Wednesday 29 April 2015

A Blog Holiday

For reasons of work and family, I will be taking a rest from Blogging for a while. I hope to be back within a few days. Until then, I leave you with these photos taken last weekend in a French supermarket...

Back soon...

Tuesday 28 April 2015

The garden in Ornex

In this post I am going to write some more about my daughter Fiona's garden in Ornex, France. Yesterday I showed you mostly Tulips. Today I want to show you some different flowers, but also some other aspects of the garden.

This is an Ipheon. Small, but perfectly formed, as they say.

This is a Japanese Barberry. Lovely red foliage and lots of delicate yellow flowers.

Fiona's vegetable-patch is still mostly bare. It contains several rows of potatoes, but at present they are still below ground. Notice the Japanese Barberry plant over by the fence.

If you know where to look there are some tiny lettuces to be seen, like these "Marvel of Four Seasons".

The herbs are coming up strongly though. This is Marjoram:

This is Thyme

And this is Sage.

The amount of flower on this Currant bush augurs well for a decent harvest later in the year.

Maybe there will be a harvest of "champignons" too?

Since I last visited, Fiona has had a shed installed. I now have serious Shed Envy!

To finish today, I want to show you the view from the car-park of Fiona's local Garden Centre, Jardiland...

It's a bit more impressive than the view from ours!

I have to say though that I was not impressed by the very modest selection of seeds available, nor indeed by the very steep price at which some of them were being offered. For instance, I wanted to buy some seeds for Curly Endive and there were only four varieties available. In one case the same variety was offered by three different brands at prices ranging from 1 Euro 10 cents to 3 Euros 75 cents. Were the seeds a E3.75 really three times as good as the ones a E1.10? I also saw some packets of bean seeds (haricots verts) at prices approaching ten Euros - and I'm not talking about a 1Kg pack!

Monday 27 April 2015

Not Harvest Monday - 27th April 2015

I'm not linking-up with Harvest Monday this week, because I have not been doing any harvesting. Jane and I have been over in France visiting our younger daughter Fiona and her family. Their place is in a little village called Ornex, not far from Ferney Voltaire, and just across the border from Geneva in Switzerland.  This is the view from their garden, looking up towards the Jura mountains, still with some patches of snow on them:

As we flew into Geneva we were struck by how much greener the trees were than those in England. In some respects Spring is so much further advanced in France / Switzerland. We were able to sit outside in the garden beyond seven-o-clock in the evening, with the temperature still at a comfortable 23C.

Fiona's garden is full of Tulips at present, and they are looking really spectacular. She has planted lots of different types, and they are informally scattered all over the property, by the side of the drive, at the bases of the trees, etc.

I have no idea what variety they all are (nor has Fiona!), but I couldn't resist taking loads of photos of them...

Tomorrow I will write about some other aspects of the garden in Ornex, but for now I want to finish with this.  Just 500 metres from Fiona's house is newly-finished primary school, which will be very handy when her little daughter (currently only 16 months old) is ready to start school. This is a warning sign near the school entrance. Very appropriate, I think!

P.S. This is the nearest I got to a harvest -- we went shopping in the local market (I mean SHOPPING!), and bought loads of edible goodies, which I will represent with this one photo:

P.P.S. OK, yes, I did get a harvest! We got home at about six p.m. on Sunday evening, and I just had time to do a quick tour of the garden, during which I cut these few spears of Asparagus.

Sunday 26 April 2015

Tomato progress report

I have been growing tomatoes for many years now, and I follow a well-established routine. For the last three years I have sown them in late March, and after germination have kept them in my Growlight House for a few weeks before potting them on into 5" pots.

Here are some of them, spending the night indoors...

Recently we have had a lot of bright sunny weather, so the tomato plants have spent several hours each day outside in order to get as much natural light as possible. However, despite the sunshine, the temperatures have not been high - typically a maximum of 12 or 13C in the middle of the day. It has also been windy on many days. Because of this, some of the plants are not looking very happy. Many of them are pale and rather sickly-looking.

This looks like wind damage, but also lack of nutrients.

