Back and forth, hither and yon – whether on my habitual trajectory between Touraine and Paris or further afield… destinations, encounters, events and observations I can’t resist sharing.

Mid-May in the Potager

June 25, 2010

May is when things get going in the potager. The first radishes plump up, baby lettuce, arugula and spinach are lustrous and strawberries begin to ripen.

Our potager is a bit of a laggard because of a predominantly northern orientation (along the fence line), with southern light filtered by an ancient hawthorn hedge that developed into a row of trees.

Before the soil warms up mid May nothing much takes off, so I don’t feel pressed to transplant seedlings earlier. Experienced French gardeners know it’s foolish to put in tender, frost-sensitive plants like tomatoes or basil before the feast days of les saints de glace (ice saints) St Mamert, St Pancrace and St Servais have passed on the 11th,12th and 13th of May.

I should know better but after a stretch of unseasonably hot weather in April I felt emboldened to plant out basil seedlings we picked up while visiting friends in Tuscany. A night of light frost in early May was enough to wither and blacken the lot. Luckily I hadn’t chanced the tomatoes.

We use bamboo poles to stake up the tomatoes, chicken wire for training the peas and old planks for walking along the rows. The mixed flower and herb garden is mulched with shredded linen, which we also use as stable bedding for our horses. Alix de Saint Venant, a botanist who has created a magnificent potager at Chateau de Valmer, in Chançay, a few miles from Amboise, conducted an experiment last year with plants in her garden and found that the root system of plants mulched with linen shavings grew at up to ten times the rate of un mulched plants.

When she heard we had bags of it stacked up in our hay loft, she urged me to give it a try. Shredded hemp works well too. The depth of the mulch should be around 2 1/2 inches.

Warning: I passed on the advice to someone who has chickens and they told me the birds had a lovely time diving into the flower beds and scattering the linen mulch all over their lawn. Best to water soil well before covering with mulch, then dampen linen so it tampens down a bit before a stiff breeze blows across beds exposed to prevailing wind.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!