Summer in my Normandy Garden
Back at the end of 2015 I was asked by Living France magazine if I would write 4 article for them about my Normandy garden - one for each season. At the time I wasn't allowed to make what I penned public as they wanted people to buy the magazine but now the sell by dates are long gone I thought I'd let you read what I wrote here on the blog. I'll publish each one in the right season. Today I give you:
Summer in my Normandy Garden
Summer in Calavdos, Normandy means we can finally bid farewell to frosts as the temperature rises. We do get rain but the stereotype of it always raining in Normandy is wrong and we enjoy long, warm days when, in the height of summer, it doesn't get dark until 11pm.
I can also bid farewell to empty gap, that period of few harvests between winter and summer. Now I have fruit and vegetables galore. The first rush of summer harvesting brings some of my favourite produce: soft fruit. Starting with strawberries I soon find myself harvesting currants, goosesberries, tayberries, raspberries and worcesteberries. On the vegetable front I am now bringing in bucket-loads (literally) of broad beans, early potatoes, beetroot, lettuce and courgettes etc. I grow far more than we can eat so preserving the harvest for later is necessary. Some is frozen, some bottled and preserves are made. I also get a huge satisfaction laying down supplies for the winter – opening a jar of bottled raspberries on a dark February day can really raise your spirits.
The polytunnel is now completely full. I grow 10-14 varieties of tomatoes as I love the range of colour, size and flavour this brings. If you have only ever tasted a red supermarket tomato you really do need to grow your own and you'll be in from a taste sensation. Other polytunnel goodies include peppers, chillies, aubergines and with the courgettes from outside we do find we eat a lot of ratatouille now.
Whilst I don't have much of a flower garden (thank the ducks for that) I do grow flowers in the veg patch with gladioli being one of my favourites. I also plant sweet peas and morning glory to grow up the bean poles and other annuals for cutting. In the polytunnel I plant French marigolds and poached egg flowers as these help repel pests.
After harvesting 3 jobs take up a huge amount of my time – weeding, watering and pest control. It doesn't seem to matter what the weather is, the weeds just grow like triffids as soon as my back is turned. To help reduce weeds I cover the soil so plants like potatoes get a thick mulch of grass cuttings whilst pumpkins etc are grown through weed suppressing fabric. This also helps retain water and I try to only water young or very thirsty plants.
In the polytunnel it is a different story though and I need to water here every days, sometimes even twice. We do have a well but that often runs dry so then it's back to metered water. For individual plants, like tomatoes, I sink plastic bottle with holes drilled into the base next to the plant and water directly into these. In this way the water reaches deep down to where the roots are so less is wasted and the surface remains dry thus also reducing weed growth. That's a win win in my book!
Finally there is pest control – I don't use any pesticides so rely on other methods: I use barriers to stop the nasties getting to my plants, I encourage pest eating creatures such as ladybirds and I manually remove those pests I find. Luckily, unlike my garden in England, we have fewer slugs and snails here and we have a very healthy bird population to help eat them. But pest control is still a never ending battle and whilst others may marvel at cabbage white butterflies flitting past I am out there looking under leaves for their eggs!
Summer is therefore a time of plenty – plenty of work but plenty of produce too. With wildlife all around you, sitting and eating a home produced al fresco meal is hard to beat. Mind you, you can take your life in your hands with some of that wildlife – our swallows think it is a good idea to nest in the pig house and every time you walk in you risk being dive bombed by one of these aerial acrobats – and that hurts! But for all the insect pests they eat, I'll forgive them!
Do you grown your own produce? If so what is growing well for you right now?
You can read here about Spring in my Normandy Garden