IMG_6186I’ve been in the trenches. Literally.

I’ve been thinking about how to be a better steward of our environment, at least the part I have some control over: our yard. My first thought: Lawns are crazy.P1100308Our grass usually turns golden brown by early July and stays that way until October. We don’t water it because water is a scarce commodity around here. Anyway, much of it is weeds. I pull and pull, but once the ground dries, it’s like concrete and nothing is coming out of it.

The view from the outdoor dining table. 

What do they say about insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and thinking it will turn out differently? Lawns like that.

More luck with strawberries in pots, where the ants don’t eat everything.

We don’t have a big lawn, mind you. And there was a period where the bits of grass got plenty of use by our kid and friends. But the swings are gone from the swing set, to be replaced by a hammock, which we have, but since nobody sets foot in the backyard, we haven’t hung it.

Fruitful palm trees. 

There’s a strip where we grow herbs and cherry tomatoes. It’s next to the swing set, with the idea of being a snacking garden for our kid. We wanted our kid to actually pick food off a vine (we also have raspberries and strawberries). It worked. The tomatoes produce right up until Christmas. Not a ton, but I do find it amazing to pick tomatoes in December.IMG_6189We planted some fruit trees, too–apricot, cherry and fig. The fig actually was growing wild in the yard. The apricot tree gave us huge bounties year after year, but last year and this year have not been good. And the cherries are for the birds. That’s OK.

When the ground was still soft from spring rains, I started digging a trench for compost. The soil here is very argile, or clay, and I wanted to add organic material. I experimented over winter/spring in the tomato bed, and the compost broke down in about a month. I was delighted, and the tomatoes seem similarly happy.

This part is done. Lots of oleander, that, now that it’s established, is very drought-resistant and full of color all summer long. No grass!

The idea of composting is such a no-brainer. Rather than throw away something that will create climate-destroying methane gas, it’s so much better to turn it into healthy soil. Some places burn municipal trash to generate electricity, but wet food waste can make it burn less efficiently. Plus, how many times had we gone to the garden center to buy huge sacks of decent dirt? Talk about crazy.

Note the gigantic rocks.

Now the trench is nearly full. (I took the opportunity to pull some huge stones out of the ground, too–they are getting a new life as a border.) Later, when the human food has turned into plant food, that strip will be filled with drought-resistant perennials that will please the bees and butterflies and birds. Nothing is planted at this time of year–the garden centers are nearly empty. It’s just too hot and dry.

Eventually, I might do another trench on a new area of grass. The goal is to eventually just have parterres with gravel paths and no grass at all. And also, eventually, a potager with more than just cherry tomatoes.

More mulch = more blooms.

The trash-collection company offers composters for €15. I need to order one to do regular composting. We have a mounting leaf pile to prepare a stock of brown material to balance out the wet kitchen scraps. I also spread crushed dry leaves as mulch around plants, including in pots, to help retain moisture, and it seems to have helped. I spread leaves around the raspberries to keep the weeds down, which has worked like a charm and has also kept the raspberries from wilting. I then did the same around the fruit trees.   The Carnivore was skeptical at first, but  the leaf mulch didn’t blow away. Now even he is sweeping up the leaves from the terrace and dumping them on the leaf pile. How crazy it was to bag them and dirty the car to haul them to the dump!

Garden buddy.

What about you? Do you garden? Do you enjoy it? Do you compost? Any tips?



39 thoughts on “Le Jardin Chez Nous

  1. We use opened up paper grocery bags and newspaper as a barrier around plants and cover with straw. Helps with weed control and conserves water. Also be careful as to where you plant oleanders, I’ve heard they are poisonous.

    Liked by 1 person

          1. I previously lived in San Diego, and Oleanders (Laurier Rose) are planted in the center of the freeways (the meridian) throughout SC, and I view them as “freeway plants” along with Agapathus and Carpobrotus (we call it ice plant, I think another name for it is hottentot fig). It took me a while to embrace Laurier Rose. So yes, no fuss. Once I got over my serious prejudice, I decided to like them…….
            bonnie in provence (with a lot of laurier rose on the property)

            Liked by 1 person

  2. As a Master Gardener, we encourage more natural remedies for the garden. Personally, I just started using leaf mulch a few years ago- works well and feeds the soil. With all the trees on our acreage, it makes sense to put it to use.
    Struggling to turn my herb garden into a potager. Removing plants bit by bit. If it’s not super hot and dry, it’s torrents of rain, encouraging the weeds before I can get to it. Almost to the point of simply tilling it all under, regardless of what I lose. We’ve had two nasty seasons for gardening lately.
    As far as the lawn is concerned- I do go crazy in the spring removing dandelions so they don’t blow seeds into the flower gardens. Like you, I would LOVE paths through my flower gardens- NO lawn, particularly in the front of the property. Bit by bit, I enlarge the gardens’ perimeters each year but, I’m getting too old for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gardening is such a pleasure. It can also be an art form. I think water is a huge issue and mulching really helps to protect and can feed the soil. It seems like magic to throw kitchen waste in our composter and get beautiful black soil out.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I heartily agree and would also dispense with “the lawn” but my husband loves having one. We also have very dry red clay soil riddled with rocks (some are bolders).

