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Being from the city, we were not brought up with any gardening skills or experience. But after living in the countryside for a while it started to grow on me. What was the secret behind all those happy gardeners I saw, working their vegetable plots? They all seemed so contented and at ease. So, I set of to the local bookshop to find some beautiful books explaining it all. I found one about square meter raised bed gardening, which looked like a safe place to start. First we planted a few cherry, apple, nectarine, pear, plum and walnut trees in the upper part of the garden to make an orchard. I hadn’t expected anything much from this as the trees were still small, but was rewarded with quite a lot of produce.

Then I put up four wooden frames to make 4 square meters and started planting.
And it is true. There is no end to my happiness when I see the plants thriving and blossoming in the lovely French weather. Suddenly everything seemed possible and I started to plant the most exotic things, going completely overboard. It all went well until I discovered pearl like ball under the cabbage leave. Quite pretty really, but they turned out to be butterfly eggs, soon to become caterpillars. I rigorously eradicated all cabbage like vegetables to avoid having to use pesticides.

The first year was quite successful. In the morning I tended to the vegetable ‘squares’ to take out some weeds and water or lead up the stalks. And in the afternoon I could pick enough to feed our own family every day. The time had come to expand. We wanted our guests to enjoy the fresh, tasty vegetables as well.

I learned a lot from Jeff Ball’s little movie on ‘raised bed gardening’. We had a digger come in and a mason constructed two raised beds, 12 square meters in total, with automatic irrigation. This prevents bugs and fungi getting into the plants.

It is now November and I have just picked the last courgettes, although the butternuts are still doing fine. We can look back on an impressive harvest, which we could share with the wonderful guests we had this summer. Our elderly French neighbour taught me how to sterilize and vacuum preservation jars so we could save the excess for wintertime. Our pantry is now well stacked with soups, sauces, chutneys and jams, and I learned so much.

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