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The Grumpy Gardener - August

Hints & Tips With Mike Alexander
In this part of the French News Online "Lifestyle" Section, professional gardener Mike Alexander, takes us, gently, through those tasks you should be tackling in the garden this month.

Mix veggies and flowers together

I'm Now a Potager Person

For years I was not a great fan of vegetable gardening.

I think because of being forced to memorize successions of lettuces and potential pest problems on peas, when I first started studying. The more showy design side of horticulture held much more appeal to me. Since moving to France however veg production has really grown on me and I now find it to be one of the most rewarding parts of my work here. I have also begun to find that a well tended potager with it's tight military rows of lush green plants can be very visually rewarding. Food production in the garden is terribly in vogue at the moment and I hope that this has not influenced my thinking too much, as I try to avoid following the ever changing trends in gardening that come around each year… like cat walk fashions or new mobile phones.

I think there are two sides of the potager that really attract me. One is the quick reward of growing annual plants which appeals to my lack of patience and the other is of course the delight in sitting down to a meal produced almost entirely from my own sweaty endeavours. I have still to see any significant financial advantage over just buying from the local market, but there are rewards in life that cannot be weighed purely in financial terms and home food production is one of them. What is more if you are prepared to move away from the conventional a little then for a few months of each year you can create something of real beauty, by combining flowering plants within the veg patch or visa versa.

Lilium Fox Fire
Your plants would benefit from a potassium boost

By August flowering and fruit producing plants will start to need a boost of potassium and the way I like to do this is by using an ancient mix of what the French call purée d'orti.

nettles make great fertilizer
Grasp the nettle - get your own back

Purée d'Orti
This is a home made liquid fertilizer that I always have on the go, using simply nettles and water that I allow to ferment for about a month. Find a large plastic container, a cheap plastic rubbish bin works perfectly, half fill it with nettles and then top it up with water. After a few weeks the concoction will turn into a nutrient rich soup which plants love. Just mix it at about ten to one in a watering can and then water plants with it once a week. I use it on heavy feeders such as tomatoes and peppers as well as dahlias and lily's. In fact most garden plants at this time of the year will be grateful for the nutrient boost, but beware! The smell given off by this plant cocktail is pretty appalling and if you get any on yourself, your own mother won't let you in the house. I am not a purist, so if the thought of having such a pungent mix is too much for you, then you can always go down the more expensive chemical fertilizer route, but hard core greenies will hate you.

Previously - click an image below
To read February's gardening tips article - click this image
Is a world without bees possible? Read about this crisis that will affect us all - click here
Prune for Results
A World Without Bees?
What you should have done in January!
Prune your roses - click here
Fruit Tree Pruning
Wars of the Roses
Grumpy Gardener April - It's War Out There. Click to view
Click to read this article
Prune When Finished
Herald of Spring...
click to read Grumpy's july  tips
You've got to be quick!
Un-thirsty Lavender
To pop up a previous article click an image

Grumpy Gardener
Our Grumpy Gardener has been gardening professionally in France for more years than he cares to remember and before that in Africa and the UK. Today he happily shares his expertise with French News Online readers. Your gardening questions are welcome and while they may not be individually answered, they may form the basis of future monthly columns.

Article: Mike Alexander
August 2011

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