Le potager familial en mois de mai 2016
When was it the last time that I gave you a monthly garden update? Probably September of last year, right? That’s a long time ago. Here we are now in a new year, new village and a new garden. An allotment this time, high up the mountain, just across the valley. It’s situated on an allotment site with about 20 plots. All different in size. Ours is about 100m2 I think and has three mature trees living on it. Two plums and one pear.
The last three months we have worked really hard to get loads of cardboard, compost and wood chips up to the plot. It was a hell of a job, as the road towards the plot isn’t really prepared for cars. We also have one of the highest plots on the site, so we always had to drive all they way up. In the beginning I carried everything up myself, by hand, on foot. But after a week or two I realised that it was too much. The volume was too big to get everything up in time before the season would start. I also think that the people that saw me thought that I was crazy when they saw me carry all the dirt up the mountain.
So I asked Eduard if he would dare to drive up the mountain for me, and he didn’t mind as long as it wasn’t too often. In the end we went up with the car about 10 times or so over a period of 2,5 months. That isn’t too bad you might think. But it’s a lot, believe me! It was taking up every opportunity that we had. As we couldn’t go up when it rained, we couldn’t go up a day after it had rained, we couldn’t go up a day after it had snowed in the higher parts of the mountain. On all those days the road was too wet and slippery to drive up. And then we couldn’t go up when we didn’t have time. So there weren’t many more opportunities left than the 10 that we used up.
Today we went up by car for the very last time. We delivered one of our water barrels this time and our drip hoses. It feels really good to move onto a next phase in the veg growing adventure now that we don’t have to use the car no more. And it also a good opportunity for me to type up a garden update and tell you what has been done up till now. So let’s go!
First a few overview pictures so that you can get an idea of the stretch of it. You can also see how I covered everything up with cardboard, wood chips and compost. The whole of it. Well actually not the whole of it. There is a 2 by 2m square on the top part of the garden where we left a field of grass. We have kept that part for recreational purposes. It can also get very hot at the allotment in the middle of the day and the grass is a good shelter for us during those moments. It’s situated right under the plum tree. At the moment it’s the only green oases in the garden. Everything else is brown toned as you can see.
I’m really happy with the decision I made to do this no-dig-method the first year and to cover everything up with cardboard. Many weeds have disappeared and I’m confident that next year I will have created a good living top layer of new soil above the heavy clay that lies underneath. Heavy, healthy clay, but very inaccessible for plants in the state it is now. The heavy mulching, that I’m now just beginning to add wherever I plant something, will also contribute to the enrichment of the soil structure. It will also soon turn the whole garden into a lighter brown toned garden. It’s interesting to see how the look of the garden changes during these months without the direct influence of the things that grow in it. In two months the plants will take over though, I’m sure of that.
This above bed is the first bed I prepared when we got the garden. And look how weed free it is with minimal effort. These yellow chards I’m growing here are last years plant I took with us from the old garden. I will save the seeds from them. I have the yellow ones growing on the allotment to save the seed there and the red ones I grow in my raised beds. This way they won’t cross-pollinate. Although I’m not even sure if chards cross-pollinate. But I think they do and now I’m on the safe side at least.
On this picture you also see some of my shallots and onions. I might start growing only shallots from next year on. This is my second year and I think they are much easier to grow (and much more expensive to buy). I’m growing these from my own sets that I grew last year. They just simply multiply, which is terrific if you are trying to live a self-reliant life.
You can also see one other thing here on the picture. My kohlrabi has been eaten. Not all, but little by little. You see the garden is full with slugs and snails. Probably also due to the cardboard and the wood chips. I’m thinking though that soon things will totally dry out and it will be better. If not, I will place beer traps like my neighbours have already done. I’m giving them one more chance to stay away from the veggies, the sunflowers and most importantly: the strawberries! If they don’t take it, they will have to go.
You can see the horrors of their munchings above. I’m not sure though if this were snails, slugs, birds or mice, so I placed netting to protect them against the birds first. I did it in the same way as I had done it in the old garden. I have placed the fruit bushes and fruit plants all on the same side against one side and then covered hoops with netting.
In some people minds it might be boring that the setup of the garden is a little bit the same, but it worked really well the last time, so I’m keeping this method and hopefully I will only have to improve it slightly. I also like the look of this kind of netting honestly. It’s pretty neat and very functional. It looks like the strawberries are tucked in. I just take the piece of stone off the bottom part of the netting and get in to harvest whatever needs to be harvested. Ideal! So ideal that we sometimes do find a strawberry that hasn’t been eaten.
I mentioned it before, we have three big trees in our allotment. One huge plum, that we trimmed earlier this year, but we definitely have to trim again and then a small one that has probably grown from the big mother tree. The pear tree that we have on the other side is a very humble sized tree. Ideally I would like to see the big plum tree go somewhere towards the size of the pear tree. But that will require a few years of pruning as plums apparently don’t like to be pruned heavily. When I say, don’t like, I actually mean if you prune them heavily in one year, you won’t get a lot of fruit. So we do it softly in tiny steps.
The potatoes are also popping up. Not only the potatoes that I have planted, but also potatoes that were left by the old plot holder. It’s the first time that I’m growing potatoes and tomatoes on one plot, very close to each other. I am not sure if it will work disease wise, it will be an experiment.
This week I started planting out the warmth loving veggies. The frist tomatoes, pumpkins, courgettes, peppers, aubergines and cucumbers. The bulk still has to come, but as up now I have planted about 25 tomatoes, 6 pumpkins, 3 courgettes, 8 peppers, 8 aubergines and 2 cucumbers. I am using broken pots for the signage and I’m using old detergent bottles for drip irrigation. The garden is slowly becoming Pinteresque. Haha.
Interestingly enough the broadbeans seem to be growing really well. I have pre-grown them for two months or so indoors. I hoped to keep them away from aphids this way. It worked, as you can see I have small broadbeans growing. The aphids have now found the plants, so I’m waiting for all the flowers to set fruit and then I’ll start pinching out the tops. Who knows I might get some broadbeans this year.
The asparagus that you see above are also going well. They are tinier than last years crop, so we are not harvesting them. I think it’s due to the move. They were moved twice, so they need to recover this year I think and that’s ok.
And then the last picture, the one on the right here above, maybe you guys can help me. These bushes are growing amongst my regular raspberries. So I think they are fruit bushes, but I don’t have a clue what they are. Do you maybe know what it is based on the leaves and the red stems? If so, please let me know. I’m really curious to find out and inpatient to wait and see.
With this question we come to the end of this May tour. I initially thought that I didn’t have enough to share, clearly that’s not the case. I really hope to keep you updated every month, year round as I want to grow winter crops as well. I’m not sure if this will work as the plot is very wet during the cold season, but we will see. Maybe the structure of the soil will change in such a way that the water will drain better.
Owh and before I forget. Here are three short movies of the garden. I quickly shot them yesterday. Everything is so empty…
Interested in comparing it with last years beginning of May garden? But we are actually now closer to June, which would make last years beginning of June update more relevant as a comparison.
I would also love to see your garden. Will you show me your May veggarden? Please link your garden below and I will check it out!