Your vegetable garden looks very good. We had to give up growing vegetables as the cats from neighbours houses dug up the seeds but we have some good fruit bushes instead. It’s always interesting to see the different bees you get in your garden.

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    • We have raspberries in the garden, the season is short, but while available one of our favourite desserts is raspberries, yoghurt and honey. Neighbours cats can be very problematic, usually more so than dogs that stay in their own home. I enjoy seeing the bees you find in Devon and learning about the wild flowers you see there. Amelia

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  11. This has not been good year for the veg garden and you are so right – everything is 3 to 4 weeks late. My tomatoes have rotted from the rain, the slugs have eaten off my second attempt to grow pumpkins. I cut my fist three tiny courgettes today, so things are moving!

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  12. ha! I love that little bee! He does seem like a teddy bear!

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  13. The old gardeners use to pour hot water on the drill/compost before sowing parsley to improve germination. I haven’t tried it myself.

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    • I think that could possibly warm the earth to help germination. I have also tried soaking the seeds overnight but I have not noticed any difference between that and making sure the newly sown seeds do not dry out. Amelia

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