01 July 2011

Thorns and rampant growth

Everything is growing fast, and even getting overgrown. After a busy month of traveling and hosting, and despite the dry weather, the vegetation all around the house is trying to take over. Blackberries, "escaped" grave vines, ivy, and other climbing plants are pushing through the wire mesh fence that separates us from a wooded area to the north. They are trying to take the fence down. Ivy, especially, is growing up all the tree trunks.

I spent one morning this week hacking away at all those vines and brambles. I wore gloves, but also short sleeves, and my arms are seriously scratched up. Just call me Votre Homme de l'Epine ("your man of the thorn"). Luckily, I was vaccinated a couple of months ago against tetanus and other diseases that one can catch through such garden cuts and scrapes. Walt mowed the grass yesterday, and he said brambles are also poking out of the tall bay laurel hedge on the opposite side of the yard. They were grabbing at his clothes as he passed close by. So there's another job for the thorn guy.

This peaceful view of a house near Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher
conceals a fierce struggle with wild plants
for control of the land.

Speaking of the big long hedge, it didn't get trimmed last year because we were busy with the attic conversion job. Now it's growing extra tall and thick. I hate to think how much work it is going to be to get it tamed again later this summer and fall. Such is life in the country, when you are trying to do the maintenance work yourself instead of paying somebody else to do it.

The daisies have opened up just in time for July.

Vegetation growing quickly and vigorously has a good side, let me add. The rains — still not nearly enough to end the drought — and the hot humid weather last week caused a nice growth spurt in the vegetable garden. There are many tomatoes (still green) on the vines, summer squash have started producing (stuffed squash was yesterday's lunch), and the corn is as high as an elephant's thigh (that's a slight exaggeration).

The sweet corn is green and growing.

My collard greens haven't done as well. In June they were attacked by a swarm of what looked like black aphids, which sucked the life out the tender young leaves at the center of each plant. I sprayed them with soapy water at least once, but it was too little, too late. The other day I pulled off a ton of big half-eaten leaves, weeded all around and under the remaining plants, and watered them well.

The collards have seen better days but
stand a good chance of recovering.

Only one collard plant was completely dead. I noticed many ladybugs out there, and they are slowly taking care of the aphids. I hope to get some more fresh growth on the collards in July. Fortunately, I had harvested a good batch of greens in early June, before the aphid hordes invaded. A French friend, a woman in her 80s who has gardened for decades near Saint-Aignan, said attacks on cabbage, beet, and bean plants by pucerons — aphids — are a recurring scourge in the region's gardens.

The flower on a carotte sauvage

Okay, out with the dog and then another morning of weeding, clipping, and pruning. Maybe I'll wear long sleeves this time. The weather has returned to normal for Saint-Aignan's summertime: low temperatures between 50º and 60ºF, and highs in the mid-70s. Sun. Puffy clouds. A slight breeze. Things could be worse.


  1. Love your daisies! I bet the greens didn't take to the days of high heat much. I hope they survive.

  2. Yes, the daisies are beautiful as is the wild carrot.

    They're forecasting 117 degrees for tomorrow and 115 in Palm Springs. :-)

  3. Ken, you've got Flea Beetle! They are ravaging our greens as well... some of the Black Tuscan leaves could do very nicely as flour shakers. If you have some Rhubarb take some of the leaf part [the bit you usually discard]- about that amount for a good helping of greens.
    Boil this up and strain off the dark browny-green liquid. This contains a lot of Oxalic Acid. Dilute the liquid for use with ten volumes of water and spray the greens. We know it as "Death to Flea Beetle" - it is an 'aulde' allotment recipe.

    Another method is to cover a piece of card with grease on both sides [saindoux/lard is good] and gently run a stick along the tops of the greens while holding the card very near the plants. Beetles jump and stick to grease... scrape grease onto a piece of paper, wrap well and bin!
    This only reduces the number of flea beetles though... and needs repeating often.
    Hope this helps....

  4. I like the view of "the" house. Are carotte sauvage real csrrots?

  5. I've been battling those pesky blackberries myself! The weather is turning warmer, now, and I have had to take 'breather' days inbetween the battle because my body (increased fatigue) just can't take it like other years ;-(

    Long-sleeve shirts, long pants, hat, gloves, protective goggles, - It's a riot to see me after using the string trimmer -I have polka-dots everywhere !!!

    BUT - no bruises, scrapes or cuts.
    Thanks for the reminder about a tetanus shot - I'll have to check and see if it's been 10 years since I've had one.

  6. Thanks Tim. I'll try the rhubarb treatment. I saw these coléoptères on Wikipedia, here, but don't have any experience of them. I didn't notice them hopping about on my greens, but then I didn't have a lot of time free for playing with them.

    Starman, yes, carottes sauvages are wild carrots. In the U.S. we call the flowers Queen Anne's Lace. Domesticated, garden-variety carrots, are descendents of the wild carrot.

    Diogenes, when you live in the desert, if you can't take the heat, well...

    Kristi and Evelyn, :^).


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