Il faut cultiver notre jardinI never thought to look up your 'signature', but discovered that beyond it translating "We must cultivate our garden" (Google translate confirmed this years ago) but that it comes from Voltaire's Candide and is, according to Yahoo, 'a calling for us to take care of ourselves, mentally and physically. We should take care of the things we love as well, and help them grow. ... it means to take responsibility for your life.' Wow!
All that aside, Neven, (and given this is the "Gardening" thread) how is your garden?
I can recommend Candide, it's a funny little book, with a deeper meaning that appeals to me. Cultivating, literally and figuratively, is the best thing one can do with one's life, I believe. Marcus Tullius Cicero said that all you need in life is a garden and a library.
As for our garden: It grows. No matter what you do, it wants to become a forest.
Just like last year, we had a bad start. Seed starting in the house was a mixed success. Last year our the triple glazing seemed to induce stunted growth, so we moved things upstairs where we have 'just' some double glazing in the slanted roof windows. This seemed to work better, but things were very gloomy outside and the windows are small. I investigated how to build my own LED growing light set-up, but time had ran out.
Things were extremely warm and sunny here in April and May, so the seeds that did survive indoors, caught on well in the vegetable garden. Our berry bushes, cherry tree et al. were also full of leaves and buds. The fig tree (very small, only 20 cm high) that we had taken with us from my grandparent's village in Croatia had survived winter and sported its first leaves.
And then the cold came (from the Arctic, of course). Three nights in a row of sub-zero temperatures, snow and rain, basically killed everything in the vegetable plot, and most of the buds. Only the larger berry bushes have produced berries, the rest has dropped off, including the many cherries that were coming our way. More importantly all the leaves on the walnut and fig tree turned black and fell off, leaving bare branches. The same goes for the four big red currant bushes we had bought a year earlier. The cold caused tens/hundreds of millions of euros in damages in this corner of Europe, it was quite extreme really and the magnitude took even the farmers by surprise.
And so we waited to see how resilient nature would be. Well, it's resilient. Here's the walnut tree, with bare red currant bushes to the right behind it (and the small stick, barely visible, is where the fig tree is):
Here, BTW, is how things looked 3 years ago from this position, so things have definitely improved, cold snap or no cold snap:
The fig looked completely dead, but then new shoots sprouted up at the base of the plant! I was so thrilled.
My wife is in charge of the vegetable garden, and has tried to get things going again since May. All in all things are going well, but it's the soil we need to focus on more, as it is still relatively weak. We're already planning what we're going to do come winter (throw in compost, rock minerals, mulch, etc). For now we try to mulch a lot to get a thicker layer of top soil.
As for pests, we have the slug epidemic reasonably under control, mostly thanks to our electric mini-fence which keeps most of them out (except when the batteries ran out one rainy night three weeks ago!). But of course, there's eggs inside and an occasional lucky b*stard that gets in anyway, so we keep checking and setting beer traps, etc. But there really are very few, not enough to seriously damage plants. No flea beetle infestation this year so far either. We do see some, but because it has been relatively wet here, they're not spreading on the massive scale they did last year.
I'm also trying to do things differently with regards to mowing. Instead of mowing the full half acre every two weeks (which I did in three 4-hour stages), I leave large patches untouched and just mow around them (taking me two 3-hour stages). With the mulch I make these big rings around bushes, trees and plants to keep weeds back, and keeping the surrounding ground moist and more fertile. Seems to work well, and makes it easier to mow next time.
The idea is to only mow those patches twice, so that we have some hay we can use for mulching. I haven't decided how to do that yet, either by hand, or with hedge shears, or perhaps ask a farmer to do it with a gear mower (or borrow it). At the end of the season I will build a second plot where we can dump all the biomass and then grow potatoes in them.
So, all in all things are going well, better than last year (which is our goal, to do better each year), but to our regret both my wife and I don't have the time yet to give the garden the full cultivating attention it deserves. There's simply still too much to do in and around the house, working and blogging, homeschooling our daughter, etc.
Mind you, I'm not complaining. We really are blessed, especially compared to where we were before this. But it's hard work, of course. It's not a rose garden, beg yer pardon.