Living France - - À LA MAISON -

Flavour­some leeks put in a stun­ning per­for­mance through­out the win­ter, ei­ther as bit-part play­ers or the stars of the show.

Whether they’re paired with spuds in warm­ing leek and potato soup, cooked au gratin or added to casseroles, this mem­ber of the al­lium fam­ily is ex­tremely ver­sa­tile.

Packed with an­tiox­i­dants and vi­ta­mins, leeks are just what the doc­tor or­dered for fight­ing off win­ter colds.

Leeks can be started off as early as Fe­bru­ary and on into March and April, ei­ther di­rectly into the ground or in con­tain­ers filled with compost. Seeds should be thinly sown at a depth of 1cm in rows about 15cm apart.

When the seedlings are the width of a pen­cil, trans­fer them to their fi­nal grow­ing area. Make a hole with a dib­ber, or pointed stick, and sim­ply drop in the young leek and wa­ter well.

Con­tinue wa­ter­ing dur­ing dry spells, keep­ing an eye on weeds and, if de­sired, pulling up earth around the leeks to en­sure a long, white bar­rel.

Leeks can be lifted at al­most ev­ery stage of their growth and can be har­vested well into spring.

Watch out for dis­eases com­monly as­so­ci­ated with al­li­ums, onion white rot and rust among them, and pests such as leek moth and thrip.

My French gar­den

Tom Kevill Davies moved from Lon­don to Bur­gundy three years ago where he runs a cham­bres d’hôtes and cy­cling hol­i­day busi­ness with his French part­ner Cé­cile who is a gar­den de­signer. To­gether they have de­vel­oped an eco-friendly, ed­i­ble gar­den

What was your gar­den like when you first ar­rived?

The gar­den had been aban­doned for more than 20 years and it was a mess! Trees and shrubs from the 1970s had out­grown their space, starv­ing the gar­den of light and block­ing the views of the vines and for­est that sur­round the prop­erty. The river was com­pletely hid­den, the orig­i­nal stone walls had col­lapsed and there was a gen­er­a­tion of silt clog­ging the wa­ter­way.

How have you de­vel­oped it?

I wanted to cre­ate a place where peo­ple come to re­lax

and can be sur­rounded by na­ture. We also aim to pro­vide our guests with as much pro­duce from the gar­den and or­chards as pos­si­ble. First we cut down the dam­aged old trees and in­va­sive bam­boo in or­der to open up the vine­yard views. We also started to give the gar­den more struc­ture with a veg­etable gar­den, or­chards, mead­ows, grass, mixed bor­ders of peren­ni­als and a swim­ming pool area. As we are so close to the river and be­cause the gar­den is ed­i­ble, it is to­tally eco-friendly. It is a very young gar­den so

there is still a lot to de­velop!

What grows well in your area of France?

As Bur­gundy has a con­ti­nen­tal cli­mate, you have to grow plants that can with­stand frosts of -15°C and sum­mer tem­per­a­tures of 35°C. But even with this cli­mate you can still find a wide di­ver­sity of plants.

What do you love most about your gar­den?

I love the views of the vines and see­ing na­ture re­turn. Any gar­den is a long-term pro­ject and it is so fas­ci­nat­ing to see it grow grad­u­ally. The best sight is chil­dren run­ning around the gar­den and adults asleep af­ter a long bike ride, a good glass of wine and food from the gar­den. the­hun­grycy­clist.com

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