Home again

Several weeks away and one gorgeous new grandson later, I am back in my French garden and the world of Vegblogs. My, how everything has grown – and there is SO much to do!

Hello, garden – what have I missed?

It’s great to be back but as always there’s bad news as well as good. The weeds have done their level best to reclaim the garden for Mother Nature, it’s taken me over a week to get on top of them and give the veg some breathing space again.

Before weeding: spot the leeks…

After weeding: that’s more like it.

Those thieving ratbag pigeons have had a field day in the un-netted brassicas and the two rows of late peas in our absence; even worse, they’ve drafted in a young rabbit to help with the destruction.  😦  Fortunately, it looks like lots of human activity in the patch again has seen them off for the time being, at least. The weather is hot, we’re getting 30˚C+ every day which is fantastic, but the water butts are all empty and the soil like dust.

On the upside, we’ve been harvesting crops like crazy. We’ve picked broad beans and peas every day, eating them raw or steamed in various dishes and freezing the excess.

A heavy crop of ‘Hurst Greenshaft’ peas.

Podding them in the evening sunshine with a glass of something refreshing has been lovely!

Mmm, this is the kind of job I love.

 The broad beans are over now but no worries – the French beans have just begun. There’s masses of salad stuff – salad bowl lettuce, ruby and rainbow chard, mesclun and herbs – but the definite stars are the ‘Little Gem’ lettuce, they are so crisp and crunchy and show no sign of bolting, despite the heat. The courgettes are gathering strength, we’re eating them young in salads and chargrilled on the barbie.

Oh, you little beauties!

 Our daughter Sarah and her fiancé Gwyndaf are here on holiday and helping out, picking the sour morello cherries and making oodles of spiced cherry jam – delicious.

Cherry picking: it’s not often Sarah (5’3″) towers over Gwyndaf (6’3″)!

I have to be honest and admit that I’ve lost control of the polytunnel. The tomatoes (which caused me so much grief in the spring) are up to the roof and I think we’ll need a machete to harvest them. It wouldn’t surprise me to find a howler monkey lurking in there.

The polytunnel ‘jungle’.

The chilli peppers ‘Bulgarian Carrot’ and sweet peppers ‘Long Red Marconi’ are coming along nicely despite the best efforts of the thuggish cucumbers to take over the entire space.

‘Bulgarian Carrot’ chillies.

We’ve eaten all the early ‘Charlotte’ spuds (plenty more outside) and their space is being quickly filled by the butternut squash. The aubergines are thriving and sporting their pretty lilac flowers.

Flowers on the ‘Black Beauty’ aubergines.

In a break from weeding, I’ve managed a few other little jobs this week. The garlic had died back so I’ve lifted it and left it to dry out in the sunshine before weaving it into plaits.

Garlic drying in the sun.

I’ve planted the last of the brassicas: purple sprouting and romanesco broccoli along with ‘Christmas Drumhead’ and ‘Red Drumhead’ cabbage. The hot, dry weather conditions are far from ideal for transplanting but they needed to go in so it’s a case of careful watering over the next few days. I’ve netted them and hope that their companion plants – French marigold, nasturtiums and dill – will do the business into the autumn.

Companion planting in the brassica bed.

I’ve planted two lots of kale seed, the ‘Calvolo Nero’ which was such a star last winter and some ‘Fizz’ which Sarah is growing in her Welsh garden, I just fell in love with the funky leaf shape! Also in are four types of carrot: ‘Charlemagne’, ‘Norfolk Giant ‘, ‘Purple Haze’ and ‘White Satin’. A late planting last year kept the root fly at bay so fingers crossed it will work again. My French veg experiments – chicory and Florence fennel – aren’t wonderful but they’re hanging on in there, I’ve earthed the latter up in the hope of some decent bulbs.

Chicory and Florence fennel – essential ingredients for a French kitchen or a faff too far?

The annual flowers are a splash of colour and the whole patch (and tunnel) is literally buzzing with pollinators, including these carpenter bees which have huge black bodies and metallic blue/purple wings – quite stunning.

A carpenter bee on phacelia.

Food, flowers and fantastic weather (forget the weeds and furry/feathered pests) – yep, it’s great to be back!  🙂

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2 thoughts on “Home again

    • Thanks! A friend who has an allotment in mid-Wales reckons we’re about four weeks ahead of her, that would make sense as our daily temperature is usually around 5 degrees higher. We’re enjoying the heat but the water situation is getting desperate, could really do with some good old British rain! 🙂

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