Saturday, 9 June 2012

Potager Progress

As ever with the potager there is good news and bad news.

Pea pods forming.
I picked 4 kilos of strawberries on 2 June and another 4 kilos yesterday. The peas are just ready to pick now. Mangetout (snow peas), normally much more reliable here than petit pois, are slow, only just starting to flower, and they did not germinate nearly as well as the peas this year. I've no idea what the cause of their problem is. Virtually 100% of the ever reliable broad (fava) beans germinated and now have small beans forming. I planted climbing beans opposite the mangetout about a week ago. They are up to two leaves but they usually take a couple of weeks to really get under way. I haven't got round to planting dwarf beans yet.

Mangetout just starting their climb.
The potatoes, planted relatively late in May, are up. They are a variety called Stemster, which performed extremely satisfactorily in last year's drought followed by a rainy August. Pauline recommended them to me and this year I have not planted anything else. In fact, I haven't even planted all the Stemster - I ran out of steam and time.

Broad beans flowering.
All the seedlings I bought at the Verneuil plant fair and planted out in the potager got eaten by slugs. Disaster! That's all my cucurbits and half the tomatoes and aubergines (the rest I planted up at the house in pots - my standard precautionary measure). More tomatoes and some chillies and peppers from Bricomarché have been planted, and they are doing fine. I picked up some tomatoes and basil at Villandry the other day too (the gardeners leave out excess stock for visitors to take). We will just have to buy zucchini (courgettes), gherkins (cornichons) and melons at the market this summer.

The garlic looks good and is close to being harvested. The leeks have gone to seed - I think the weather has just been too weird for them, with too much alternation of hot and cold, quite apart from the fact that they didn't enjoy the dry beginning to spring. Onions and spring onions (scallions) seem to be struggling a bit. They aren't dying, but they aren't putting on much growth. The chives are flowering and have grown enough to be divided.The silver beet (chard) seems to have finally conked out after 2 and a half years, so I will have to sow some more.

Potatoes peeking through a week ago - they are now twice this size.
Annie gave me some tiny fennel seedlings and they are settling in. They haven't grown much, but they look healthy, so they must be sorting out their underground bits before shooting up and out too much. I planted a single celery seedling down in the potager next to them, but I think the last spell of hot and dry hasn't done it any favours. I kept the rest of the celery up at the house where I can pour as much water as I like over them. Likewise, lettuce this year is all up at the house. Even up here they are going to seed as fast as they can. I haven't planted any carrots or beetroot. They just don't seem to like the potager - or my haphazard vegetable gardening style maybe...

The parsley thrives and self seeds under the old nectarine tree at the potager gate and the coriander (cilantro) patch gets bigger and denser all the time. It clearly has no problems growing out in the hot sun, never watered and obligingly self seeds. Basil I keep up at the house as I am sure it needs regular water. Oregano grows wild in the garden. My thyme and mint died in the cold winter, and the rosemary is slow to recover. The young bay trees died in the drought last year.

On the fruit front it's dismal. The frost on 23 March did for our plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines and most of the pears. Our orchard neighbour says there won't be any nuts this year due to the frost, and another neighbour says the nights are still too cold for anything to grow. Only the apples are going to be laden. The white table grapes got frosted, but look like they are making a good recovery. The red grape is in a more protected spot and is very vigorous and covered in good sized leaves (dolmades production has started...) and many flower buds. Alexandre from Chateau Gaudrelle has advised me to till around the base of the vines and he will give me a special fertilizer next time he sees me. He also said a little copper sulphate wouldn't hurt. I haven't the heart to tell him that the main reason I keep these grapes is for the leaves, not the fruit.

Saffron, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, raspberries and loganberries, currants and rhubarb are all clinging on in conditions they clearly don't enjoy and are not going to produce anything in the foreseeable future.

If only everything were like the strawberries and coriander - completely self sufficient and fantastically productive.



Annie P said...

Not great here either, the only thing flourishing is my Ricin plantation!
Have some lovely looking black podded peas, good flowers too but haven't tasted them yet.

Susan said...

Annie: I meant to tell you - Chenonceau has 50 gazillion ricin seedlings coming up in the patch where they sowed them last year.

AP said...

But no bunny problem!

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Susan:
Your kitchen garden really is looking in very good shape but we do know from our gardening days that the growing of fruit and vegetables does require a great deal of work, effort and time.

We have over this last week or so been much enjoying fresh peas from our very local market in the square below our apartment here in Budapest. But, rather sadly, we never seem to see Mangetout which is a pity as we really love them.

Susan said...

AP: the potager has a rabbit proof fence, but I've never seen a rabbit in the orchard anyway - only the occasional hare.

J&L: I love spending time down there, but it can be exhausting.

Carolyn said...

Every year in the garden, some plants like the weather and thrive, and others don't. Your weather could change any day and languishing plants could perk up. It's not over till it's over (would that be in December where you are?).

Susan said...

Carolyn: Quite right. Last year anything that survived the drought got a new lease of life in the rainy summer - such as the Stemster potatoes. It is over for most of the fruit though. I would say that if stuff hasn't recovered by October, then it's over.

Diane said...

Our garden is not good this year either, the weather just seems to suit very little. I did dig my first potatoes today, but little else in the garden, other than the sorrel looks pretty sad. I am hoping there will be some improvement but.... As for fruit that is a total wash out!! Diane

Pollygarter said...

I think I have a cucumber and a courgette to spare among my pots if you'd like them - I'll check when it stops raining!

Susan said...

PG: Ta very much if you have them spare.

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