Sunday, 20 July 2014

Projet Potager - Update

Since I last wrote about my failure to grow radishes and my joy at having little flower seedlings sprout on my windowsill, my determination to have a little garden in Paris has grown with all the vigour and resilience of the mint plant that almost filled an entire window box until I tried to cut it down to size and killed it off entirely. I'm still far from being an expert, but here are a few things I've learned along the way:

- Magic Compost is, well, magic, especially if you don't have much gardening space and have to carry everything you buy home on public transport. It comes in 17 litre bags, but they don't weigh much because it's dry. When you add water at home, it swells up to three times the volume, making it a much cheaper option than the small bags of compost I bought first time round.

- It's hard to grow radishes on a Parisian windowsill. I don't know whether it's to do with the soil, the climate or the fact that a windowbox just isn't deep enough, but I've had three rounds of radish plants with beautiful foliage and long, skinny pink roots that taste of radish but just don't have any volume to them. I have also learned, however, that radish leaves are perfectly edible!

- Basil, on the other hand, can be cultivated with some tender loving care. I planted some from seed, made sure they got plenty of light and planted them outside as soon as the weather got warmer. Yesterday I decided it was finally safe to harvest a few leaves to add to my salad and my sense of truimph was almost as powerful as the sweet flavour of the basil.

- Don't love your flowers too much. I actually have far more boxes with flowers in them than herbs, because most of our windows overlook the main road. My first round of flowers came from a mixed seed packet of annuals for window boxes and balconies. I sowed them at the end of April, more or less left them be, and by early May I had what looked like a mini-meadow on my windowsill. The meadow was a little crowded though, so for the second box, I made a point of sowing the seeds more thinly. I did the same with two other boxes of single types of flowers. In the mixed box, the plants have chosen to grow large and floppy and the flowers are much slower in coming, while in the others I have healthy crops of thick green leaves with not a sign of a bud.

- Finally, it is possible to kill mint. Mine was filling a whole window box, so I tried to dig it up and separate it into a couple of plants to put in smaller pots. Despite the mass of roots and even shoots with little leaves on them growing underground, this was clearly too much for the plant and it died. I'll probably buy some more, but this time I'm going to keep in in a smaller pot in the hope of having a smaller plant with bigger leaves, instead of hundreds of tiny ones which, quite frankly, just don't look so good in a mojito.


  1. I tried to grow mint from shoots, but alas it didn't take! I am desperate to create a herb garden! I use so many fresh herbs in my cooking, it only makes sense!

  2. I bought mine as a plant in a pot from the greeengrocer's and I wasn't convinced that it would stay alive but it did. For basil, I think the temperature is the most important thing. I'm working on thyme now because you can grow that at any time of year. You should definitely try it!