Corbieres gardening – with pick axe

You know when you are in the Corbieres when planting a simple Rosemary involved a pick axe, a wreaking bar and rock the size of foot balls. Still progress is moving along its merry way with the new rock garden for the garrigue mother plants- winter savory, thymes of various types, sage, with a few sedums thrown in for ground cover. Going to see if the Verbena will survive a winter out doors, so planted the first mother plant in one of the half barrels. Now got to find some good spots for the two new mints, Moroccan and Longifolia. Always on the look out for an organic pineapple mint and English mint.

Though we are having a mini heat wave for the moment the light is changing fast, low level sun, rich autumn colours and weeds growing at super speeds- so the throttle of the strimmer got repaired today- now held together with a large screw and electric wiring- very posh, also swept the chimney- looking forward to fire, though not a winter like 2011- no minus 15 for 10 days please.

Caroline conducted an experiment with pansy seeds, she looked up the experts advice on how best to germinate them, one said in a poly tunnel in full sun, the other said in a warm dark space- result, the ones in the poly tunnel took time and about 50% germinated, the ones under the bed all germinated but are lanky and weak, if we had caught them when they had just sprouted thinks may have been better . Lesson, never listen to an expert they know their own micro-climate and what works there but bugger all about where you live, and look under the bed occasionally.

Finally replanted the trumpet vine beneath the terrace, the idea is to grow it over the structure that will cover the terrace to provide shade during summer- well if it survives the replanting process, and of course it would help if I had built the structure for it to climb over.



Morgane et Timothée, récemment installés dans la maison familiale à Corneilla de conflent (66) pour construire un projet de « transition » ( décroissance, autonomie alimentaire, et rapports humains solidaires).

Attirés par la permaculture et l ‘idée d’un lieu en polyculture ( légumes, fruitiers, poules, chèvres, âne(s), ruche, vigne/houblon,et herbes aromatiques et médicinales) et étant débutants dans tout cela ( prof des écoles et statisticien au départ) nous recherchons :

– des lieux (dans les PO de préférence) où cela est déjà, en partie du moins, mis en place pour découvrir et vous filer un coup de main en échange de 2/3 conseils.
– Des gens prêts à nous donner un peu de leur temps et de leur savoir pour faire avancer notre projet plus sereinement et plus efficacement. En échange, nous pouvons vous loger, vous nourrir, garder vos enfants ou tout autre chose que nous conviendrons ensemble !
– Conscients de la difficulté de gérer tout cela à deux et avons envie de vivre « collectif », nous sommes ouverts, pour ne pas dire à la recherche de plusieurs « familles » afin de créer un projet collectif, où les moments intimes et familiaux seront préservés mais où la vie sera communautaire ( partage d’outils, de lieux, d’appareils ménagers, de charge, de motivation…)

Septembre 2014 :
– Projet de poulailler
– Projet d’enclos pour deux chèvres.
– Projet d’achat d’âne(s).
– projet d’association de lien social et d’éducation populaire.
– Projet de formation en permaculture sur le site.
– Potager en route (tomates, pomme de terre, salades, courgettes…)

Pour plus de renseignements, n’hésitez pas à nous contacter :

Morgane : 0611127723

Timothée : 0677170794

1° Café nature : Georges Olioso

Ce vendredi 10 octobre au Café des Possibles à partir de 19h30 :

Georges Olioso nous dévoilera tous les mystères de nos oiseaux et serpents pour le lancement des Cafés nature.

Cet ornithologue renommé  et pédagogue est membre de la LPO.


Notez dans votre agendas vos rendez-vous naturalistes, tous les deuxièmes vendredis du mois :
affiche café nature
​ Le programme d’animation du Café des Possibles se met en place progressivement, et les prochains Cafés thématiques vous seront proposés très bientôt.​

Organic Mushrooms?

Make a Living from Growing Mushrooms

Interseting article in Permaculture


Definitely worth a look at, does anyone know what book is the definitive guide to mushroom growing?

More interesting mushroom growing ideas and guides,1

Orgasyl – Frayssinet Nutrition

Orgasyl from Frayssinet Nutrition is an organic plantation soil specifically designed for cuttings. Hormone rooting powder is forbidden in organic agriculture for a number of reasons, primarily it is made up of synthetic auxins, natural auxins are what plants produce to grow roots, it also often contains a fungicide to prevent ‘damping off’.. Some manufacturers of hormone rooting powder advise that it shouldn’t be used on vegetable plants- so even if you are not organic my advice is to avoid using it.

