My garden is relatively new. We moved out to France in 2004 and when we bought this cottage it didn’t really possess any land, yet alone a garden! After some friendly negotiations with the farmer we bought over 1 hectare or just over 3 acres! Not all of it was converted into a garden l hasten to add but l quickly dug over an area about the same as an average allotment and have since divided this up into deep-beds.
We have five hens who are totally free range. We have seen the fox nearby but l don’t want to keep them in a small run. When you see them scratching about in the field and having dust baths you realise they just have to take their chance the same as everything else. If the fox gets one then of course l will be upset but l will know that at least it had a really good free life. We get 3 or 4 eggs a day. Bertha a big Holland Blue, has never laid an egg and is just a pet. Some say she would be good for the table, and in a time of war she probably would have been, but l could never do that. Since writing this we have lost Bertha and one other to the fox.
So, just for fun, l have decided to follow the gardening advice of Mr Middleton who gave regular radio broadcasts during the Second World War encouraging the nation to ‘Dig for Victory’. Week by week l will try and carry out some of the tasks as detailed in his book ‘Dig on for Victory’. Most of his advice is still relevant today. I find this period in history a fascinating time; the people of Great Britain knew that they all had to pull together in order to survive. The ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign is just a small part of that story.
This year l am also reverting back to my favourite method of producing vegetables and that is in raised beds. I find this a great way of gardening as you never walk on the soil you are growing produce on thereby reducing the compaction, the area you need to feed is clearly defined and you can grow more vegetables in a smaller area because the plants have a better root system.
The more time you spend working in your garden the better you get to know it; taking time to stop and stare and really get your hands into the soil and there is no better feeling than when the soil is warm and you plunge your hands deep into the earth, knowing then the time is perfect to sow anything you want with the confidence of success. It should smell sweet and the soil should be friable. If you can experience this when you are a child the memory stays with you forever, well it has for me! Slowly, you and your garden become one. You come to respect and nurture it. Why would you want to smother it with poisonous chemicals to kill everything there is when for most situations there are organic alternatives? The garden is your very own eco-system. Look after your garden and your garden will look after you by providing you with good, fresh produce with zero food miles and just a few food inches!
I feel we all still have a lot to learn from our forebears who struggled to grow their own, not as a hobby but as a necessity. Gardeners in WW2 made a huge contribution to the war effort by growing their own produce. Methods used back then still apply today. I hope you enjoy following my journey on the Dig for Victory campaign.
A few years have passed since writing this introduction and we have now returned to Blighty! We had a great time in France, met some great people and not so great, traveled France, Spain, Portugal and Morocco crossing the Atlas Mountains and into the Sahara Desert in a motor home. It was a good adventure but we are both so happy to have returned to English shores. We are still renting but feel it won’t be too long before we find a home of our own. Until such times l am putting Mr Middleton on hold and resume when l have my own plot again. In the meantime I will try and write up on other Home Front issues and bits about my life.