It’s been a big week for me since I up and moved to Paris for the semester. As excited as I’ve been for this, there’s been a part of me that is a little worried I’ll lose the lovely gardening habit I’ve built during the summer for lack of practice. This blog was actually made so that I would force myself to go out into this big urban city and find it’s agricultural heart.
Before I even began looking, the gardens were presented to me. As Casey, Leah and I walked through the 10th arrondissement, we passed a cute park by l’Eglise Saint Laurent that we quickly realized was a community garden!
(31 août, 2014- Leah in the garden)
For a big city, the spaces in which people were allowed to plant were quite big. I also did not see any specific rules or big signs (as I saw elsewhere) about it being part of the community. I think, this must be part of the church that belongs to the community as well but not to any few specific people by area. But the boxes were very well kept and creatively built!
(31 août, 2014- smaller beds with bright markers)
(31 août, 2014- Flourishing tomato garden)
(31 août, 2014- Long colorful spiral!)
But it wasn’t just the beds that were well decorated! The whole park was filled with wonderful art pieces, and even some bad ass feminist graffiti. From the steps around the garden, to the walls of the tool shed, the whole place felt like a wonderland rather than an inner city church garden.
(31 août, 2014 - “La conscience de homme est l’energie de l’amour qui sort de sa partie virtuelle qu’il ignore toujours. Quelquechose comme ça.”)
(31 août, 2014- “Leur realisme est un chaos, asons nos utopies, asons nos ‘Rêvolutions’” “On nous méprise tellement… et pourtant on est si precieux, si fragiles, si uniques”)
(31 août, 2014- awesome pyramid and the colorful stepping stone/wooden squares)
(31 août, 2014- Interesting tree statue made of the same wooden pieces as the steps)
(31 août, 2014- compost bins!)
The great part about this garden was how comprehensive it was. It was very clearly a learning space. The tool shed held so many different things, there were a ton of different areas, and there was a solid amount of space to walk and observe. There was a non-pictured sitting space by the shed that circled a tree where several adults were coming together. I didn’t want to bother what seemed like a meeting so I don’t know why they had gathered but it seemed like someone was teaching them. There was even a rather large compost bin (pictured above) that was split into two bins, which is a pretty large scale operation!
Later in the day, just before I was whisked away by a taxi to meet my lovely host family, the same friends and I spotted a green looking spot at the end of the block from the hotel in the south of the 11th. We decided it might be nice to sit in a park for a bit and walked over. As we got there we discovered yet another community garden. This one seemed a bit more traditional, though it was far smaller.
I met a lovely woman there who was working on her own garden there and who turned out to be american and she explained to me the whole deal with this place. It was a jardin pour le quartier, so anyone from the neighborhood could sign up for a spot, get a rather small section of space, and a key. The garden was only open when a gardener was there, but they were required to keep the door open to the public while they were around. It was a lovely place, with a large amount of seating as well for my future days (since its a quick walk away from the center I’m taking classes at) of studying or bringing a lunch from home.
Though far less colorful, it felt like a whole new type of paradise. One filled to the brim with fruits and flowers and veggies. They also had a compost bin, though it was much smaller. One of the cutest things I found was a few shoes used as pots (picture below). I’m putting money on my mom messaging me about how cute it is the second she sees it (especially after I write this)!
Well that’s about it on the gardening in Paris front. I’m going to look into whether or not theres one like the last one in my quartier!
(31 août- community garden in the 11th)
(31 août, no garden is complete without some tomatos!)
(31 août - Casey and Leah smell some lavender)
(31 août- shoe garden)
So clearly I’ve been terrible at keeping up with this blog but I’m still going to keep trying for this whole post camp life. I ended up not keeping a computer with me during the summer but now I have one all the time?
This summer was a wonderful time for gardening and the whole process. I really got to watch things grow a lot, the deer didn’t attack and I built a whole new bed from scratch and learned how to make cement!
Here’s a picture of the last day of the beds, about two months after planting!
Let’s go through it bed by bed, because I already made the pictures so why not!
This is the first bed, our three sisters bed. A three sisters bed has corn, beans and squash. The bed on the right is it about two weeks into its growth. The corn grew really well, and I discovered the joy of watching corn grow. Little pink tufts of hair stuff comes out, and all of a sudden theres what you can easily tell is an ear of corn growing off the side of the main stalk. For some reason, the squash didn’t grow well at all but getting to pick snap peas whenever I wanted was great!
This is the leafy greens bed. You can see two weeks in that these seeded greens were barely around and then BOOM. So many little lettuce leaves, great looking chard and a ton of kale! The best part fo this bed is that basically everything was edible and kids loved hanging around it.
