Harvest Moon

Regain your childhood’s fun and treat yourself to a small herb and fruit-and-veg garden.

IIn my childhood, not only my parents, but also all my aunts and uncles grew fruit and veg in their gardens. I wasn’t that much into the veggies as a child, but cherries, strawberries, raspberries and pears were my favorites. It was magic: eating fruits directly from shrubs and trees, adorning yourself with “cherry-earrings”, pulling panicles of redcurrants through your teeth, making funny faces when eating unripe gooseberries and quickly throwing wormy plums over into the neighbor’s garden.

If you own a garden on the Côte d’Azur and if you have a little space left, then indulge yourself with a small fruit-and-veg-garden and regain your childhood’s fun.

Whoever cultivates fruit and vegetables herself, becomes part of a larger creative process and revives her harmony with nature. Everyone who has once fetched intensively tasty cherry tomatoes from her own garden, knows what I am talking about. The reward for a little effort cannot be rated with money alone and therefore it make us happy – and a little proud even, maybe.

Get going – here come 7 simple steps to creating a beautiful fruit and veg garden.

Step 1:

Plan an automatic micro-drip irrigation system right from the start – you can only go without it if you live down here and if you’re absolutely crazy about watering every day. Without a carefully scheduled irrigation your fruit and veg garden will stay measly. If you already own a system, an extension may be necessary, if not maybe think about a state of the art model that can be managed over the Internet if you are not at home.

Step 2:

Don’t choose just any vegetable and any fruit for your „potager“ but grow what you really love to cook with. If you don’t love artichokes, don’t plant them. If you adore tomatoes then think about planting multiple varieties (e.g. Coeur de Boeuf, Green Zebra or Divina) and enjoy the subtle differences. Plant those fruit types that you like to eat and get some expert’s advice on choosing the right spot. Avocados and lemons need heat and sun to thrive, delicate raspberries and sorrel on the other hand will welcome some dappled shade.

Step 3:

Please don’t try growing fruit and vegetables in “normal” provençal soil (soaked and washed-out in winter and baked to stone in summers). That won’t work, seriously. Two magic words: raised beds and/or compost. A raised bed doesn’t have to be high, 30cm can be enough. A higher one will be much more comfortable for your back though, and you can fit more compost in it as well. Your raised bed can be built from natural stones, or simply put together from wood planks. If you plant your green friends in pure, fluffy compost your plants will establish themselves thankfully and bring joy to you quickly.

Step 4:

Make use of the enormous advantage of having your own garden and get your fruit and veg 100% toxic-free. Save money, let chemicals untouched and trust in mother nature’s wisdom. Biological pest control and mixed cultivation are proved means for a good harvest and healthy plants. Then you can go straight into your garden, pick something and bite right in.

Step 5:

All woody plants, especially fruit trees need proper pruning not just chopping. For healthy plants and good results, fruit trees should be kept rather short and opened up on the inside. Not only will the sun reach the tree’s center, it will be easier to pick the fruit and you can also check on the plant’s health much easier.

Step 6:

Make use of your luck of living in the south and plant what likes to grow here: almonds, apricots, figs, vines, thyme, oregano, sage, lavender, rosemary, basil and rock samphire. Plant an avocado tree; just recently I saw a fully matured specimen in Mougins that was almost bursting from an enormous amount of fruit. You certainly know how incomparable figs taste when they come straight from the tree. Plant vines, you won’t regret it – and why not try a kiwi tree? Please plant at least two trees for most fruit types to have a chance for successful pollination, it’s definitely worth it!

Step 7:

Please don’t think of me as my own grandma now, but: make use of your wonderful vegetables and your beautiful fruits. It doesn’t have to be the old boring jelly, try something new: a modern tomato jam e.g. that goes perfectly with cheese, or a chutney from pumpkin and zucchini. For a good confit from shallots or figs your guests will build you a stairway into the heavens. Preserved pears are great in winter with venison or chocolate cake. You surely must know how wonderful it is to open up your handmade treasures while outside winter storms are raging. You will never want to miss this feeling again.

Planting yourself, harvesting yourself, that also is a piece of independence. Coming home from Monaco or Nice in the evening, and all shops are closed. It’s definitely too late to go out for dinner. But here’s our garden, we quickly pick some tomatoes and some basil. Good olive oil, shallots, garlic and some pasta are always present and before you notice, the tastiest of tomato sauces is simmering in the pan and we can hardly grasp how heavenly it tastes.