>Apricot buds and a new cold frame

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One of the good things about writing a garden blog is that I can check back and see how this year compares with last year and the year before.  Spring seems to be late this year, but looking back to last February I can see that the apricot buds are at about the same stage this year, although the daffodils are certainly later.  Last year we had daffodils in flower in time for St David’s day – that won’t happen this year.

DSC01890 DSC01892 The apricot tree should be in flower in a few days’ time.

I sowed some mangetout peas about a month ago and had almost given up hope of the plants appearing.  I thought the seeds had been washed away by some of the heavy rain we’ve had and today I decided to sow some more in the same place.  Luckily I had a close look first because I noticed that they’re coming up at last.  We’ve covered them with chicken wire because the birds seem to like them.

DSC01893 mangetout peas emerging and, right, the garlic doing well. DSC01906 DSC01901 But the daffodils are late this year.

We’ve already got two rustic-looking cold frames in the garden, but our neighbour gave us an old window so Lo Jardinièr decided to make another one – they’ll all come in useful when our pepper and cucumber plants need a bit of protection before being planted out.  He made a base of sand covered with old terracotta floor tiles, made walls with concrete blocks and rested the window on top – very simple.

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While he was doing that I sowed another double row of broad beans and a row of spinach.  We lost at least three sowings of spinach to heavy rain in the autumn, each time I re-sowed them there would be another storm and no sign of spinach plants, except for a solitary one which has survived the winter.  We miss having the young spinach leaves in our salads, so we hope to grow some now before the weather gets too hot and dry. 

Today’s harvest:

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Rosemary, thyme and bay, which the garden provides all through the year, whatever the weather, chard, which is just recovering from the cold weather and starting to grow again, and cabbage.

>First day of summer time / Le premier jour de l’heure d’été

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Last night the clocks went forward and today is the first day of late sunsets and long evenings in the garden. To help the plants along we had a day of rain yesterday, the first for nearly two months, so they are getting the perfect combination of water and warmth.

Dans la nuit l’heure a changé et aujourd’hui est le premier jour du coucher tardif du soleil. Pour aider les plants on a eu une journée de pluie hier – donc ils ont la combination parfaite de l’eau et chaleur.

In the garden / dans le jardin:

bay flowers_1_1 broad bean flowers_1

the bay and the broad beans are flowering / le laurier sauce et les fèves fleurissent ….

pea flowers_1_1 and so are the peas, although they shouldn’t be – the plants are too small.

et les petits pois aussi, bien qu’ils sont trop petits.

The fig leaves are unfurling / les feuilles du figuier s’ouvrent …

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rosebuds_1_1 the climbing rose is about to cover the shelter with flower / la rose grimpante est sur le point de couvrir l’abri de fleurs.
courgette plants_1_1 In the cold frame the courgette plants are growing well / Dans la petite serre les plantes de courgette poussent bien.
And on the balcony we have salad leaves and mizuna to go with the wild rocket from the garden / Et sur le balcon il y a des feuilles de salade et de mizuna pour accompagner la roquette sauvage du jardin. balcony salad_1_1

Summer time? Perhaps not yet, but it’s beginning to look as though it may happen! / L’heure d’été? Peut-être c’est un peu tôt pour dire ça, mais ça va venir!

>’Little spring’ work / Le travail du ‘petit printemps’

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At last we’ve had some milder weather and a day of sunshine yesterday.  One of our garden neighbours walked past with his dog and, as usual, stopped to chat – he knows all about the weather and can predict when it will rain all through the year.  He tells us when it’s the right time to sow tomatoes, peppers, salads and when to plant trees.  Now, he says, is the time of the ‘petit printemps’, the little spring, but it will be followed by colder weather in March.  We’re making the most of the good weather while it lasts.

Enfin il a fait plus doux et hier le soleil brillait.  Un de nos voisins du jardin a passé avec son chien et, comme d’habitutde, il s’est arreté pour bavarder avec nous.  Il sait tous du temps et il peut prévoir quand il va pleuvoir pendant l’année.  Il nous dit quand c’est le temps pour semer les tomates, les poivrons, les salades, et quand il faut planter et tailler les arbres.  Maintenant, il dit, c’est le petit printemps, mais il fera froid encore au mois de mars.  On profte du beau temps quand ça dure.

The cold frame is finished and ready to use.  Lo Jardinièr filled in the gaps between the planks on the sides with wood and plastic sheeting and covered the floor with terracotta tiles which we hope will store some warmth.

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plastic sheeting on the sunny side to let in more light ….
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tiles on the base, and a bamboo prop to hold it open.

La petite serre est prête.  Lo Jardinièr a mis du bois dans les interstices entre les planches et du plastique sur le côté ensoleillé pour faire entrer plus de lumière, et il a mis des carreaux de terrecuite sur le plancher, qui conserveront la chaleur.

While he was doing this, I prepared one of the two planned tomato beds.  I dug a trench about half a metre wide and about 4 metres long, filled it with goat manure and forked it and watered it well, then covered it over with soil again to leave until we put the plants out in May.  This bed will hold 24 plants.  We’ll prepare another similar bed for 24 more plants.  We may have more plants to find room for, and the cherry tomatoes will go in a separate bed.

J’ai preparé un des deux parterres pour les tomates.  J’ai creusé une tranchée d’une longuer de 4 metres et une largeur d’un demi metre.  J’y ai mis du fumier de chèvre et l’a arosé, puis je l’ai couvert de terre pour laisser jusqu’au mois de mai.  Il y aura 24 plants et nous allons préparer une autre parterre pareille.  Les tomates cerise seront dans une autre parterre.

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tomato bed 3_1_1 tomato bed 4_1_1

>Making a cold frame / construire une petite serre

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It’s hard to believe in the cold weather we’re having that we should be sowing tomato, pepper and courgette seeds very soon. Some of our neighbours have done this already. In preparation for all this spring activity, Lo Jardinièr has been making a cold frame.

C’est difficile de croire qu’on doit semer les tomates, les poivrons et les courgettes bientôt. Quelqu’uns de nos voisins l’ont déjà fait. En vue de toute cette activité de printemps, Lo Jardinièr construit une petite serre.

crate 1_1_1 cold frame_1_1

Some friends gave us two crates, one of which we decided to use as the basis of a cold frame, and a couple of weeks ago we trimmed the bay tree in the corner of the garden so that it won’t shade the finished frame.

coldframe1_1_1_1 coldframe2_1_1

Now all that needs to be done is to fill in the sides with planks of wood and polythene sheeting. We’re especially pleased because it has cost nothing at all to make – we’ve used only recycled materials that people have given us or that we had lying around, things …

handle_1_1 …like this piece of metal salvaged somewhere by Lo Jardinièr from a previous life as a curtain rod holder. It makes a very good handle for the top of the cold frame.

Another one for Melinda’s Buy Sustainable challenge, I think.

Soon, we hope, the cold frame will be full of thriving seedlings!

Bientôt, on éspère, la serre sera pleine de plants à croissance rapide!

Lemons at last! / Des citrons enfin!

Our three lemons – our first ever – have ripened very slowly during the cold weather, but at last they are turning very yellow, rather than yellowy-green. Very soon I’ll pick one, slice it and add it to a gin and tonic!

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