Monday, 8 March 2010

Digging in the Garden

Below, Lesser Celandine Ranunculus ficaria (or le ficaire in French), always one of the first spring flowers, and so glossy it looks like it's been lacquered. It's growing on the steep bank of the little stream that runs down the front of our orchard. (Yes, it's flowing again, after good winter rains, but who knows for how long?)

Yesterday being another fine but chilly day, I went down to dig the vegetable garden in preparation for planting potatoes. Edouard, our neighbour with the most impressive potager, tells me I should wait a fortnight (une quinzaine) before planting.

A viola, volunteering in the vegetable patch.
They will flower until late into the autumn
and are the most gorgeous rich purple blue.
I am not an experienced vegetable grower, but I've read a lot of the theory, and I am hoping this will be the first and last year I need to dig extensively. The soil is 50% clay and I have to wait until it is at just the right moisture level before I can dig. At the moment it is just dry enough to dig, but it will be easier after another couple of days for the wind to dry it out some more. At this time of year wind is far more effective than the sun at reducing the moisture content in the top few centimetres of soil. This year I will mulch heavily with old straw to add vegetable matter and keep the soil from developing a crust.

A goldfinch Carduelis carduelis (Chardonneret élégant in French),
one of many in the more densely twiggy trees.
Although the wind was perishingly cold, from the north, there was considerable small bird activity and noise, and some brightly coloured early flowers. Some of the carrots have survived the winter and we ate them a couple of days ago, along with a baby cabbage that the big storm had knocked over.

The dark patch of soil is the result of about an hour's digging.


PS Those of you interested in botany might like to take a look at Loire Valley Nature, where I now have a useful section on wild orchids, with a complete species list for the area and a page for each of the species you are likely to see without too much expertise or experience required. I've included lots of tips for correctly identifying any orchids you see, and lots of photos. In time I will add more photos and map references.


Autolycus said...

The tradition further north is to plant potatoes on Good Friday. How that works with the seasons when Easter moves around so much, I don't know.

Jean said...

I hope you have been chitting your potatoes adequately. We grow ours in an old metal dustbin, plus a selection of other very deep pots, sitting on the patio, as our veg patch is of handkerchief proportions.

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