Different types of plant packaging
Many plants are sold in pots (‘conteneurs’ in French), others are root balls (motts) with a meshing around them or else they are bare rooted (racine nue) and basically their roots are visible with very little soil attached.
Plants sold in pots tend to be small varieties of plants, shrubs and trees. These plants have been cultured in pots and transferred into larger pots when necessary.
Root ball and bare rooted plants contain larger shrubs and trees which have been cultivated in the ground and removed only when necessary. These plants are usually less expensive than the potted equivalent. It's recommended to buy these types of plants from a specialised nursery which will freshly dig them out for you.
Bare rooted plants need to be planted the day they are purchased but if you are unable to do so cover the roots with earth or sand to protect them. Click here to download a detailed guide to planting a bare rooted plant and remember - Don't forget to stake your trees and think of protecting them with a plastic stem guard.
I recommend the garden centre called Pepinières des Sources in Nuzejouls. (http://www.pepinieres-des-sources.fr/) They have an excellent selection of trees and plants and the owner speaks a little English if you struggle. Don’t forget to read the plant labels to check that the plant will be suitable for the spot you have chosen as well as your soil type. A good nursery should be able to advise you on this as well.
Finally I would stress to be careful when ordering any plants from a catalogue. They may look wonderful and reasonably priced but you may well be disappointed by their size which tends to be small for transporting.
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KEEPING PESTS & DISEASE AT BAY IN THE GARDEN
Organic Insect Spray
Organic pest control sprays do not cause harm to children or pets that come into contact with them. They leave no chemical residue on the tomatoes. Many gardeners prefer to make their own bug sprays. It is easy to do with common household ingredients. Garlic and pepper is an all-purpose bug spray for common tomato plant problems such as aphids and hornworms. Its strong odour keeps many insects away and it kills ones that are already on the plants. This spray also stops mildew.
Baking soda has been found to have fungicidal properties. Baking soda spray is effective for tomato blight, powdery mildew, and as a general fungicide. Use as a preventative or when blight problems have already developed. An effective mixture is baking soda, vegetable oil, and Castile soap (an olive oil-based soap). Another popular organic fungicide is an apple cider vinegar and water mixture. A simple milk and water spray is effective against tomato virus such as the cucumber mosaic virus.
Compost Tea Spray
Keep blight and other pathogens away from tomato plants with a compost tea mixture to spray on affected leaves. It is also used as a soak around the base of the plant. Compost is rich in microorganisms that have anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. Dilute the compost/water mixture and let it sit for 1 week before use to ensure that plants are not burned.
Ladybugs, praying mantis, and lacewings are known as “beneficials” and they are a very effective organic pest control for tomato problems. They eat the insects which chew and destroy tomato plants, such a flea beetles and aphids. Ladybugs and preying mantis can be purchased by mail order. You can also attract these beneficial insects to your garden by using a sugar-water spray on the plants.
Companion Planting (Refer to table below)
Tomatoes especially, become more disease free and pest resistant when planted near onions, nasturtiums, marigolds, asparagus, carrots, parsley and cucumber. Basil repels whiteflies and dill & borage repel horworms.
Organic Weed Control
Mix one gallon of white vinegar, half a cup of salt and half a cup of washing-up liquid.
Spray over weeds (preferably on a sunny day) and gone in a day! No more Roundup needed!
This year has seen a new infestation of caterpillars in this region. The box tree caterpillars are the larvae of a moth that feeds on box (Buxus) plants. It is native to East Asia and it became established in Europe in 2007. In many cases the caterpillars have caused severe defoliation.
The pale yellow flattish eggs are laid sheet-like, overlapping each other on the underside of box leaves and the pupae are concealed in a cocoon of white webbing spun among leaves and twigs. Newly hatched caterpillars are greenish-yellow, with black heads. Older caterpillars reach up to 4cm (1¼in) in length and have a greenish/yellow body with thick black and thin white stripes along the length of the body.
The adult moth usually has white wings with a faintly iridescent brown border, although the wings can be completely brown or clear. The moth has a wingspan of around 4cm (1¼in). The caterpillars eat box leaves and produce webbing over their feeding area.
Plants may also show patches of dieback which may be especially apparent on trimmed plants. This is not to be confused with dieback caused by the disease known as box blight. Due to the high mobility of adults and the wide distribution of its host plant, the eradication of C. perspectalis is a difficult task once it has established itself in an area.
Non chemical control - Where practical, caterpillars can be removed by hand.
Chemical control - Contact insecticides are very effective but may harm other species using the box trees for shelters, such as arachnids and other insects. Insecticides working by ingestions are also very effective, although the lag until death of all larvae is usually longer. Biopesticides based on Bacillus thuringiensis are usually the preferred option on ornamental box trees because of their limited impact on the environment.
Extensive infestations can be treated with an insecticide, such as pyrethrum (considered organic e.g. Py Spray Garden Insect Killer, Bug Clear Gun for Fruit and Veg, Defenders Bug Killer, Growing Success Fruit & Veg Bug Killer, Growing Success Shrub & Flower Bug Killer), deltamethrin (e.g. Bayer Provado Ultimate Fruit & Vegetable Bug Killer, Bayer Sprayday Greenfly Killer), lambda-cyhalothrin (e.g. Westland Resolva Bug Killer). Thorough spray coverage is required to control these caterpillars. Do not spray whilst plants are in flower due to the danger to bees and other pollinating insects.
What to avoid
There are certain areas where plants will not establish. One example is rhododendrons which don't take in the rocky calcium soil found on higher ground and if this is your soil type then it's best to plant them in containers with ericaceous compost or "terre de bryere" in French.
Some plants are extremely vigorous. For example, the cotoneaster horizontalis which will rapidly spread out and take over a bank smothering any other plants. Some plants sprout outside shoots and can quickly become a nuisance such as bamboo and rhus.
Be very careful of boundary limits when planting hedges and trees. Any hedge or tree over 2 meters in height must be planted within 2 meters from the limit of the property. Under 2 meters it must be at least 50 cms from the boundry. The rules may vary from commune to commune so it's wise to check with you local Mairie first.
It's advisable not to plant in the same place as any diseased plants have been removed just in case it’s still in the soil.
When planting avoid using homemade compost or that from the dechetterie as it may not have finished maturing and could rot the roots of your new plants. Never use horse manure (fumier de cheval) as it's too rich and will burn the roots. It's best to use a ‘terreau de plantation’.
A few tips
When hedge planting its best to dig a trench rather than individual holes as it helps the roots spread and establish.
It's advisable to go for smaller plants than mature varieties. Smaller plants will acclimatise themselves easier to your soil type and weather conditions. If you are looking for top soil a good place to acquire it now is Chausson in Salviac.