Jardin Potagier

Jardin Plan

(click diagram for larger version)

Above you will find a diagram of the schematic for our garden. (I made it in AppleWorks and the original file has grid lines that make it easy to pinpoint exactly where each plant should be placed.) The plot is 4m x 9m. The sizes of the circles are based on the (within row) spacing suggested for each plant on its seed packet. Thus, this approximates the amount of space needed for each plant. (The zucchini and Brandywine circles are 90 cm, or about 3′.)

I’ve put a row of beets in between two rows of sweet corn since the beets are said to prefer half-sun to full sun. A row of soybeans flanking each row of corn to provide a bit of extra free N. In this diagram, north is at the top, so the sun will go across more or less from right to left. The less water-needy crops (zucchini, sweet potato, tepary beans) are bunched on the left. The onions were left behind by the previous tenant of our plot and I haven’t thought about what to put there after they’re gone. Maybe a nice French squash or some collards. Maybe both.

I’m planting 10 corn and 10 soybean side by side every week or so and planting the beets in three batches about 3 weeks apart. Tomatoes and chiles were started inside at the end of March and are likely to go in the ground this wkd. Maybe I’ll wait another week on the chiles, which are coming along slower. I’ve got sweet potato slips that I sprouted from a couple sweet potatoes that I bought at Carrefour. (I think they came from Israel — certainly not from France.) Those will prolly be ready to put in the ground in a week or two. Okra and basil prolly last to go in. With any luck I won’t have the fire ant problems in my okra that I always had in Georgia.

I’m starting my corn under plastic water-bottles with the bottoms cut off to give them extra heat and humidity until they’re big enough to deal with the real world (i.e. until the weather is unequivocally warm). So far, so good. I need to keep saving bottles so I can do the same for the soybeans, if only to protect the young sprouts from slugs. Will prolly start everything else that is directly sown this way, but I’m still collecting bottles. Two-liter coke bottles would be even better but we don’t drink much coke.

I’m also sowing most seeds in the middle of cut sections (~8-10 cm) of water-bottle embedded in the ground. This keeps the water close to the seed(ling) and away from weed seeds. Also forces the water to sink straight down instead of spreading at the surface, which should encourage the roots to go deep and prevent lodging. Also reduces the amount of water needed by focusing it around the plant. I’ll prolly take these out once the plants are established, if it’s not too much of a pain in the ass.

My main worry is that I’m not allowing enough space and the plants will be too crowded in. We’ll see. The bottom line for me, tho, is that with a small (36 m^2) vegetable garden, there’s no reason to do anything as haphazard as sow willy-nilly in rows and then thin. The space is small enough to by precise and therefore to fill every cranny while pampering the plants and taking precautions vs. weeds & herbivores. We’ll see.

The first batch of corn is already starting to push at the tops of their mini-greenhouses, altho the beets are taking their sweet time. Soybeans are also a tad slow. Looking forward to putting the tomatoes and chiles in the ground this wkd.



6 thoughts on “Jardin Potagier

  1. If anything, I think you may have over spaced things, but that’s OK if you’re willing to keep those spaces free of weeds (by mulching or weeding). I am wondering why there is different spacing for the different tomatos — aren’t they all indeterminate? If so, three foot (90cm if you must) spacing should be fine for all of them — I use a tripod teepee of six foot stakes to hold three tomatoes — it also works great for six climbing beans or six climing cukes.

    And when you get time, I’d love to see pix of what a garden at 45degrees latitude looks like in Montpellier. Also — is this a community garden? Near your house or your office?


  2. Clearly, the gardening gene leaped over me to my sons.
    And I haven’t heard of avid gardening exploits from my siblings, either.


  3. I figured on a tripod of giant reed canes for each tomato plant. Frankly, we’re going to have enough tomatos to not need multiple plants on each tripod. The tomato varieties had different spacings given on the seed packets and thus the different-sized circles. We’ll see how it works out.

    It is a community garden in a village next to the lab. Vineyards nearby and a nice view of the Pic St. Loup. My plot’s previous steward was a colleague at the lab who has just retired and will move to Vienna in a month to be closer to his extended family, so I got into the garden through him. First garden picnic is next Saturday and I’ll take some pics then.

    Gardening for me is part of an overall rejection of the cut-throat corporate American culture that I grew up in. It’s a small and personal gesture, to be sure, but tending to my garden instills a sense of independence from all that I find wanting in the world around me. I suspect that my sibling, whose garden is much bigger and more productive and whose overall lifestyle appears to be much more geared to this sort of independent feeling, can relate. Perhaps it seems a bit of a reach to turn something as simple and universal as a vegetable garden into a political statement but that’s what’s at the core of it for me. I also suspect that the gene that triggered this may have manifested itself in my old man’s generation in the urge to get the hell out of Ohio. But maybe that’s a different gene.

    I also wanted to have a garden here to grow the summer vegetables of my youth (particularly sweet corn) that are not available here in the shadow of Pic St. Loup.


  4. Looks like a great garden in the making. Don’t you fellas remember when the 3 of us had the community garden in Newton? We’d ride our bikes there and toil only to share most of the produce with the deer, rabbits & racoons. Surely that was me developing the gardening gene you both got from me!
    I’m only sorry I can’t share in the bounty from your gardens. B, what kinds of animals are nibbling in France? I look forward to many photos.


  5. I cant get my grass to grow…a garden is (perhaps) out of the question. I’ll buy my tomatoes at the farmers market. Good for all U agronomy guys.


  6. Actually, I don’t get no high fallutin’ notions of “rejecting corporate America” or “sense of independence” when I garden. I garden because I’m cheap, but I like to eat well, and I’ve got the land. I must say that I do enjoy it as well, so that makes it easier to do when the black flies are biting. Most food tastes best when it has been just harvested, and I love being able to cook dishes that I would have to travel to Boston or NYC or SF and pay an arm and a leg for at a fancy restaurant. Perhaps being cheap is a kind of rejection of The Man, and not spending money to feed us provides the “independence” thing, but I never really get that deep into it.


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