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Winter in the Garden

It’s December. It’s definitely colder than summer, but compared to our two previous years here so far winter is shaping up to be a much milder – and therefore, more enjoyable, winter. We’ve got sunshine most days, which is great and means we’re burning our way through the wood pile at a much slower pace.

One of the most amazing things – to me at least – about this time of year in France, is the way that things keep on growing, which I suppose, if you think that winter temperatures here are more like Spring temperatures in the UK, makes sense. So what’s growing?

Well, we have onions making light work of it in the veggie patch. We’re planning to extend the patch onto another piece of land next year so I decided to plant up the neighbour’s garden with easy to grow stuff that will overwinter. I’ve also set aside an area for hardwood cuttings, so have a row of redcurrants and blackcurrants, and another of hazel.

Red onions and the fleece tunnel – for spring peas and broad beans

Talking to a neighbour and reading in the Gardening with the Moon calendar (I have the diary version, called Jardiner avec la Lune), it seemed that November was a good month to sew peas and broad beans, so that’s what I did. My neighbour is very keen on permaculture, as am I, but I think it means slightly different things to each of us. She’s a bit obsessed with hummus at the moment. So after I cleared an area of the veggie patch and created a fleece tunnel, ready for planting the broad beans and peas, and showed it to her, she turned her nose up and suggested something a little less organised. So now I have broad beans in the tunnel and others stuck into the ground and marked with sticks. It’s game on. We’ll see which ones come up first and do best. While I think it’s a lovely idea to have a wild vegetable garden, there are advantages to having a dedicated patch. One being aerated soil. I’ll make sure to mulch the area designated to the wild bean patch, because without that those plants are going to struggle, for sure.

Pea shoots – since eaten by greedy slugs!

What else? Oh yes – flowers. It’s December now, remember. Two days after the shortest day, no less, and yes, there are still flowers.

The bed outside the front of the house, which gets hardly any direct sunlight at this time of year, has a nasturtium there going great guns. I planted some seeds in Spring and they’ve self-seeded three times since then.

Nasturtiums – they just keep on growing and flowering

Then there are the marigolds. At the front of the house they’re up against the wall, so as good as in deep shade. They barely get any light at all except for first thing in the morning for an hour, max, but still they grow and flower. It’s remarkable!

Marigolds – flowering away against this shady, cold wall

Roses are still growing too. I was never a fan of roses in the UK. There was always something stuffy about Rose Gardens, not least all the space waster around them! but here the roses are something else. The varieties I’ve seen – and smelled – locally are so vigorous, with stunning colours and strong scents. Quite different from many of the more ornamental varieties that I think dominate the UK. I like them so much I’ll be adding them to my garden, when I finally get one.

Other plants on my cuttings list include buddleja (there’s one on the way to the village), rosemary, lavender, and kiwi. The last three of those are best done in the spring. For the buddleja I just need to remember my secateurs when I’m walking past next time!

Food wise, we are still overflowing with the chard that came up all over the garden, a remnant from the previous green-fingered tenant. It’s very welcome at this time of year, so handy to be able to nip around the corner and come back with an armful of fresh greens. Another one for the permanent patch, when we get to it.

More onions and the never-ending chard
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