The Interesting Gardening Club

The joy of gardening in France Supporting Open Gardens Jardins Ouverts

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april newsletter

See the Photogallery below

 Hello Everyone, 

  It’s been perfect weather for planting out this week. 

  First of all, a big heat to warm the soil and then plenty of rain this week.  Possibly the tomatoes are not going to like the rain and my French neighbour said I must spray them with bordelaise to prevent mildew. I think we are all fighting slugs and snails.    Some of these bio packs of granules really do not seem to work for me - the snails carry on regardless!

  Thank you to so many for your input in this report.  I have tried to take an overview of everyone's planting and harvesting but of course this is really just a snapshot so please don't be offended if I have not mentioned all the things you grow.  We are a very industrious group I think and there is an excellent amount of produce out there.   Perhaps next month we shall be set free and can talk around the table with a cup of tea and cake!


  Artichokes are ready and beautiful this year. Leonie Mercier is delighted with her crop and so is Carelle Sherwood - see photos from both.

  Joy’s peas and broad beans are being gathered now daily and are a great success.

  Chard and Spinach are being harvested: Helen Gray has been eating delicious Swiss Chard and so has Carelle who sends a photo.

  Herbs are being grown and harvested by lots of you: Helen has rocket, parsley and thyme as has Carelle with coriander, dill, etc. - 

  Plenty of you have lettuces and radishes to pick now as well.

  Rhubarb: This seems to be a popular fruit.  Several of you report good pickings, including Richard Evans, Martin Garfoot and Carelle but I know lots of you grow this with success.

  • Soft Fruit

  Strawberries seem to be ready for Meryl though slugs are having a good meal and Joy’s tayberries are forming - lots of blossom . 

  Lucy is disappointed with her gooseberries, but she has good strawberries and currants.

  • Potatoes

  Martin's Agata and Rosabelle potatoes are coming along nicely and Meryl's potatoes are bushing up whilst Lucy Sheppard says hers have gone into overdrive! Cilla has started earthing up and Helen Gray's potatoes are poking their heads out of the soil, so signs are pointing to an excellent crop for you all. Joy's haven't yet shown signs of life which is worrying: but I didn't chit them so they are taking their time.

  • Leeks and Onions

It is time to get the leeks in and several of you have done so. Meryl, Carelle and Martin report good looking produce but Lucy says her spring onions haven't germinated. I had that problem last year - it seems they are fickle. Martins onions are doing well as are Cilla's.

  • Tomatoes

  We all love to grow tomatoes and whether it is from seed or bought seedlings they do well. With an absence of seed packets Helen G. scooped out the seeds from a shop bought tomato so we look forward to those results.

  There is always discussion as to when they should be planted out: the French firmly believe it should not be until after the Fete des Saintes Glacé around the 12/15th May, says Val.

  Cilla has planted Coeur de boeuf, Roma and Tutti frutti and Joy always loves to include the pineapple tomato - Ananas as well as Black Crimea.

  • Peppers and Aubergines and Courgettes

Meryl’s are settling in nicely as are Carelle’s. Joys are still in the cold frame as are Val's but will be ready to plant out soon. Val thinks she will have tomatoes, peppers and chillies to spare once we can travel again.

  • Curly Kale and Black Kale and cauliflower.

  Val has been keeping hers under cover to protect the seedlings. 

  Cilla reminds us that last year she found some ‘kalettes’ + and bought the plants back from UK. She says they were supposed to be little kales growing on a stalk like sprouts! She says they were disappointing and dry because of the very hot dry weather but she left them in and they turned into something amazing this year - a bit like sprouting broccoli; she has been eating them for 3 months!

  Joy has planted out her cauliflower which presently seems impervious to pests.

  • Beans

  Time to get those beans in! Cilla has planted out her runner beans and they look great.  I have put out my haricots verts from the cold frame and some are strong but others have succumbed to snails - despite the granules. My runner beans are still forming in the cold frame. 

  Cilla says she hasn't has a lot of success with them in the past but my experience is that they do well with a bit of rain and hate too much heat which I suppose is why we all eat them in the UK and they are less known in France.


  Carrots by Meryl, with beetroot, Rainbow Beet, Goldeneye and Red Beet being sown by Martin.


Lettuce: Sue Hicks has been growing lettuces but sends us a photo of one which is sorely eaten.  She wonders what you all think it is - have a look and let us know. It could be vine weevils or slugs perhaps? 

Fig Tree: Martin Garfoot has a fig tree which is not fruiting.  He wonders what the fix could be so have a look at his photo and tell me what you think.

  I think that is all I wanted to say: keep in touch all of you and if you have extra photos please email them to Jacquie using this address  

  Reards to everyone

      Joy Collett





Hello Everyone!

It certainly is a busy time in the garden right now: Spring has burst forth and there is so much to do: sowing, planting and harvesting as well as preparing the ground.

As promised, I have collated some news from those of you who took the trouble to send it in. I thank all of you for your emails and photographs.  It’s all very impressive. 

