The Garden

Kervéguen is the name of our smallholding in Brittany. This is an artist’s impression of our land just to give you an idea of the lie of the land and what we’re aspiring to… I wish it was this well-organised in reality!


Kervéguen Garden


(Click on the image to enlarge it) KEY: 1. The House 2. The Gite 3. The Old House (includes the goat house) 4. The Polytunnel 5 The Half Barn 6.The “Greenhouse” 7. The Hangar (includes hen house and mini pig house) 8. The Kitchen Garden 9. The Lower Beds 10. The Upper Beds 11. The Perennial Beds 12. The Triangle 13. The Orchard 14. The Meadow 15. The Herb Garden

I’m tidying the growing areas up a bit at present and will post pictures of each one here over the next few weeks. Just to record how (bad) things looked at the outset…

In a similar spirit, I’ve also got my wife to take some pictures of me at the beginning of this simply to record my (further) descent into gnarled peasanthood. No, you’ll be relieved to hear, I won’t be publishing them! Suffice it to say, as at 1 October 2009, I was 6 foot 4½ inches and weighed 15 stone. (It would be a good thing if the latter number diminished a bit, but not the former!)


The author and his (moth) hunting dog


Gardening in Finistère

Finistère is ‘the end of the world’. France’s two fingers to the Atlantic. It’s wild, and has been known to be wet and windy. We live in the wildest part – the afforested centre – where nature is definitely the boss. I used to mistake the alarming growth rate of trees and weeds for indicators of fertility. Then I read somewhere that the opposite was the case. Oh well… but what about the famous fields of globe artichokes, surely an exotic indicator of soil fertility?  Turns out they’re just fancy thistles, with enough cellulose to withstand the wicked west winds. 

It’s fair to say that centuries of fertilising the land around the north coast of Finistère with seaweed turned that soil to gold – but sadly that alchemy didn’t extend this far into the interior. Our land, then, comprises thin, acid, clay soil. We have the unofficial dandelion and dock collection of the Breton nation. And, weirdly, a rampant wild cabbage as our annual weed representative. At least our hens appreciate that one by the armful.

But we have some blessings to count: the garden is on a warm south-west facing slope. It has a huge worm population. It has none of the hidden boulders which infest many neighbours’ gardens and which could only encourage a revival of dolmen production. Best of all, that view; on a sunny morning in autumn this prospect makes our field the best work place in the world.

Two years of spasmodic effort has created a framework of beds. The foundations are in. But little else. The few, very few, things I’ve got going hitherto have done splendidly. The rest have succumbed to slugs, that west wind or the tide of despair that is those weeds… any sensible farmer would blitz the lot with glyphosate. I know some ‘organic’ growers locally who have. It’s that formidable.

Me? I’ve a secret weapon which will keep me on the organic straight and narrow. For her next birthday, I’ve bought my wife a hoe to match mine.