    My husband (the vegetarian) went through a great deal of trouble 5 years ago to have 8 inches of clay and rock removed with a pell and replaced with topsoil. All of this so he could reinstall our lawn. We haven’t had a shortage of water for 15 years so watering isn’t an issue. However, as our garden is only about 200msq, I’m constantly negotiating to increase the amount of space allotted to my potager, roses, and other perennials. The lawn does look great, even in the summer, and the soft expanse of green is easy in the eyes making our living area seem to float out into the yard.

    We have always composted both kitchen and garden but don’t have the advantage of fallen leaves. (Grass clippings compost very well however, even without the much needed dried waste.) Sometimes we do have surprises spring up from the garden spontaneously because the compose hasn’t totally destroyed the seeds from kitchen scraps. Two melon plants, two tomato, and two courgette took over the yard two summers ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The soil in my area is heavy red clay, and it bakes like yours. I found that I could amend it with composted stuff, and the result is quite friable. I just dumped compost makings into a covered bucket on the back deck, left it over a winter, et voila.
    Lawns are for people who have acres, and a herd of sheep to keep them trimmed. They’re also ecological disasters these days.
    No lizards like your little cutie, but this summer I’ve several times seen good-sized salamanders.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your garden looks amazing! My husband likes having some lawn, but I keep slowly encroaching on it with various paths and beds. We too have clay soil. Some areas are still pretty bad, but over the years I’ve regularly added compost to some portions and it’s done wonders. As far as compost tips, just toss stuff in and wait is my method. Try to avoid throwing in anything that might be invasive since even the tiniest scrap might take root.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I really look forward to making compost. WIn-win-win.
      I almost choked when I read that the garden looks amazing, but actually, part of it does. And thank you for the compliment. We just have to fix the other part.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. That snacking garden is brilliant! What memories are being made there! We have a camp-like lot where shade from mature trees means the grass doesn’t grow well in spots. I much prefer this imperfect campy yard over the pristine lawn we left behind. I like the IDEA of gardening. Give me trees, a few boxwood, a couple of containers of blooms, and a bunch of pea gravel. I enjoy pulling weeds from the gravel…quiets the monkey mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the idea of gardening pleases me more than the actual act. But that’s why I’m going for perennials. Your campground sounds lovely, and I bet some excellent memories were made there, too.


  8. I try to be conscientious about my environment. In the garden I plant to attract butterflies and bees and am still experimenting. Weeding is a continuous job and I must confess to tiring of doing it again and again.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Mulching is top in this area, I’ve been using a row of dahlias for many years, and that part has the best soil in my whole garden! 🙂 Incidentally, dahlias do really well here, the tubers don’t need lifting in the winter, and because of our weather they start flowering very early!
    Most of my garden is a potager, not a lawn in sight, but weedy grass does try and grow, especially on the paths!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ve five yellow plastic recycling sacs of old, wettish stripped wallpaper that has got to go. Is it proper recycling or ordinary waste that should be in a black bag ? Perhaps in the UK I’d have just set fire to it on the bonfire. As a Jour Férié today The Déchetterie is closed. I hate to ‘get it wrong’.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m in a climate like yours, same soil, etc., near Carpentras in Provence. The property is about 3000 square meters, part of it is driveway, pool, and an area under a huge pine that has grassy weeds that gets no water. There is a large area given over to my dry garden, which was inspired by Olivier Filippi (you can find him on line) and by my native plant garden in Southern California. It only gets water for the newly planted things during their first year, and if I see something wilting badly I will give it some water. The key is water deeply and infrequently. There is also a circular stone raised bed garden which is for perennial shrubs and plants, and herbs. It is a series of stone quarter circles, two deep. I built them out of whatever stone I could find, they are rustic. The plants in those beds are adapted to our area, but get watered once every 3-4 weeks. People are astonished that we water them so infrequently, but its all a matter of deep watering. We had to get a couple of truckloads of soil for those beds, which are about a foot high, and built directly on the native soil. There are some photos of it on my blog:, but don’t know if there is a current one as I am a very lazy blogger. We have things blooming now, in spite of the heat, and the garden looks good. We have a lot of calcaire, as do you, which is another factor of great importance when choosing plants.
    bonnie in provence

    Liked by 1 person

      1. OK, you are on the right trajectory. When you water, leave a slow stream for 20 minutes or more. This forces the roots to seek the water. Of course, it only works with plants that have the ability to root deeply. Forget about rhododenrons, azaleas, maples, dogwoods, etc., what we call ericaceous plants. They are adapted for acid soil (opposite of ours) and are shallow rooted. We inherited some of this type of plant, and moved them into shade and did a bit of soil amendment (I don’t like to do this), and most of them have survived. Poor things, not their fault they were badly chosen. The Japanese Dogwood is doing pretty well in a shady spot which gets more water, and I have a Japanese maple in a pot hoping for the best. I think I failed to mention that we have very cheap water from the Canal de Carpentras (conceived by Empress Eugenie, which was actually all she was able to conceive — which was to take advantage of all of the rivers coming down from Mont Ventoux to provide irrigation water) so we pay virtually nothing for irrigation water. We could have more thirsty plants but I am philosophically opposed…..
        bonnie in provence

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Gaura is a very reliable and pretty addition to gardens in the south of France. Its a hardy perennial, and I grew it in San Diego. The “ordinary” one has pinky white flowers on long curved stems, but there are dwarf varieties and much darker pink ones also. It self seeds readily and I let it come up anywhere that isn’t a problem.
        bonnie in provence

        Liked by 1 person

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