Saturday, 17 May 2014

Projet Potager

I'm sorry to admit that, after a strong start to the year and boosted by plenty of thought-provoking travelling in April, my 2014 blogging rate has slipped shamefully since then. It's not that I've been doing nothing at all of interest, but May has been a small-pleasures kind of month, and I'm not sure if the blogosphere could have coped with yet another post about how beautiful and charming Paris is in spring time. Just in case anyone feels it was missing though, here are some photos I took a couple of weeks ago on the Promenade Plantee, which is still gorgeous even if it no longer really counts as one of Paris' hidden secrets:

One thing I have accomplished this month, however, is a wish that I've had in the back of my mind for years: to create a little herb garden on my windowsill.

I found it more-than-a-little ironic that in the time that I've had this little dream, I've moved from a flat with a shared garden to one with a balcony to one with those cast-iron frames around the windowsill that are perfect for putting flowerpots on, to a concrete box with narrow windowsills that slope gently towards the main road below. Put simply, our current flat is just about the worst possible design for creating a window-garden.

On a more positive note, the Gardening sections of DIY stores in Paris cater almost entirely to people who don't actually have a garden. Along with giant flowerpots and strips of fake grass for your terrace, my local Castorama had a vast range of jardiniers and I bought a set of three boxes with trays and metal supports for 25 euros, along with some bags of potting compost and a selection of seeds. I got mixed flowers for the front windows, as the idea of eating fresh produce heavily seasoned with traffic fumes didn't appeal very much.

Planting seeds without a garden, or "bringing a whole new meaning to the expression "Kitchen Garden""!

So far, the flowers are coming up nicely but won't actually bloom until July. Basil has proved a challenge: the ones I planted from seed and carefully nurtured indoors throughout the cold weeks at the beginning of spring have disappeared, and even the plants I bought from the flower shop aren't thriving as well as I hoped. I've got some tiny thyme seedlings that won't be ready to use for a long time yet and some radishes with flourishing, healthy leaves and disappointingly skinny roots. The best success story has been some mint, which I bought in a pot from the grocery and re-planted and is producing new leaves faster than my friends and I can drink mojitos. I have the impression that window-gardening is harder than growing things in real ground because even aged about 5 I was capable of growing radishes, but I guess I'll have to hang in and be patient to see if everything grows eventually.

At least I'll have a subject for a blog post in a month or so.


  1. I love gardening, just haven't got a garden!! And for the record, I love posts about Paris in the spring!

  2. I tried a herb garden a few years ago and failed miserably. I don't have a green thumb, can't grow hit (but a kid, apparently).

  3. Mint is practically a weed and will take a lot of abuse (lack of watering, harsh temperatures, etc). I've found basil seeds really sensitive to temperature. It's a warm weather plant, and if there are too many cool nights (even just 16-18°) it can kill it. I haven't planted my basil yet because last year I lost about three rounds (it came up, grew 2 leaves, then died with a cool day or two); I'm waiting another week or so to have more reliable weather.

  4. Thanks, L -I've still got lots of basil seeds so will try them again soon!