A Vegetable Garden in Aude: August

Today has been a busy day in the vegetable garden. Over the summer things have been growing quite merrily – including the weeds. I had reached the point where I was reluctant to water knowing that a good percentage of it was feeding the weeds rather than our vegetables. You can’t not water a vegetable patch, so something had to be done.

Here are the before and after of the butternut squash patch. After I finished this (in the morning) we all went back in the afternoon and I did the same to the strawberry patch, which wasn’t quite as bad but was still more weed than strawberry plants in places. Weeding is so much more cathartic than cleaning!

bare soil with butternut squash plants trailing across and a vegetable patch with beans on canes in the background

I don’t need to explain which is which!

bare soil with butternut squash plants trailing across and a vegetable patch with beans on canes in the background
The butternut squash patch after a good weeding

While I was working on this the two smalls were terrorising, sorry… caring for the tadpoles in the makeshift pond we made for them. Only one was left with the other two having now turned into little frogs, one of which was found hiding under a nearby log.

I think it’s fair to say that the garden has gotten a little out of hand but that’s because we struggle to fit it all in a way that I don’t think we would if we were living there and could just pop out to do half-an-hour now and again throughout the day, without it having to be a big faff that usually involves everyone going down and taking snacks, food, etc. Plus there’s no shade so it’s not a great place to be in the full heat of the August sun!

No excuses now though: everything that was planted earlier in the year is growing (reasonably) well and it’s time to get ready for the next round of planting.

That was something that’s been evading us a little though, given the planting schedule for the South of France is somewhat different to that of the North of England, given the massively different climates. In the UK the issue was dampness and never-ending rain, whereas here we’re more concerned with dryness and never-ending sunshine! I’m absolutely not complaining 🙂 but it does mean we’re having to find our feet when it comes to what to do when. We’ve had help from a neighbour, who first brought this issue to our attention when she expressed dismay that we were planting salad in spring. Nope, lettuce’s grow here in winter. Yes, in winter (what!!?) I’ve also received help in the form of a planting calendar, which Lizzie, who writes the Sweet Apricots blog, kindly shared with me. I’m adapting it for our local climate so my personal version is very much work in progress but hopefully, after a few years of work at it, it’ll tell me everything I need to know without thinking about it.

I know from discussions with my neighbour that now is the time for mâche (lamb’s lettuce), epinard (spinach) and lettu (lettuce) but we can also start to put in petit pois (peas) and there’s also time (according to Lizzie’s schedule) to sow more coriander seeds – which reminds me that I need to harvest more coriander so I can make curries all winter long (a feature of life here is that it is almost impossible to buy fresh coriander, which is a terrible situation for a couple of curry lovers).

I’ll be using a the wooden vegetable crates to shade the seedlings, which is a great tip I picked up from the neighbour since it can be very hot out here in early autumn so a bit of shade really helps to keep everything growing. I’ll post a photo once the seeds are in – but for now there is more weeding to be done and also a plan afoot for making raised beds: since our soil (heavy clay) is so shoddy when it comes to plant nutrition so we’re going to just get on with it and make some beds which we can also load up with sticks and straw, which will help to keep things watered. Lots to learn!

If you’re gardening in the South of France, what does your vegetable garden calendar look like? What are your top tips for keeping everything watered throughout the summer? I’m keen to learn so please drop links to your blog or channel below!

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