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Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Veg patch update - June

Just a quick note to say that if you are a subscriber by email, you will not see the videos embedded in the blog posts, not even a still to let you know that there is one there. I noticed the same thing on Feedly, although if you press the Preview button on Feedly you can then view the videos. So email subscribers you'll have to come direct to the blog to see my videos of the Swallowtail butterfly eclosing!

This is a pure gardening post; I also have tons of interesting bugs found recently in the veg patch, but I'll post that separately, otherwise this post would be way too long! But before you skip this if you are a bug rather than gardening lover, I want to let you know that the Swallowtail who fell out of its cradle whilst pupating, eclosed yesterday with no problems whatsoever and is now outside doing what Swallowtails do. Phew! 

Earlier in June when the grass was nice and green -
but since then I have nice new gravel spread on the drive!

The rest of the photos are taken in the last week of June. I was plagued by problems earlier in the year. First the various different lettuce that I sowed in March under cover nearly all failed to germinate. Annoyingly, French seed packets seem to think that lettuce seed is good for about 6 years, whilst British seed packets seem to give you about 1-2 years before their 'best before date'. I think it is actually somewhere in between.

The next two sowings after buying more seed I lost about 80% to slugs; this includes spinach which I was growing for the first time. Those that survived then got munched by sparrows so I had to cover every plant with a cloche! I was reduced to sowing seeds in pots in the cold frame which have now been planted out. Of course by the time these plants got near to maturity (and I'm still waiting on cos and batavia which need 2-3 months to heart up) the weather turned really hot and dry. I have spent so many hours watering I get so fed up by it all. I would buy lettuce but sadly in France there is very little choice and all the lettuce sold here is very floppy and I only like hearted crunchy lettuce, so I have no choice but to grow my own. 

Strawbs, lettuce, the cucumber frame, spinach already bolting and a strip of flowers near the
fence. I have taken out the borage now and planted annuals which are attractive to pollinators.
Oh, and those are mulot traps, a burrowing mouse which is a complete and utter pest
which tunnels under all my strawberries.

This is the weird disease which is affecting my dill plants.
I don't sow dill, it self seeds everywhere but as it's an important
food source for Swallowtail caterpillars I'm a bit concerned.

I'm getting more and more into having flowers in the veg patch and some I plant, and some
appear all of their own accord. In the background where you see the yellow flowers,
that is my Pollinator Meadow Year 3 and still doing its job of looking great
and attracting tons of bees, hoverflies and butterflies.

My early potatoes (Belle de Fontenay) have taken longer to mature this year and I had to set up seep hoses along the ridges of the potatoes because it's impossible to water them when they are earthed up.

Potato flowers are attractive too!

Behind the spuds I planted sunflowers which I grew from seed,
but in the middle there's one that self seeded from last year
(they were whoppers) and the opium poppies are self seeded.
There are also two potimarrons (a French pumpkin) in this area.

Opium poppies again. These are the ones that produce the seeds
that you buy for culinary purposes so I'll be collecting seed
from them later on. Never done it before but
I'm 99% sure I've got the right variety!

Harry and some tomatoes.

Annoyingly this year I could not buy a barquette of six of my favourite tomato variety and buying individually was too expensive, so I only have three plants, although I've propagated three more from side shoots. This variety (Fournaise) is really early to form fruit as you can see here. Even my cherry toms have only a few toms actually forming yet and the six Premio variety which I did buy in a barquette are very slow to form fruit.

Fournaise, my favourite, best producing tomato.

Looking from the lettuce/spinach bed towards the pea and bean bed with another strip of flowers for pollinators on the right by the perimeter fence. The empty gaps on the left foreground are spring onions which have been sown, these are taking forever to germinate and I am getting maybe one for every 20 seed sown even with brand new seed. I have found over the years that some years they just will not germinate, and other times they germinate no problem at all. And it's got nothing to do with the weather. A mystery.

Lettuce and spinach bed looking towards peas and beans
with my large Greengage tree in the background.

Another disappointment this year were the sugar snap peas which I had to buy in England as they don't exist in France. Big mistake. Not only were there ordinary peas which had got into the packet too but apart from the first few pickings, they are really stringy and tough even when I pick them young before they swell up (which they do really quickly) so they are all being composted now. What a waste. I'll stick to French mange tout in future which are miles better. Of course it may have been because the weather turned hot and sunny and I just couldn't water enough, but a veg like that has no place in my dry garden.

Sugar Snaps.

Rust is very prevalent here and my garlic always has rust (leeks always have it too to a lesser degree, and sometimes spring onions, and one year even the plums succumbed to it!), but this year it was even worse and the heads have not swelled up as much as normal; having said that I never get through all the garlic that I grow so not a probem. And they still store fine.

Rusty garlic lifted.

The Pollintor Meadow Year 3.
The Phacelia in the foreground I allowed to grow because it is short lived;
my leeks will be transplanted into this area later.
And in the distance many more self seeded flowers growing around the peas!

An older photo when the sugar snaps were still tender, with spinach and a courgette.
The courgettes are doing really well!

