Food, food culture, food as culture and the cultures that grow our food

Actually, this IS my harvest

July 28, 2006

potager en fin juillet
Back to square one, but with better soil composition

At the kitchen gardens, the question on everyone’s lips is, ‘Don’t you feel utterly demoralised by the fact that since January, you’ve only been able to produce a shitload of weeds?” But because I can’t admit defeat in front of my neighbours, I usually answer that I grew these specific plants on purpose as green manure to improve soil condition, and that they they should count themselves lucky to bear witness to this premier harvest of green manures. One woman, a dislocated urban Algerian that has befriended me because I seem to fulfill her misguided notion of rural bliss and independent thought, brought her boyfriend out to ogle the melange of green and brown veg, saying that she would like to grow next season’s potager in this ‘fashion’ (façon), as if it were a bedhead coiffure.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how my ridiculous notion of gainful employment caused me to miss out on an entire summer season of ambling fruit. In the lower garden, my entire crop of melon plants (cantaloup, galia and water) rotted underneath the burgeoning weed mass that grew faster and higher than the ‘other’ intended crop. My peppers and luffahs never even emerged, my cukes wilted once exposed to the sunlight, and only the gourds, pumpkins and spaghetti squash dared enter the survival contest, competing with the weeds for sunlight and soil nutrients during the growing season that occured while I was up in the Polar Circle.

tangle of courgettes
A tangle of courgettes

During the first days of weeding, I engaged in the acultural act of wing-flapping every time I discovered a fruitbearing plant that had survived underneath the ‘canopy’. My vertical gardening arches are not exactly being used as I had intended, and I’ve just laid the surviving plants over the first rung, hoping they will get the hang of climbing before August. My neighbours feel sorry for me and give me piles of tomatoes, peppers and aubergines. In return, I give them fat bouquets of shiso, but everyone knows that to a French person, a tomato is worth a heq of a lot more than some strange hippy herb that their wife is just going to throw away anyway.

potager en fin juillet
View from upper garden, weeds used to mulch the preferred plants. Looks sloppy, but smells good and is less dusty. Hoping the intended plants will fill out a bit and get the eye to focus on their bountiful shapes instead of the mulching.

potager bas closeup
Closeup of le potager bas

On the bright side, I am truly impressed with the 15cm thick mats of vegetation that are quickly turning from mulch to compost right on what will soon be my autumn beds and I remind myself that I did intend to increase the soil’s organic matter by growing these particular plants. Under the parts where there is still remaining weed layer, I reach in and yank the alfalfa and buckwheat by the roots and roll the mat back over itself. When I’m done with a section of the row, I have voluminous ‘felted’ piece of weed mat that is easily manipulated to cover the planting surface. The soil texture is superb, dark and moist, so that the weeding process goes quickly, but every now and again I look at all the other folks’ gardens, nice and neat, light sand, scraped clean of all organic matter, and think about how dogmatic I am. Sidi ElGouche still jokingly refers to the mustard covercrop I grew last Spring as mayonnaise. It all reminds me of the intro in Masanobu Fukuoka’s book One Straw Revolution, where he talks about how often he screwed up before getting the hang of his own form of no-till agriculture.

Enough talking shit about my garden, the courgette, calabash gourds, spaghetti squash and pumpkin plants all have numerous flowers, and I’ve seen a bunch of slutty bees engage them in some thorough and lengthy deep-kissing, only to go on to the next plant when they’ve had enough, flitting back and forth from the sunflowers. The summer isn’t halfway over.

Potager haut en fin juillet
When the plants fill out in a few weeks, I’m hoping that some of my intended colour fields will begin to emerge.

Ktje's birthday party, in the garden
Still looking pretty hot on her almost 50th birthday.

debra at 19:14 | | post to

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