Last year Jean made his very first own permaculture garden in France. Although he has lots of practice from the Pacifics, the French climate and plants were still rather new for the previous traveller. I served as a novice assistant.
Ideally it’s best to start a brand new garden in the autumn, preparing the soil for the coming spring season. With the historically wet autumn, winter and spring we’ve had here, we didn’t start until March. When the first few dearly missed dry and sunny days came, we run out with our showels and started digging.
We created garden beds just in front of the house for our own convenience. Like that we always have an eye on it and we don’t have to walk long distances to maintain and harvest the crops. There is a slight slope from the house and downwards to the end of the garden, so the garden beds are aligned with the house to keep the rainwater in place, and not disappearing into the field below, taking the soil’s nutrients with it.
To make the garden beds we simply dug up top soil for the paths, and moved it on top of the coming beds. No grass was removed, just hidden underneath the bits of soil. Then we added cardboards for the edges, manure, woodchips and mulch with straw. With all those layers not much grass resurfaced, and the soil was enriched with lots of nutrients and shade. A lesson learned later though: Slugs and snails love their straws, so during a very humid spring it might be good to hold back on the straws until the weather gets warmer!
It can feel like a big job to start a new veggie garden, but so satisfying in the end. Nature is abundance. See for yourself!
The Sowing and Planting
The garden beds were ready and now it was the time to plan and plant. For this first year we had been given a few seeds from friends, found some at the local bookshop in Saint Antonin Noble Val; Le Tracteur Savant, some plants we bought at the market and some were bought by the landlord Jean Claude for us to plant.
After Jean’s experiences in different countries he had big plans for this garden, like following all the permaculture principles, doing companion planting etc. But as he puts it, for a first garden (and in a new country no less), “there is no way it’s going to be like I expect”. So he decided to plant bit by bit, following only the plants’ need for sunlight.
Seeing vegetables grow is one of the most magic things I’ve ever witnessed! It almost beats the harvest and consuming your very own veggies, more on that later on in the article. Yes, I have become even a bigger veggie-geek than before. Aren’t you amazed by all the beauty?!
Before finding time to make a proper herbal garden Jean decided to put aromatic herbs everywhere between the veggies. This includes a few types of mint to see which ones like our soil. Turns out the winner is one given to us by our neighbour Jim, and like his beard it’s growing wild 😉 The rest we bought at the local markets around our place. Big thumbs up for the pineapple sage by Le Jardin d’Émerveille, it is absolutely gorgeous and yummy, and the cute mini basil is truly aromatic and tasty.
The Fruit Trees and Vines
There were already several fruit trees and grape vines on the terrain when we moved here, but with Jean Claude (the landlord) Jean planted several new ones the autumn of 2017. Plums, peaches, apricots, persimmons and cherries joined the family of pears and apples already on site. A total of 35 fruit trees are now growing slowly but beautifully.
The Flowers and Plants
As we leave most of the garden in peace from the grass mower, there’s lots of wild flowers growing. Françoise (the other landlord) has earlier also planted several flowers that come back, and a neighbour even gave us safran bulbs to plant. And now that we keep bees on site we can hear and see them collecting the precious nectar and pollen that will make them stronger.
– What do you want for lunch?
– A salad!
– Let’s go fetch some in the garden.
So, whenever we’ve had a meal, I’d be super excited about eating our very own produce.
After our first season of permaculture gardening, we ended up with around 150 kg of veggies including 50 kg of tomatoes only. Not bad for someone that plant stuff, mulch the soil and watch it grow. No weeding required and very little watering. The surplus we shared with the landlords, neighbours and friends. This year Jean saved some seeds and we’ll see if they grow even better. Stay tuned!
The Surroundings and The Guests
No comments for the surroundings, the pictures speak for themselves. The wildlife population has been improving a lot with the new features in the garden. The pond attracts a variety of insects like butterflies and dragonflies, birds including ducks and pigeons, there are toads and frogs, and the bees start to enjoy it as well.
More fruit trees, more flowers, more diversity, more life…
Until next time!