Do you know of many ways to recharge your batteries, to get back to basics, to be connected to Nature, to ensure your food autonomy, to contribute to the preservation of the environment, to have before your eyes the miracle of life growing, all this with a lot of scents, flavors, and aestheticism? There is one in any case, it is to cultivate its vegetable garden!
The vegetable garden in history
Its history over the centuries shows that it had several functions and the first evocation is that of the Garden of Eden, a fruit orchard but also a vegetable garden.
During the Antiquity, it was called “the food space”, one could not say better….
In the monasteries and in the nobility, it then experienced a great expansion because it ensured food autonomy. But not only. It was also a place of pleasure.
In the monastic gardens, medicinal plants (the garden of the simple ones), market gardening, and in the orchard, the vine and the fruits grew. It was also a place of meditation, almost sacred, with spaces for prayer.
The royal garden, like that of La Quintinie under Louis XIV, provided the King’s table with fruits and vegetables, with a rare inventiveness. It achieved prodigies and invited summer into winter, thanks to techniques such as the use of manure from the royal stables, the placing of plants under shelters and cloches, and the absolute mastery of exposure. He managed to have strawberries in March or asparagus in January!
But the vegetable garden was obviously also present in private homes, because it was not subject to the tithe, and especially it allowed to avoid famine.
It was also the only way to alleviate the shortages during the war periods. The allotments flourished.
And then … in the 60’s, with the industrialization of agriculture, the opening of supermarkets, the new ways of consuming, the vegetable gardens were no longer in fashion.
The great return of the vegetable garden
The figures speak for themselves: 75% of French people have a vegetable garden, whether it’s a large space, a tiny piece of garden, a terrace, even the roof of a building: there are 13 million gardens and 7 million balconies and terraces (Promojardin).
Even in Paris, on a tiny piece of one of the TiL sisters’ balconies, we grow all the herbs, raspberry bushes, cherry tomatoes and strawberry plants, that’s saying something!
So, how can we explain this crazy success? Personal fulfillment because it is so gratifying to make life grow, the desire to eat healthy, fresh and traceable food (a desire boosted by all the health crises), and economic reasons too because a study shows that one euro invested in a vegetable garden brings back 15!
Today this nourishing space, rediscovered during the confinements as a refuge, source of wonder and well-being, is coming back in force for a better food, respectful of health, and of the environment because it preserves the nature in danger, with methods far from any pesticide. Permaculture proves that it is possible to produce in abundance without the use of chemicals.
The vegetable garden of TiL’s domain
In the family estate in the Dordogne, the birthplace of TiL, the vegetable garden is an immense space, facing south, enclosed by walls and therefore sheltered from the wind, also housing a magnificent 19th century greenhouse where an old vine runs.
All kinds of flowers, peonies, lilacs, wisteria, roses, arums, etc., fruit trees, cherry trees, apple trees, pear trees, peach trees, vegetables such as green beans, peas, broad beans, tomatoes, zucchinis, eggplants, salads, herbs, spinach, radishes, squash, fennel, leeks, potatoes, carrots, etc., grow here.
Working the soil, the secret of profusion
The vegetable garden is prepared many months in advance because the soil must be worked to offer all its generosity. In our domain, it is “decompacted” if necessary to aerate it, and the clods are broken up with a “grelinette” (our favorite tool, because it is more respectful of the soil than a rototiller). Then to fertilize the soil, one or two months before sowing, we cover the soil with compost. We use a homemade mixture of manure from our sheepfold or henhouse, straw, dead leaves, grass clippings, waste that are in fact gold mines such as peelings, egg shells, coffee grounds… all organic matter is good to take! It’s what makes the soil fertile, and the more it is nourished, the more it will nourish.
All this rests for several weeks, for the happiness of the earthworms which continue the work alone by aerating the ground, they are formidable workers. The soil obtained is magnificent, loose, fat and generous, ready to make small miracles grow!
Sowing and planting, choosing the right neighbors
Once the soil is ready, you can start sowing flowers and vegetables, prepared beforehand in the greenhouse or planted directly in the soil.
Abundance and diversity are the key words. In nature, there is no vacuum, in a vegetable garden it’s the same, vegetables, flowers, herbs are side by side and each one enriches the other, so long live variety and profusion! You just have to respect the friendships or enmities of your neighbors
For example, planting basil at the foot of tomatoes is a natural way to chase away pests that attack tomatoes, and blight. As for the basil, it will grow even better. On the other hand, tomatoes do not like to be near potatoes or fennel. Spinach is harmful to beets, beans do not like onions or leeks etc…
In the Domaine, we organize the crops to create a vegetable garden that is as self-regulating as possible. By taking advantage of the virtues of the neighbors, each vegetable protects itself against parasites and diseases, and grows all the better. Adopting the right associations saves time, but above all, it allows you to obtain more beautiful and healthy vegetables, and to avoid using fertilizers, repellents or pesticides.
In fact, Nature is magic!
Harvest time and… cooking time
After having already enjoyed spinach, radishes, artichokes and salads this year, we are now enjoying one of our favorite moments, the zucchini (or squash) flowers! These beautiful yellow flowers have started to spread on the ground, previously mulched. Prepared in tempura, with an airy, crispy batter, where the melting flowers nestle, it is an absolute delight! To be made also with basil leaves…
We are eagerly awaiting the tomatoes, as this year we have planted 25 different kinds, each with a more evocative name than the last, Andean Horned, Crimean Black, Rose de Berne etc., and installed teepee-like structures for them to climb. This is the basis of many of our summer recipes, including a tasty vegetable tian, or a wonderful tomato pie.
Yes, we confess… at TiL, we are super gourmets, and cooking our meals from our garden is our favorite pastime in summer…
Planting a vegetable garden is really like planting seeds of happiness, which are good for the body and the mind. More TiL, there is no such thing as
Seeing a green bean seed grow, even in a small pot in your kitchen, is a life lesson! So, prepare pots and potting soil, seeds and watering can and watch nature grow, it will give you so much back!