I have always dreamed of having a vegetable garden where I could grow different kinds of vegetables. I would harvest daily, put whatever into my wicker basket, take it to the kitchen, cook and eat it with chunks of fresh crusty bread drizzled with olive oil.
So, when we bought our house in France and inherited an overgrown veggie patch I quickly had a list of things that I was keen to plant. I had no experience, relying on a vegetable gardening book and Google for direction. Simple!
What did I know? Absolutely nothing!
I resolved not to plant anything that we couldn't eat. I wanted rows of massive red tomatoes, full bushy heads of lettuce, shiny purple aubergines, squash of all kinds, beans, peas you name it. This was France and I was living the life.
Besides, the locals all had veggie gardens that they shuffled around in and I wanted one to shuffle around in as well.
Thing was, I had no idea how was I going to do it. I knew it wasn't just a case of sticking something in the ground and watering it. I needed a teacher.
So I took the best gardening class out there; I called it French Gardening for Dummies (yours truly) and I watched the locals.
I walked through the village sneaking a peek over garden walls, peering through hedges and open gates trying to get a glimpse of a garden and it’s activities. Thankfully I only saw gardening activities and as no one has reported me yet, I still do it.
When the local’s dig, I dig. When they plant, I plant and so on. If they have a bad year, I have a bad year, then we all shake heads and give a Gallic shrug together.
And it works! Now everyone thinks I’m an expert gardener which, of course, I’m not but who’s to tell and who cares?
Well I’ll tell you who cares. The garden police that’s who.
The garden police are two little old ladies who pass by my house every day, sometimes twice a day. They wave their arms to get my attention when they see me in the garden, give my dog way more attention than she deserves and generally spend at least 30 minutes telling me the latest village gossip.
Every day they ask “’ave you put somfing in ze ground? Because nussing can go in ze ground before ze 9 May.” (I thought it was all about the last frost date but for the French it’s mainly about Lunar planting and planting the right things in the right phase of the moon….I Googled it!)
I lie of course, and say “no”, because my garden is hidden from the road and thankfully, they can’t see it. So what they don’t know won’t hurt ‘em. Only the other day they asked my unprepared husband who said that I had planted something.
Well you would have thought the world was ending. There were pursed lips, clicking of tongues and lots of head shaking along with “non, non, non, zis is not correct, zis is too soon, zis will not work.”
The game is up, my knuckles have been well and truly rapped and the cat is out of the bag in terms of my gardening ability. After 4 years of enjoying celebrity gardening status I have been downgraded and they’ll never forget that I planted early.
I can hear them now telling the whole village “zat woman, she ‘as no idea, ze poor husband what will ‘e eat?”
Oh the shame of being busted by the gardening police! I am joking though because the ladies are sweet, very friendly and my dog adores them but they do click and cluck reminding me that “to plant before ze 9 Mai is bad”
So, Gardening for Dummies does work; normally I do have a productive and healthy garden and when I have a bad year I do shake my head and shrug with the locals.
If you’re not sure what, when and how in terms of gardening, ask a local. You might have to listen to their lifelong stories before they tell you the answer but they know what they are talking about, been doing it for years.
Now, I’m off for a walk to see what everyone is up to!
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