Looking briefly at my "Growing Something to Eat" I see that it’s time to harvest some of our vegetables planted last year which I mention below.   It’s the season for rhubarb, winter cauliflower, broccoli, rocket and kale.

Cilla Pickett, Meryl Evans and I have been picking our broccoli, kale, leeks and carrots and I have a very robust row of rocket which makes our salads all the tastier. Actually, I found several uses for the rocket including a chickpea hummus which has a bunch whizzed into it! 

It’s asparagus time and Carelle Sherwood sent in a great picture of her produce.  I know several of you have asparagus beds and Leonie Mercier has just planted one last month with 20 crowns which should keep the family fed.

In the Propagators

Val Ford sows plenty of seed and has included chilli, sweet pepper, basil cinnamon, coriander, Romanesco cauliflowers, curly kale, courgettes and micro sprouting seeds.  She includes photos of some very healthy looking plants. Carelle has butternut squash, Padron peppers and multi-coloured beetroot. Martin Garfoot is growing his butternut squash on the windowsill and Leonie has got tomato, courgettes and butternut squash seedlings on the go.  Those squashes seem very popular with lots of you.

Meryl has some heritage seeds from L.A. including Parisian carrots and Slim Jim aubergine which sound different and Helen Harrison says she has now got her seeds out of the shed so we look forward to hearing what she's sown!

In the Cold Frame

Carelle is hardening off her caveola nero and several different herbs.  Joy has lettuces and just put in haricot vert, courgette and aubergine seeds in her cold frame. I hope it’s not too early for some of those seeds without heat but I'm relying on that sunshine.

In the Ground

Potatoes: several of us have planted our potatoes.  Lucy Sheppard, Meryl, Leonie, Martin, Cilla and I have all got them in the ground: some earlies. Martin is also experimenting with a small pot of potato peelings. That will be interesting!

It’s also the time to put in the Onion sets.  Lucy, Martin and Cilla have planted theirs. Martin is growing white Sturon and Red Baron.

Those of you who planted broad beans and peas in November will now have robust flowering plants and I think mine will be ready to harvest within the month: they are looking good.

It’s not to late to plant a row of peas: Leonie has just done that.

Fruit Trees

Strawberries are in flower and Raspberries showing good green shoots. Leonie and Meryl have newly planted raspberry patches and Martin and I confirm some good growth. I have some loganberries and tayberries in blossom which grow against the S.E. wall of the house which suits them well.


This probably needs a section of its own because lots of you have named your varieties.

Val has grown Kelloggs which she finds large and very tasty. Also the blight free Crimson Crush which I notice has been recommended by my gardening guru Robin Lane Fox "On Gardens" in the FT. He also finds Moneymaker and Shirley to be reliable and top-class which I recollect were grown by some of you last year. And he mentions, too, the trendy purple brown Marron but I think we would have to buy seeds from the UK for those.

I think several of us feel we have missed the opportunity to buy plants with the lockdown we presently have.  Let us hope there will be some chances to either exchange or buy later on.


If you would, please let Martin know if you think garlic be grown from a supermarket bulb. Personally, I suspect you can but that it might not be French variety. He also asks what comments you have about growing mangetout?


With all of us being confined as we presently are, it’s great to swap information - even if we can't swap plants. Keep giving me your reports.  This one is instead of our meeting designated for this Tuesday, 31st March and the next meeting was to be on Tuesday, 28th April so please send me your photos and planting news in time for the April date, assuming that we won't be able to meet together.  

Please do all keep abreast of what we are doing and keep me up to date.

Happy Gardening everyone

Kind regards




  Meryl Evans hosted a lovely afternoon for the Vegetable Group on August 20th, at her home in Douzillac. We were a small group as at the last minute there were a few who were unable to come along but those present had plenty to tell us about and Carelle brought along baskets of her lovely produce to show and Joy had bags of greengages and plums to give away.

Overall, courgettes, tomatoes, leeks, beetroot, aubergines, peppers, carrots and squashes were the best vegetables for everyone. The soft fruit has not done so well for most of us: raspberries have found it too dry as have strawberries and blackcurrants. Most of us have had some fruit but its been inconsistent and there is probably a limit to how much watering can be done.

Lynda tried okra this year but they took up too much space for a small yield but had great success with all the vegetables mentioned above. Sue Hick had enjoyed success with most vegetables as above and is now harvesting swiss chard and planted some brassicas for the Autumn. Joy was disappointed with her French beans - again a lack of water - but the later runner beans are doing nicely and presently covered in red flowers. Potatoes are in the cellar and leeks being taken out now which means a run on vichyssoise soup!

Meryl showed us around her lovely garden and then we went into her potager where the tomatoes looked marvellous in every colour and climbing up their metal wigwams. Aubergines looked good as did peppers. She grows a courgette called courgette blanche which is a much paler green and very fine skinned.