Another disappoinment are my aubergines. I've only tried once before here in Brittany, growing them in pots and I had not a single fruit. This year they are in the ground and the leaves just yellowed and they refused to grow at all. I have given them a supplementary feed specific to this kind of veg so will wait and see if anything happens. I'm annoyed because one neighbour nearby grew them really successfully last year! I used to grow them easy peasy when I lived the other side of France too. 

And now fruit - soft fruit is always good and reliable here but the fruit on the trees not so. But things are looking good - we have the most amazing crop of cherries which have not split nor have they been munched by birds! Also the three plum trees which are near the veg patch are absolutely loaded with fruit. One tree has more fruit in three foot of branch than it's ever produced in the previous nine years! However..... I won't know until they are ripe if they are any good as brown rot attacks them four out of five years and it gets them just before they are ready to pick.

But raspberries, strawberries, black and red currants are doing well and I can hardly keep up with the harvesting!

Cherries, greengage top right and unknown dessert plum bottom left.


  1. Fabulous garden you have Mandy! I would love to have cherries to eat straight from the tree! We only have them at a reasonable price here for a short time of year but enjoy them when we do!
    I have memories of our neighbours growing them and draping cotton-wool type stuff all over the tree to deter the birds!

    1. Thanks Kim! I have cut back a lot on veggies hence all the strips of flowers for pollinators and because they are pretty! I was just picking some more cherries this morning, honestly if I could get up there on the biggest tree there would be probably dozens of kilos of them - but I just pick what I can reach from the lower branches and let the wildlife have the rest. Some years the birds get them before they even ripen, others they seem to leave most for us! So I'm making the most of them this year. :-)

  2. Fabulous! It's so very hot and dry here at the moment so your photos text are both refreshing :-) I'm so impressed :-)

    1. Thank you Marianne - I have to do a lot of watering but the veg patch retains moisture reasonably well as it's all dug over every year with compost added (and some rotted horse muck), whereas my flower beds and borders, being full of perennials so don't get the same treatment, really suffer. I've decided to be ruthless and get rid of my flowering plants that droop at the drop of a hat, after 10 years here I have had enough - I need some of your cacti!!! The annuals in the veg patch fare better and need less watering too.

      I shall be fruit picking today as I'm getting behind on that job! :-)

  3. Your garden looks lovely with all the flowers in as well, looks like it has been a labour of love this year for you with a few disappointments along the way, but that's how it goes in gardening, next year will be different again.
    We have a Cherry tree in our garden, despite the new leaves getting Black fly we usually get loads of Cherries, this year I don't think we will have one!!!
    Some years the Starlings have come on mass 50+, and stripped the tree in a few days.
    None for them this year..
    Amanda xxx

    1. Thank you Amanda, yup every year is different with the fruit and veg and I like to try different veggies and experiment a bit and my way of thinking is that if all the fruit trees produced well every year what on earth would I do with it all?!!!!! We don't have many apples this year after several really good apple years, but hey no big deal.
      I did see a flock of starlings up the top of my big cherry when I was picking, but they are welcome as I can hardly get 40 foot up there!! So when we do get a good crop of whatever it is, we really enjoy and make the most of it.
      Going to dig up some new spuds today, yum! :-)

  4. Your veg looks great Mandy, and heartening to see your cherries, my cherry tree in Brittany when I saw it last April fruits were looking good, but a Jay started picking them so I guess I will have none left by now. My Garlic in Yorkshire; I have had the worst rust ever, I planted late Feb as it was too wet, but looks like mild wet weather has affected it, pulled one up today, bit small but otherwise fine.

    1. Hi Ian, it must be quite difficult when you have two gardens! What do you do with your veg in Yorkshire when you are away - do you have someone to water it for you? Or does it always rain enough in Yorkshire? ;-)

      Glad I'm not the only one with rust. I've even had it on sweetcorn. I do find I have quite a disease ridden garden, and whilst insect problems usually sort themselves out (i.e. aphids and ladybirds/predators) I don't know what one does with disease if you are gardening in an environmentally friendly way (I say e.f. rather than organic as I don't like that organic means you can blast away at 'bad bugs' using home made concoctions from plants which are lethal for all sorts of insects and that is supposed to be OK? Not in my book). I do use Bordeaux Mix to keep the dreaded blight at bay though as that's another thing that appears every year here.

      Anyhow, I planted my garlic about early December I think and it was mild and wet here too, but I've had rust after drier and/or colder winters too, but this is probably the worst case!

  5. Hi Mandy, usually in Yorkshire it rains enough to not water much, but this last month has been really dry, we are over 800ft above sea level and get wind as in Wuthering (think Brontes!) so can be tricky growing weather. My son is home from Uni so when I am in Brittany later this month I am hoping he will look after things. I use weed membrane for Brittany, only problem is I reckon my courgettes are probably Marrows by now!

    Oh and its just started raining!

    1. That sounds like fun (probably not!) growing conditions..... if I was in your position with a holiday home I don't think I'd be growing veg in two places though.... would want a break from it all! You are right about your marrows given that mine have already produced about 8 which I pick before they get too big but if I forget them for about 3 days they have grown a lot! I guess they don't keep on producing so many new flowers if they are left on the plant to turn marrow size? Or am I wrong? I haven't left any to get that big so don't know.

      Rained here last night and showery today - I want the rain but I have a butterfly to release! :-)