>Spring planning


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The garden today, at the beginning of this new gardening year, with most of the beds now covered with goat manure.


This morning we spent some time in the sun in the garden, planning this year’s planting and pruning the apple tree and the roses.


DSC01539 DSC01528 The autumn-sown beans (left) are growing well and have recovered from the frost we had a few weeks ago.  We’ve transplanted some lamb’s lettuce seedlings (above) into  some of the lovely compost we’ve made



Our first crocus of the year is flowering and another one will be out soon.


DSC01554 This Red Admiral butterfly was enjoying the sun. DSC01564


DSC01572 The chard leaves are beginning to grow again now that the weather is a bit warmer, so we picked some to make one of our favourite quick lunches – pasta mixed with chard, pancetta or cured ham and chopped garlic, topped with grated cheese and put under the grill to brown.

>What a difference a day makes ….


Yesterday it rained for twenty-four hours:


I can see this chimney from our top-floor window and it tells me whether or not there will be rain – if the wind is coming from the south the clouds come over the sea and we usually have rain, although not always as heavy as this. If the wind comes from the north, the smoke is blown the other way and we have dry weather because the rain from any clouds which do appear has already fallen in the mountains inland.

Today was almost spring-like, with warm sunshine and a north wind silvering the leaves of the olive trees at the edge of this vineyard at the top of the hill above our garden:


In the garden most of the plants had survived the cold nights well:

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Spanish habas (left), 2nd sowing of broad beans (far left) and first sowing of broad beans above.
DSC01143 Cabbages


This almond tree looks a lot better against a blue sky, rather than last week’s grey one, even though it won’t have blossom for another couple of weeks. First signs of spring: a mimosa tree in a sheltered garden in the village has yellow flower buds about to open. The almond blossom usually follows very soon afterwards.

Haiti earthquake

The catastrophic events in Haiti have been on my mind for the past few days – how can one small country have to put up with so many disasters and problems? There seems so little that individuals can do but we can donate towards the aid effort at the websites of the British Red Cross, the American Red Cross or the French organisation Action Contre la Faim.

>To the sea at last! / Enfin à la mer!


For the first time this year, a day warm enough to go to the sea and paddle in the (cold) water / Pour la première fois cette année il a fait assez beau pour aller à la mer et faire trempette.

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Snow-covered Mont Canigou and the eastern Pyrenees, from the beach at Le Grau d’Agde / Le Mont Canigou couvert de neige et les Pyrénées orientales, de la plage au Grau d’Agde.

>Spraying Bordeaux mixture / La bouillie bordelaise


Bordeaux mixture (copper sulphate) is a treatment against fungus and other diseases which is permitted in organic agriculture and horticulture. It is used on the vines here in the Languedoc and in other vine-growing areas and perhaps because it’s so commonly used in the vineyards gardeners in Gabian use it on a wide range of plants: fruit trees, olive trees, roses, potatoes.

La bouillie bordelaise est un traitement contre les maladies qui est permis dans l’agriculture biologique. Les viticulteurs du Languedoc et les autres régions vigneronnes la mettent sur les vignes et ici à Gabian les jardiniers la utilisent pour les arbres fruitiers, les oliviers, les pommes de terre, les rosiers etc.

It must be used at least 14 days before harvesting and for fruit trees the best time is in spring before the fruits form. I’ve been waiting for a calm day to spray our trees and although today wasn’t completely still there was less wind than there has been for the last couple of weeks.

Il faut traiter les plantes et les arbres au moins 14 jours avant la récolte et pour les arbres fruitiers le meilleur temps est le printemps. J’attendais une journée calme pour vaporiser la bouillie bordelaise sur nos arbres. Aujoud’hui il y avait moins de vent qu’on a eu les dernières deux semaines.

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The powder and the liquid once it’s mixed with water are a lovely deep blue colour which makes the leaves and flowers look pretty ….

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olive leaves / les feuilles d’olivier
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and polka-dot apricot blossom / et les fleurs d’abricotier à pois.

Chorizo and chickpeas / Chorizo et pois chiches

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After a hard morning’s work in the garden we were ready for lunch and I made a quick stew of tinned chickpeas and some little chorizo sausages which we’d bought in the market earlier, with garlic, thyme, tomato passata, a glass of red wine and a green sweet onion.