For all of us with too many courgettes Carelle gave us an interesting recipe of a gratin:

  • In a baking dish cover the base with some pesto sauce
  • Slice courgettes and tomatoes alternately and add more sauce.
  • Repeat with another layer and then top with breadcrumbs and grated cheese.
  • Pop into the oven for half an hour and there you have it!

We all ate a wonderful tea afterwards and Meryl had made a delicious coffee and walnut cake. Many thanks to you Meryl for having us.

The next meeting will be at Lynda Creegan's home on Tuesday, 17th September.

Happy Gardening

Joy Collett

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 We had a very nice meeting here on Tuesday last. Several Vegetable Group members were unable to come along but there were enough of us to have plenty of discussion and a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

As always, each of us told of their successes and failures and general progress in the potager. Martin Garfoot has recently begun his and came armed with impressive photos of his planting: we shall be interested to visit some time!

Sheila Harris always has success with her asparagus and we talked a little more about that popular vegetable and how and when to plant it. She had also done well with red cabbage and beetroot, and her raspberries were looking good.

Cilla brought tomato plants for everyone as well as baby leeks to put in now. She has been growing something called Kalette - a baby kale but similar in growth to a Brussel sprout which fascinated all of us. Mascotte patio beans were recommended by her which can be grown in pots.

Helen Gray brought along a red cabbage which she was proud of because it had been left in the ground after harvesting and it has regrown into a perfect vegetable, as have others in her raised beds. Helen had great success last year with her onions and garlic but this year reports that the onions are shooting up with no growth in the bulb. Others had the same problem. We shall visit Helen next month and can see what she has been growing.

Lynda Creegan has a large area of land for growing, together with her polytunnel. It seems she grows everything from kale to purple sprouting broccoli to sweetcorn and squashes. Indeed we have seen her excellent potager last year and this year seems no different but we will visit in September. Everything seems to be doing nicely with the warm weather. Lynda brought seedlings and plants of a variety of vegetables for everyone to help themselves which was much appreciated.

Meryl Evans has decided to suppress weeds with matting. It will be an experiment for her but we recollect that Carelle Sherwood has done the same thing.

Meryl always plants tomatoes, aubergines and peppers, amongst other things, and later in the year we will visit her vegetable garden.

Joy then showed everyone around. Broad beans and peas were formed and should be ready in a week or so and potatoes were well up. Haricot beans are sown and tomato plants just put in. The soft fruits of raspberries, tayberries and loganberries are also formed and looking very promising.

We finished off with tea under the auvent and were delighted to have a sunny afternoon together.

Happy Gardening

Joy Collett


First meeting Tuesday, 26th February


  The Veggie Group had the first meeting of the year at the home of Cilla Pickett yesterday, Tuesday, 26th February. 

  We had a good gathering, including two new members to the Group and received apologies from several of our regular members who will hopefully be able to attend the next meeting.

  We sat in the sunshine on Cilla's terrace and poured over our packets of seeds. As usual, each person present was able to give an account of what had been successful last year and what the plan for planting is now.

  Those of us who had planted broad beans and peas in November were delighted to report some good growth. It was mostly agreed that for such vegetables as beans and peas it is as well to choose a local French variety although with the French beans and runner beans most of those present were happy to grow familiar names - like Mascot, Purple Queen, Melissa, etc. The runner beans were grown by some of us but don't really do well in the heat and need to be watered regularly to get good results. Rosemary Robinson is going to try a white flowered variety which is supposedly more heat tolerant. Val Ford was able to show us some french beans that she had put in her propagator and were already growing.

  There were also members who had planted garlic and onions earlier and I think it is still possible to put these in if you want a crop this year. 

  Lynda Creegan was harvesting her kale and we talked about the different brassicas.

  Tomatoes are always popular with everyone as they do so well here. We agreed that the easiest way was to buy the plants at the end of April or beginning of May. There is an enormous variety to be bought here.   Some of the favourites were Roma, Coeur de Boeuf, Annanas - the yellow pineapple tomato, and the Crimean Black. 

 Moneymaker, Shirley, Windowbox Yellow, Gardeners Delight - a prolific cherry tomato - were all mentioned as well loved. 

  Sandie Dearlove told us she had had great success in growing tomatoes in straw bales. It sounded fascinating. One must treat the bales with fertiliser and then remove straw to make a hole for the plant which is then filled with compost and the plant watered well in.

  Peter Robinson had the idea that our Vegetable Group should grow vegetables suitable for making a dish for the many Bring and Share Lunches we attend. He quite rightly felt that dishes of vegetables would enhance a buffet table so we must bear this in mind for the Summer months.

  Finally we discussed herbs. Debbie Williams is keen to make a herb garden and we talked about the different herbs available. One tip for coriander was to plant it facing North and put it in the shade. I think that was new to all of us and was gleaned from a French bio producer in the market!

  Our meeting ended with a wonderful tea and Cilla had made some delicious cakes.

  The next meeting will be on TUESDAY APRIL 30th and will be at the home of Joy Collett in St. Romain. A reminder will be sent but do please make a note of the date.

    Joy Collett