Visiting a permaculture garden

Huge. Just huge.

I needed a week to assemble my thoughts after my Sunday visit to Lisa and Antoine’s home. Mainly because they live so far away from mine. And also because there was a Pyrenees interlude in between.

First a holiday snap and then we can get on with the real stuff. Gardening.

Lisa and I have been friends for years. Four of them in fact. It started when she found my website and blog and contacted me about chestnut fencing. And we have been writing merrily to each other every week ever since. Details of our gardens, details of our lives. And it has been such a rich and fascinating conversation.

And lucky me, she and her husband trekked all the way across this part of France last year to visit us. And nothing beats showing your garden to someone who knows it intimately. But only from afar. From photos and descriptions.

So I needed to do the same. I have been following the incredible story of their renovation of their Gers farm and the creation of a potager and new permaculture garden in words and pictures. I wanted to stand in the middle of it all.

When you look on the HUGE map of France you can see that you have to take an Australian attitude to the distances. Luz Saint Sauveur was ‘just around the corner’ from their farm. A mere matter of a four hour round trip had to be incorporated into my day.

Nothing was going to keep me away from this.

(I’m going to show just one interior shot and one detail. Renovated floors, walls, ceilings, stairs. This plaster hand mixed from clay on their own farm….)

Deeply deeply delightful. Even the light switches make you squeak with delight.

And more thrillingly this.

One enormous potager in the fields above their farmhouse. Huge. (I keep saying that). So orderly and clever. And productive and considered.

Fencing, supports, animal deterrents, smart spacing of crops. (My crammed-in plants would be looking on with sorrow at the space Lisa has given her crops.)

I loved the proper wooden mulch guards at the base of all her fruit trees. (I gave up counting the orchard tally as we ambled past apples, cherries, pears, peaches). Carpentry is definitely missing from my life.

And space. I guess you can’t compare a terraced mountain garden with these sweeping spaces. But that doesn’t stop me from taking away so many ideas from the visit.

I definitely want to have a go at these incredible wire cages to cover the crops. Even if you shred your fingers cutting the wire. This could help our delicate spring plants against sudden hailstorms in Europe. And then the arrival of the beasties when the crops get going.

Once again, this wiring is available in rolls from giant hardware stores.

But the main ideas came from her permaculture garden. Oh yes, just when you thought a massive vegetable garden in the fields was more than enough for a busy life, here is the new one.

Those of you who suffer green-finger envy look away now.

Being in the country there has to be animal protection. In my case I use chestnut fencing. Lisa and Antoine come up with the brilliant idea of using the construction industry’s grids they apply to concrete pouring.

What on earth are these called? (Quick delve). Welded wire grid for concrete. Rebar. Steel reinforcement mesh sheets.

Practical, inexpensive, and it allows you to grow your tomatoes and climbing plants through the ready-made support. Light and air and space. (It was the theme of the entire garden.)

Now I can see that there is a lot of careful carpentry going on here at well. So you know that it is not a quick job. But a permanent and clever one.

Pallet gate, anyone?

You could hear me squeaking with delight two fields away.

And then the permaculture beds themselves.

It is at this stage that I need to take a flannel to my face and go and lie down in a darkened room.

It has given me an idea.

So as well as taking away some precious Warrigal Greens seeds, Japanese bunching onion seeds, cepe mushrooms from the fields, gifts galore… I have been given a resolve that I need to do better in my vegetable garden. And that means I haul out the word huge again.

Huge changes in my scruffy potager are on the way.

Travel. Broadens the mind, don’t you know. Thank you Lisa. You are about to give me the most horrendous autumn and winter of work imaginable!