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.
|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.
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.
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.|