Spring is an important time of the year for who gets ready for action in her Normandy garden
When we moved to Normandy we knew two things: we planned to open an eco-gîte and we wanted to make ourselves as selfsufficient as possible in fruit and vegetables. The gîte is open and the vegetable garden now gives us about 80% of our vegetables and all our soft fruit.
Spring, therefore, is a very important time of year when I really need to get going in the garden but there can be such variations in weather. March has seen us both snowed in and have temperatures in the high 20s, neither of which makes planning very easy. I am itching to get things going but know a late frost could kill tender vegetables.
The signs of spring are all around: frogspawn in the pond, primroses along the roadsides and things are stirring in the veg patch. Rhubarb leaves are poking through, early blossom is out and weeds are starting to grow! There are still a few winter vegetables to harvest (Brussels, leeks, cabbage, kale, parsnips, lambs lettuce, chard, oriental greens) with purple sprouting broccoli and early peas bringing in something new, but we are also about to enter the ‘empty gap’ – winter veg will soon be finished and it will be a while before spring plantings are ready.
My French garden:
Thank goodness for stores of pumpkins and potatoes, and frozen and bottled produce.
It is at this time of year that the polytunnel really comes into its own. It is all go on the sowing front with the tunnel providing much-needed protection for tender seedlings and as the days pass it gets steadily more full. However, it is unheated so the most tender plants are started off inside and then moved out once they are growing, at which point I have to keep a very vigilant eye on the forecast and if there’s any sign of frost they’re brought back in the house or given extra protection in the polytunnel. It may be a lot of work but it does ensure earlier harvests. Getting things going outside can be slower, especially if the soil is waterlogged or cold but I usually take a risk and sow a few seeds early – some years this works and some years a late frost kills them.
One of my favourite earlyspring jobs is buying seeds. I split my seed buying between the UK and France. In France you have a much better choice of seeds such as French beans (somewhat obviously) but the UK is better for seeds such as parsnips and runner beans. And I always buy too many!
Spring is such a special time – a new season full of hopes for harvests to come. Each year I try to grow something new. Our garden here in Normandy is no warmer than our garden in south-east England where we moved from, but I didn’t have a polytunnel back then. Now I can try all sorts of new things in my plastic friend. This year I have chosen some different tomato and chilli varieties and outside I am planting new pumpkin varieties.
With my veg patch right on my doorstep, I can pop out for 10 minutes and the produce I harvest can be on our plates in minutes – zero food miles and the freshest of tastes. You can’t beat it!
One of my favourite earlyspring jobs is buying seeds
Rosie Hill, her husband Simon and their two sons live in Calvados and run a familyfriendly eco-gîte. www.eco-gites.eu