It's getting to that time of year again where I start thinking about what I am going to plant in my vegetable garden for the summer.
I love it, gardening, and while I’m not all that good at it I love the planning, the nurturing and the tending. There's nothing better to me than picking something I have grown in the garden, and eating it the same day. To me it brings a whole new meaning to freshness, flavor and satisfaction.
Every season I plan my garden, source out seeds and get excited about the prospect of abundant juicy and delicious produce grown by yours truly.
I have a small green house where I start seedlings early otherwise, due to the mountainous climate I would have to purchase plants from the market or garden centre. I get a sense of achievement by nurturing my trays of sprouted baby seedlings and watching them grow. It gives me the feeling that I know what I’m doing which, of course, I do not. Truth be known, the greenhouse is the warmest place to be in the spring so that’s where I make my home.
Last year was awful weather wise here in the Pyrénees. Cold and wet until mid - August when the sun came out and the temperature went directly up to 28° c where it stayed until the end of September.
Talk about one extreme to another. My garden, along with my confidence, got destroyed.
But it wasn’t all for my lack of gardening prowess that my garden got destroyed. I had a little help from the powers that be along with some good old-fashioned rookie schooling.
I live in a rural, fertile area where everyone has the best-looking veggie patches I have ever seen. Hedges are trimmed I swear, with the aid of a level, and lines of vegetables are so straight it’s as if they were digitally planted. My garden, however, is not like that and leaves a lot to be desired. To keep up appearances and village status this year, I have work to do.
You see my problem is that the seasonal nature of my business, as a B&B owner, affords me lots of spare time during the winter months and next to none in the summer when I am flat out B&B-ing from April until October.
Apart from the daily maintenance of my patch I have to deal with an army of monster sized slugs, snails, ants and other critters dying for a slice of my veg.
The slugs in the Pyrénees are a hearty bunch. They are a monstrous 3 inches long, come in black and brown models and look like they belong in a horror movie. I once culled 50 of the monsters that were cruising around my lawn one morning, and yes I did have a ring of slug pellets around my garden that didn’t stop them.
Add to that inherited soil blight, afternoon wind storms that can flatten even the heftiest bean pole and torrential mountain rains followed by intense 30°c humidity and all in all it's a job to get anything to grow. None of this, to me, is conducive to maintaining a successful and upstanding veg patch. How the locals do it I have no idea.
So, I just have to face the fact that I don't have the time to grow a complete vegetable garden. It's only taken 5 years to figure out that I will be forever met with discerning looks when talking to the locals about my lush “potager”. I know it and they know it; I’m full of shit!
I have compromised; my dream of a garden brimming with heirloom greats, organically grown and tasting unlike anything you can ever buy in a supermarket has, let's just say, faltered.
I have to buy "blight resistant" seeds for things like tomatoes that succumb to blight. Potatoes are out. Most things will not grow from seed directly in the ground so when I can I start as seedlings and move on. However that doesn't work so well with things like parsnips and beets.
Instead of having 3 types of beans I have to use hardy, easy growing varieties like runners that have a better chance at life.
I tried container planting but the ants made themselves at home in the base killing the root system.
I try not to use pesticides and can to stay on top of things until my truly busy time hits when it's one of the first things to go. The bugs love it when I’m busy elsewhere