I'm not sure whether this is due to the weather, or to do with lack of nutrients in their compost. I think it may be a combination of both. After last year's fiasco with the weedkiller-contaminated compost, I am always suspicious. This year I am using Westland's "Jack's Magic", which looks nice and has a fine crumbly texture, but who knows what nutrients / contaminants it does or does not contain??

They are not all bad though. This "Primavera" one looks OK, doesn't it?

I have already given the plants a dose of "Tomorite" tomato-food, which I wouldn't normally do before they had their first flowers, but I thought they were in dire need of nutrition!

My plants will remain in these 5" pots for another two to three weeks, and will then be transplanted to their final containers, mostly the big self-watering "balconnieres". I don't want to do this until the risk of frost is past, so mid-May is the target date.

Then comes the big decision: which ones will I keep and which ones will I discard? I currently have 30 plants, but I think I must limit myself to growing no more than 20, so some will have to go to new homes. At the moment it looks as if a big factor in the selection process will be the plant's state of health.

Saturday 25 April 2015

Perfect for Pots

Last Autumn Jane won in a competition a pack (15 bulbs) of Sarah Raven's "Perfect for Pots" Tulips. It fell to me (of course) to grow them! They are just beginning to flower now, so here are some photos of them.

This is "Ronaldo", a really deep Burgundy red colour.

This is "Jan Reus", a much redder one - a Merlot, perhaps?

The third variety is yet to show its true colours. It is "Flaming Spring Green", which is mostly white, with streaks of green and red. In my photo you can just see the red streaks beginning to show...

Four days later...

These are lovely flowers, but I have some reservations about the selection. I think the "Ronaldo" and "Jan Reus" ones are too similar. In my opinion, it would have been better to select completely different colours. Likewise, although these bulbs are supposed to flower in succession over an extended period, they have all come at more-or-less the same time, which is strange, and disappointing.

Friday 24 April 2015

Getting some salads started

Every year, one of my raised beds is always devoted to salad-production. Salads are good crops to grow if space is limited, because if you choose the right plants you can pick a few leaves here and there over a long period - a very different proposition to cutting, say, a single cabbage, which is a one-off opportunity.

First into the Salads bed this year were some Radishes. Seen here are 3 x 1.2 metre rows of Sparkler, Saxa and Cherry Belle. There are three more rows next to them, but they haven't germinated yet. This is part of my "successional sowing" plan, aiming to spread the harvest over a significant period of time.

At the far end of the bed I have put in 9 Lettuce seedlings, 3 each of 3 different varieties, in the hope that they will mature at different times. They are "Cervanek", "Devin" and an unknown red one from a mixed pack.

I have spaced them about 8 inches apart (8-ish, that is), which is a bit on the close side. If you want big Lettuces, you should plant them further apart.

I have lots more Lettuces coming on, because I aim to have a steady succession of them throughout the Summer. Well, that's the plan, anyway.

In one part of the bed I have sown seeds for a patch of "cutting salad". By this I mean a mix of lettuces, endives, cress etc, which I will cut as Baby Leaf Salad. I threw in some "Ishikura" Spring Onions just for good measure.

My mix included part of this pack of Proven├žale Salad Mix, which was amongst  the selection of trial seeds kindly supplied to me by Marshalls. It is a blend of "assorted species" (details not given), which are said to be "...winter hardy, with a longer cropping period. A delicious mix which will crop into the winter especially given a little protection." Recommended sowing dates are from March to October. Judging by the picture on the pack and the shape of the seeds, I think the mix includes Rocket, Mustard and perhaps Pak Choi. Not really "Proven├žale" in my humble opinion!

Notice also the "Misticanza di Lattughe", which has been one of the best packs of seeds I have ever bought. I got it from Seeds of Italy. The pack had literally hundreds of seeds in it, and I have used it again and again. The Use By date on the pack is 12/2011, but the seeds are definitely still viable.

I have identified the area for the Baby Leaf Salad with a rectangle of metal rods, which you can see (left side) in the photo below. I will remove the rods once the seeds germinate. They are only markers.

As you can also see in that photo, I have covered the whole bed with a net suspended on a cage made from aluminium rods and "Build-a-ball" balls. This is to deter animals who might be tempted to dig up my precious plants. By the way, the two green clumps in the foreground are Parsley, grown from seeds sown last September, kept in a pot in the coldframe over the Winter, and transplanted a few days ago.