Terribly House and Garden

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For the next few weeks our living room will make me think of ‘Design for Living’, a song by Michael Flanders and Donald Swann – which is worth listening to, or revisiting if you want to be amused by their wit (it’s the third song in this link, about 6 minutes in).  Our house, even at this time of year when it is full of newly germinated seedlings, is a little more restrained than no. 7B, but as from today we’ll have the heated seedling box under the bookshelves.  At the moment it is gently warming trays holding nine varieties of tomato seed:

Languedocian

St Pierre

Coeur de Boeuf

Andes long

Ananas

Roma

Gabian breakfast (this is a variety that we unwittingly created from saved seeds last year – we’re not sure what will come from the seeds we collected)

Red cherry

Yellow pear

As soon as these have germinated we’ll start the pepper seeds.  I love this time of year – so exciting starting the new season’s crops!

My post about the heated seed starter is here, first posted on my old blog so the photos may not fit properly (it’s also a reminder for me of when I had time to write my blog in French too!).  The box works well and this will be its fourth season.

And it’s International Women’s Day.  If you’re interested, please have a look at the Newington Green Action Group’s website to read about the campaign to commission a sculpture to honour Mary Wollstonecraft.

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>Water, at last, and some spring sunshine

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After all the rain we’ve had during the last couple of weeks we were glad to see that the stream which runs down the hill past the gardens is full again.  We hope it lasts until we need to water the garden.

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The crocuses were flowering too in the garden ….

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Over the hill on the other side of the village, this ruined mazet was looking brighter in the sunlight, half hidden by a Pistacia lentiscus shrub and with its interior full of brambles.

 

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We picked cabbage and leeks in the garden and came home to a lunch of cabbage with lardons, garlic and crème fraiche (a recipe suggested by our son) and a glass of wine.  I didn’t used to like cabbage much until we grew our own.  This was delicious.

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Peppers and tomatoes

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While the tomato seedlings were benefiting from the sun on the balcony – and the temperature in the mini-greenhouse was 25 degrees C – we sowed our pepper seeds and put them on the heated seed starter box.  We’ve sowed ten varieties:

Piment d’Espelette: slightly spicy paprika pepper from Espelette in the French Basque country, seeds from a string of peppers I bought in Espelette last September.  This is the only pepper I know which has an appellation d’origine controlée, like wine, so I’m not sure whether any peppers we grow can be called piment d’Espelette as they will be grown out of the area!

Chorizo pepper: a spicy rather than hot paprika pepper, seeds from a string of peppers given to us by our friend Drew in Navarra.

Chilli pepper: seeds from chillies we grew last summer.

Longue d’Espagne: a long sweet pepper, seeds from our neighbour José.

Italian Red Marconi

Kolasca: a Hungarian variety.

Kandil dolma: a Turkish variety for stuffing.

Lipstick: sweet red variety.

Nardello: an Italian long red variety with a spicy flavour.

Corno di toro: a long red variety.

The last six mentioned are seeds left over in the packets I bought last year from Kokopelli.  Last year they all germinated well, but we failed to encourage the plants to grow quickly enough, probably because we couldn’t keep them warm enough.  This year we’ll try again, put them in the mini-greenhouses and give them some fertiliser.

>Second anniversary

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DSC01682 It’s two years this weekend since I started this blog. As I said last year, on the first anniversary, we’ve learnt a lot from becoming part of the community of gardening bloggers and have made many friends and even met some of them – Ian at Kitchen Garden in France and Kate at Hills and Plains Seedsavers and Vegetable Vagabond in Australia, who have both visited us here and who invited us to join their Kitchen Garden International weekend last September in south-western France. We’ve exchanged seeds with Ian and Kate and also with Laura at Mas du Diable, quite near us in the Cévennes, and with Michelle at From Seed to Table in California, where the climate is also Mediterranean. The blogs I read and from which I get enjoyment and inspiration are listed in the side bar, and there too many to mention here, but two which I read most often because they are by fellow Mediterranean gardeners, in a similar climate to ours, are Jan’s in Catalunya and Heiko’s in Italy. So, as well as our gardening neighbours here in Gabian who are a wonderful source of useful advice, we are benefiting from the knowledge and experience of gardeners and cooks all over the world. Thank you all!

Mid-February in the garden

It’s a quiet time in the garden, a time for planning the next year, but not for harvesting very much. Apart from herbs – thyme, rosemary, mint and bay especially – which we use daily, we’re picking only leeks and cabbages at the moment, with the chard and lettuces just recovering from the cold weather we’ve had.

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It seems to be a late spring – there is no sign yet of almond or apricot blossom and their buds are only just beginning to swell.

DSC01654 DSC01657 Left, the still-bare branches of our apricot tree, and above, canes and flower of bamboo, battered by the north wind, but beautiful against the clear sky on a cold day.

DSC01672 After a cold walk back from the garden we warmed ourselves with a bowl of Lo Jardinièr’s flageolet bean and vegetable soup, with goats’ cheese and cured pork on toast and some red wine from Montesquieu.

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Spring will come, though, and today we’ve sowed our tomato seeds and put them on the seed starter box which Lo Jardinièr made last year. We put the new mini-greenhouse on the balcony in the sun today to try it out and, although it was a cold day – about 6 degrees C – the temperature inside reached 22 degrees! So it will be good for the tomato and pepper plants once they germinate and before we take them to the garden to put in the more rustic-looking cold frames we have there.

>Heated seed starter / Une boîte pour faire germer les semences

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Because we don’t need much heating here – most winters – we don’t have a central heating boiler or even an airing cupboard, both of which were useful in Wales for providing warmth for germinating seeds in spring.  So I found a description of a homemade seed starter on the Mother Earth News website and asked Lo Jardinièr to make one like it.  Luckily he collects and hoards all sorts of useful bits and pieces, so the only thing we needed to buy for this was a light bulb.

J’ai demandé à Lo Jardinièr de construire une boîte chauffée pour faire germer les semences, que j’ai trouvé sur le site Mother Earth News.  Heureusement, il toujours ramasse et amasse les petits trucs, donc le seul truc qu’on a dü acheter pour ça c’est l’ampoule.

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The box, 40 cm x 34 cm, with 25w light bulb fitted…..
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light bulb covered with a sheet of aluminium to diffuse the heat …
seed box 5_1_1 the whole box covered with a piece of metal ….

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the seed tray with our tomato seeds on top of the heated box.

Our box measures 40 cm by 34 cm, but the size can be varied according to the materials you have available.  If it’s any bigger you may need two light bulbs.

La boîte mesure 40 cm x 34 cm, mais on peut la faire plus grande, selon vos materiaux.  Si c’est plus grande que ça, peut-être il faut mettre deux ampoules.

I offer no electrical guarantees – make sure the wiring is done safely! Faites attention à l’électricité!

One tip from our knowledgeable garden friend who tells us about the weather : once the seeds have germinated and the plants have started to grow, you can put the seed trays in the car where they will be warm and get lots of light before they are ready to be transplanted into the garden – a sort of mobile greenhouse!

Une astuce de notre ami du jardin qui nous dit tous sur le temps – quand les semences ont germé et les plants ont commencé à pousser, on peut les mettre dans la voiture, ou ils auront chauds et il y aura beaucoup de lumière jusqu’à ils soient prêts à planter dans le jardin.