This summer’s been tough. I’ve watered the potager every morning at sunrise, even though I would like to think that the plants would survive without. I feel guilty using water, but then I remember that I grow pretty much all our food, so we spend much less in the supermarket, we’re not driving repeatedly to collect fresh food and no-one else has to use water and wasteful packaging to keep us in food.
Our tall beans; gigantes, butter, vigneron and le couvent beans have all produced tons of flowers but almost no beans. These were beans I was going to save for us to eat during the winter. However the bees simply didn’t do their stuff. I’d have thought that maybe there have been fewer bees, but our pond is alive with them, all desperate for water. They just didn’t come to pollinate the beans.
I’ve had a great harvest of potatoes, tomatoes, courgettes, dill cucumbers, agretti, French beans, kale, chard, spinach and New Zealand spinach. There were masses of apples, blackcurrants and lots of rhubarb. I’ve bottled quite a lot and we have soup in the freezer. But the failure of the beans has made me reflect on what I will sow next year. Temperatures have gone up to 40 degrees C. We’ve had protracted periods of 35+ degrees and relentless heat. Rain has been extremely sparse and, although we collect and store up to 14000 litres of rainwater in the winter and spring, I’m using it regularly to top up the pond which evaporates quickly under these conditions.
But why keep a pond? Isn’t that a waste of precious water? In view of the biodiversity it brings to our garden I wouldn’t be without it. I’ve mentioned the bees, but there are also wasps, dragonflies and multitudes of small birds which come to drink from the pond every day. There is no other fresh water in this hamlet-in-a-forest. The nearest river is 6km away. I feel it is my duty to do what I can, especially for the bees.
So what do I sow next year? More potatoes? Fewer beans? Quinoa? Sweet potatoes? Or do I try more beans and hope the bees will come? To ensure that we have enough food to keep us during the winter and next summer I’m going to keep on growing as wide a variety as possible. Then if something fails we should still be OK. I’ve already bought all the seeds we need for next year. The majority come from Italy as I’m trying to sow things that have come from plants grown in similar conditions to here. Why not from France? Well, I find there is less diversity in what I can buy here in terms of organic seeds.
It makes you think though, doesn’t it? What happens if this summer is the new normal? What happens if we are no longer allowed to water our vegetable gardens? (Watering of decorative gardens is already banned and we can only water potagers between 20:00hrs and 08:00hrs) What happens if farmers responsible for feeding the nation can no longer rely on their crops?
I feel strongly that anyone who has the time and space to do it should consider growing some of their own vegetables. It takes time and dedication, patience and the occasional heartache. But that may be all we have in the long run.