Notes from the IGC Vegetable Group Meeting

Held at the homes of Lucy Sheppard and Lynda Creegan - Tuesday 18th JULY 2017

   The first visit began with a welcome and tour of Lucy's garden, near Salles Lavallette.  Lucy has been working on the garden over the past 3 years since she moved in.  It has many beautiful flower beds and a very prolific vegetable plot.  The key challenges are the calcaire in the soil and the hills and slopes that make up the terrain.  Whilst a very peaceful and scenic spot, it makes for a constant battle to weed and tidy, keep the ground well hydrated and nutritious enough to encourage strong growth.  Despite this, Lucy has had great success this year with growing squash which has also surprised many of us with the abundance of large, green bumper produce which we are experiencing this season.  Other successes include courgettes, tomatoes and onions in particular.  Coriander had mixed success and the strange seed pods generated a lot of debate as they did not look like typical seed stock.  Some peach trees succumbed to Peach Leaf Curl and a debate about how to encourage healthy vines and plenty of grapes concluded that harsh pruning out of season, and regular thinning out during the growing season were useful to maximise success.
   The second part of the tour was at the home of Lynda Creegan.  Following our usual round table discussion and sharing of veg growing problems and handy tips, Lynda toured us around her vegetable plot and polytunnel.  Again she has had great success with squash, healthy courgettes, french beans, raspberries, rhubarb and tomatoes.  Sweet corn is strong and healthy, yet not quite ripe for picking.  A few greens in the polytunnel have been affected by pests, yet others at the side have been left healthy which is baffling.
   The group noted that despite the hot weather many were trying to focus watering vegetables on approximately twice per week giving them a thorough soaking.  Other than that, most of us have had a pretty good growing season so far despite some early disappointments due to a snap frost in April which killed off some tender plants.  There did not appear to be too many pest or diseases that were affecting the crop this year.
   Cooking tips included not needing to peel squash as oven roasting or boiling it for soup softens the skin, plus lots of interesting facts about bees and honey production, and the health benefits of honey, courtesy of Dermot.
   The members thank both Lucy & Barry, and Lynda & Dermot for allowing us to visit their lovely gardens, share many questions and mutual challenges about our vegetable growing, and for the delicious tea cakes and honey. 


The JUNE MEETING was in the week of the heatwave at John Mitchell's home near La Tour Blanche and a few members ventured out in the heat receiving a lovely welcome and a wander around his wonderful garden and vegetable plot.

May 23rd  held at Colombat.

Twelve members attended the second meeting of the year to discuss our plantings for the season.
Val was growing mangetout peas, etc and John came up with some interesting suggestions, making ‘lasagne’ beds for example using cardboard and grass cuttings. Also using grow bags for beans and butternut squash; he also sprays his fruit trees once a month with Bordeaux mixture.
Helen is growing an old fashioned white beetroot called ‘Thomas Etty’ and Lucy has had huge numbers of strawberries already plus pots.
Lynda has planted over 60 tomato plants and the same with her sweetcorn, using her goat manure to fertilise everything.
Julian sadly lost all his tomatoes in the late April frost, which affected a large number of people and their young plants. However Carelle was lucky as she had covered her young beans with fleece, which just saved them. These are the purple beans, which Joy gave us last year, and we are now enjoying eating them.
Apparently, mushroom compost is available, for 10€ a load near Perigueux, both Richard and John have collected this and have the details.
We had a tour of the garden and then tea and delicious cakes provided by Carelle to finish the afternoon.

Held at the home of Meryl Evans - Tuesday 22nd August 2017

The meeting began with a tour of the vegetable plot, near Douzillac.  Particular interest was paid to how the Perma-Culture beds have developed over the summer growing season, and the quality and yield of vegetables.  Meryl reported that the soil conditions and plot seem much better than previous efforts at St Astier.  The beds have been successful - helping to retain moisture and have generate a healthy and abundant crop.  Key vegetables grown this year were 5 types of peppers, white and purple aubergines, courgettes, various squash varieties, tomatoes, raspberries/blueberries, and rhubarb.  The challenges have been to water the plants in the perma beds in the early stages when they were young and not established (water easily ran off), and some soil erosion as the season became drier.  Despite this, they are deemed successful.
After the tour, the six members of the group had a round table discussion about their own successes and challenges.  these included: good results with spices and herbs - ginger, turmeric, garlic, horse radish and lemongrass, bumper yields with squash (many of us reporting they have grown super sized this year - including butternut, pumpkins and Turks Turban, in some cases with a bit of natural cross-fertilizing), red and white onions and garlic plus abundant Melissa beans, runner beans and peas, peppers and chillies and curly kale.
One of the group planted african marigolds and basil as companion plants which they felt kept flies at bay.  Tomatoes have been pretty rampant with successes across most varieties.  There has only been a little mildew reported (Green Zebra variety), but many good results with larger varieties such as Ananas, and equally with small/medium and cherry tomatoes.  Many of us noted that during the growing phase, some tomato skins were dark/black at the stem though this did not affect the quality or taste. 
Salad crops have fared well - some have grown rocket, parsley and basil in sacks using a basic mix of terreau and fumier which were good for retaining water, and keeping the crop compact.  Other growing methods include a greenhouse to establish the plants and keep down pests, or creating 'lasagne beds' by layering cardboard, paper, compost and soil to help with nutrients and watering.
Other tips included growing peas and beans ahead in the greenhouse or indoor pots to help them establish roots before mice and pests can attack young plants.  A discussion regarding what to do with excess squash and how to cook them concluded there is no need to peel the skins, and they can be roasted, made into soup, or used in long/slow cook dishes such as casseroles and tagines. 
The main challenges have been a little bit of mildew and black fly affecting some varieties of tomatoes, plus adequate watering.  However, the good news was that there have not been many instances of damage due to pests or diseases this season affecting our plants.
The meeting concluded with tea and cakes as usual!