Après le travail du matin au jardin on était prêt pour le déjeuner. J’ai préparé un ragout express des pois chiches et des petits chorizos qu’on a acheté sur le marché ce matin, avec de l’ail, du thym, de la purée de tomates, un verre de vin rouge et un oignon doux.

Tomato and pepper sowings update / mise à jour des semences de tomates et de poivrons

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The tomato seedlings enjoying the sun on the balcony – when they have two true leaves we’ll transplant them into individual pots. / Les petits plants de tomate au soleil au balcon – quand ils auront deux vraies feuilles nous les repiquerons en petits pots individuels.

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The pepper seeds germinated very quickly on our heated seed-starter box. The Corno di toro, Nardello, Kolaska, Lipstick and Italian Red Marconi germinated in about 7-8 days. The Kandil dolma and the Spanish long pepper (seeds given to us by our neighbour) have been slower but are showing signs of germinating now. / Les semences de poivron ont germé très vite sur le boîte chauffée: 7-8 jours pour: Corno di toro, Nardello, Kolaska, Lipstick et Italian Red Marconi. Les semence de Kandil dolma et long d’Espagne (ce dernier de notre voisin) commencent a germer maintenant.

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>Some signs of spring / quelques signes du printemps


A few signs of spring in the garden today / quelques signes du printemps au jardin aujourd’hui:

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the first daffodil / la première narcisse

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a bee on the rosemary flowers / une abeille au fleurs de romarin

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apricot flower buds / des boutons d’abricotier

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red squid from the market, barbecued to eat in the sun / encornet rouge du marché, grillé pour manger au soleil

. . . . and not so good / . . . . et moins bon


the sounds and sights of building work over the garden wall / le bruit des machines du travaux à l’autre coté du mur

And, at home, the tomatoes are germinating / Et chez nous les tomates germent

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a small beginning to the gardening year!

>Making a cold frame / construire une petite serre


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.

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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.

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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!


>After the deluge – back to the garden / Après le déluge – le retour au jardin


The series of bizarre weather events continues … this time with four days of heavy rain and flooding in the Midi, while Wales and England came to a standstill under a covering of snow.

La série d’événements météo bizarres continuent … cette fois quatre jours de pluie forte et d’inondation dans le Midi pendant que le Pays de Galles et l’Angleterre se sont arretés sous une couche de neige.

The stream which runs from the spring and past the gardens was full of rushing water – if only we could save it all for the summer!

Le ruisseau qui coule de la source était pleine d’eau babillarde – si on peut la garder pour l’été!


Today the clouds were coming from the north-east – a direction which rarely brings rain here.  It’s the ‘marin’ from the sea which brings rain / Aujourd’hui les nuages sont venus du nord-est – une direction qui apporte très rarement la pluie. C’est le marin qui apporte la pluie.

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We’re hoping to plant our potatoes at the full moon this weekend, so Lo Jardinièr has been preparing the ground for them.

On éspère de planter les pommes de terre à la pleine lune ce weekend, donc Lo Jardinièr a preparé la terre.

For the first time for several weeks it was warm enough to have lunch in the garden – tapas of picholine olives and cured sausage followed by a delicious chickpea, chorizo, cabbage and carrot stew which Lo Jardinièr had made.

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C’était la première fois pour quelques semaines qu’il a fait assez beau pour manger au jardin – des tapas d’olives picholines et de saucisson sec, et puis un ragout delicieux de pois chiches, chorizo, choux et carrottes que Lo Jardinièr avait preparé.

The spring flowers are beginning to come out. The garden is covered in speedwell – a weed, but a pretty one:


Les fleurs de printemps commencent à éclore.  Le jardin est couvert de véronique – une mauvaise herbe, mais c’est jolie.

And the crocuses: / Et les crocus:

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Spring is on its way at last!  Le printemps arrive enfin!

Ecological footprint / empreinte écologique

There’s a link to a quiz you can do to find out your ecological footprint – expressed in terms of the number of planets we would need if everyone lived like you – on Jardim com gatos.  Like all these quizzes, it has its critics but I think it’s quite a useful way of finding out what improvements one can make in one’s lifestyle.  Try it and see how large or small your footprint is!