Unfortunately, lettuce is not really meant to grow in the summer, since it gets really hot. The lettuce tried to bolt (get tall, give out its seeds and then die) a lot, and the leaves were really bitter. But kids loved eating it anyway.
The sweet bed was my personal favorite. There were three tomato plants (until the biggest one got eaten by a deer mostly), three basil plants, some seeded sunflowers, strawberries (that never grew berries) and stevia.
The tomatoes didn’t start growing until about a week before we left so I didn’t get to pick any but it was really fun to watch and the trellising was a great learning experience.
The most popular part of this bed was the stevia. Kids loved learning about the super sweet plant and loved eating it more. The campers who signed up to garden every day discovered a wonderful stevia treat. Grab a stevia leaf, grab a mint leaf, roll them up and chew. It tastes just like gum. It was a bit much for me, but they loved it.
I think I’ll write deeper things on the three sisters bed as well as the stevia so keep an eye out. Also I’ll be building a bed at my new house before I head out of the country for the semester <3
Water is important and we should do what we can to conserve it, especially if you live in California. Leaves and flowers do not need water! Make sure you get as much water as possible as close to the bottom of the stem (and make sure its not flowing away from the plant)! It’ll get down to the roots where it really needs the water.
For the moment, I’m just gonna be posting about things I’ve been doing over the last year in gardening. I think its important that if you should stumble upon this blog that there be some solid content before I go into a one a week or so posting schedule for a while. So in the spirit of my other posts, here we go.
One of the first things I did when I came back from being and untrained “garden specialist” at my summer camp was build my mom a garden. We had had a space that we used to garden in when I was little. There was an orange tree (that we kept), some dying roses, a giant and past its prime rosemary bush and a lot of barely alive strawberry and mint plants. My mom wanted a garden, but could not get past finally taking out all that was there.
But her birthday falls at the end of August, after camp, before school, so I knew what to get her. Well, it wasn’t so much get as give. I sat her down and we worked out what we were going to do to this garden. We ended up taking everything out (the dying roses took convincing) and went to work on the really compacted soil.
We bought tomatoes, cilantro, squash, chives, basil… And planted!
For the last year, my mom has gotten so into gardening. She has changed out some of the plants that died during the winter, bought new tomatoes and squash and has been really good about the garden.
A lesson to be learned here, water is important. My mom had beans that died because they got very little water, and while she almost stopped planting there, my dad fixed the sprinklers to make sure the whole place got water more evenly. And when he did this (and I pulled off half its size in dead leaves) the chives came back to their full strength, us not having realized they weren’t!
So here’s some pictures of the garden a year later. It’s not too much bigger but its also early in the season.
(tomatoes, June 2014)
Last year I worked as the garden specialist though I was anything but a specialist. So I took my experience with me and thought I’d make a garden at my apartment. This would be the first time that I had an apartment to garden in, but also that I would be taking my practice outside of somewhere where it was part of my job.
(early September, 2013)
At first, it went pretty swell. I planted too close together and had to move some plants around but they grew really well. The first thing to go was the chives. Aphids took over the whole damn thing and I had no way of getting rid of them.
The cucumbers started getting big, here its a tiny lil thang. They grew quick too. Note to future self and anyone who is growing cucumbers, you can trellis them and grow them upward, but just give them something to keep em steady. I also added mint.
(late September, 2013)
As the semester went on, my garden continued to look the same. My cucumbers spread out and attached themselves to my basil and some bushes nearby. I even grew three cucumbers that I could actually eat!
(late October, 2013)
Lets be real, nothing is cooler than eating fruit you grew. I FUCKING GREW THAT. And then I ate it. Like, yes. But in that picture you can see how the vines were making their way around in the blurry background.
The biggest regret I have is that I now know how to prune the basil to make it nice and bushy and get like a shitton of basil instead of the sad sad excuse for basil I had.
BUT THE HARDEST PART- is watering. I’m terrible at making routine. Even when I’m sick, I can’t even remember to take my antibiotics on time. It’s a problem. So watering my plants was not my best attempt. I let those plants get to the brink of life and then pulled them back and all over again. I ended the year with a sad kale plant, brown mint and a few basil stems, but -and I’m not just saying this- when I had done such a terrible job in the months prior, I didn’t think they needed to be kept alive for the summer that I wouldn’t even be there.
In the end, I guess I have some advice for you beginning lazy college gardeners with little space:
- Make watering part of your schedule- keep it near your sink, do it before class or when you get back (when the sun is lower in the sky)
- Do the research on your plants in containers. There are blogs and tweets and articles and pins on how to grow in containers. Also, learning how to prune a basil plant can change how much you get and keep you motivated.
- Get creative. You don’t have much space, so learn how to use it well. Real talk, I only use Pinterest for my garden ideas.