There are a number of natural solutions can be used instead of hormone rooting powder, see Three Organic Alternatives to Hormone Rooting Powder.

We have had great results using Orgasyl, through  it can be a bit woody which means it is better in larger pots rather than seedling trays. The plants once they had started rooting like to be replanted into individual pots full of a rich plantation soil.

The other advantage we have found with Orgasyl is that is has a high water retention value, very helpful with our sun and winds.

Orgasyl is produced by the French company Frayssinet Nutrion I buy it from our local agricultural suppliers in Tuchan, it is half the price buying it from a professionel supplier than going anywhere near a garden centre- 15 euros approx for a 70l bag as opposed to 30 odd euros from the likes of GammVert.

Here is an interesting guide to the ingredients of potting mixes from off all people Cannabase – a Cannabis growers database!





Salvia Elegans – Pineapple Sage

Salvia Elegans

Salvia Elegans

Salvia Elegans, better known as Pineapple sage, is a simple plant to propagate. What is more it has a beautiful red late flower that here gives a great dash of red in the garden through late September and October.

Salvia Elegans primary usage is in  teas and cocktails, it also tastes great sprinkled on top of a fruit salad- and has a lot lower carbon footprint that a real pineapple.

Salvia Elegans side shoots

Salvia Elegans side shoots

Take a good look at the main stems, all along the stem should be a series of side shoots popping up from each side of the nodes. Very gently snap off the shoot as close to the node as possible. If you are pretty thorough this will leave the stem quite leggy. To ensure a strong plant next spring it is a good idea after flowering to cut the main stem back to 10cm above the ground. This will give you an abundance of new stems next year and a much stronger, attractive bush of a plant.

Salvia Elegans cutting

Salvia Elegans cutting

Next prune down  the cuttings, the less leaves the cutting has to support the more chance of success. Leave the top few leaves but pinch our any side leaves. If there is a flower bud pinch that out too. If you leave the flower bud on then the shoot will put all it’s remaining energy into the flower and not into growing new roots.


Salvia Elegans shoots

Salvia Elegans shoots

Put 10 or so shoots into a large pot full of a high quality planting soil. like Orgasyl. Now the most important thing is the soil must never dry out, keep it humid but not soaking to avoid rot. After two weeks start looking under the pot for roots. When you see roots coming out of the bottom soak the soil, wait for a few minutes and then turn the pot out. Carefully sperate out the plants and re-pot into large plantation pots. Within three weeks the plants are ready to plant out. I find planting out in early Spring gives best results. These plants are not Garrigue plants and a drop by drop watering system is a good idea in dry climates.

Tornados and floods- great news

One small tornado,a bit of torrential rain and the mobile tower is down and the land line out- thank goodness for internet by Satellite and electricity by solar panels- and the plumber may start work tomorrow so soon no more leaks, hot water and the start of the irrigation system- things on the up.

Apparently we have had the average annual rainfall this year, the problem it has fallen in intense short periods so it runs off rather than works it’s slow way down to the water table. So the heavy but persistent rain of the last 28 hours has been very welcome. Not least because we don’t have to water tonight.

We have also found a new supplier of pots, CEP Agriculture – they have some great square pots which will make watering easier, plus we have be planting in smaller seed pots and then re-pottting, and sometime a second re-potting. With these pots we should be able to plant straight into large pots thus cutting down the work involved in each plants.

Combine that with putting up a second polytunnel and putting in a drip by drip watering system and we are well on our way to laying a firm base for Montrouch Organic.

Mark Ashton

Mark Ashton

Chain sawing tomorrow then off to see Pride about Lesbian and Gay Support the Miners at the Castillet in Perpignan lthe central character is my old comrade Mark Ashton. Will be a bit of an emotional roller coaster- taking tissues.

Pruning and cuttings

Just a quick morning’s run around before going out to Bill and Martine’s new house for a bbq with Jon and Ken.

Cut back Chocolate, Bergamon, Pepper and Spearmints.

Pruned back the Lavender in the garden, dead headed the Sage O and the Sclare Sage.

Separated out some Oregano O.

Replanted some Terciums (?) cuttings, and tookl a load of cuttings from the larger varieties-no idea what their name is.

Threw away the dead lobelia


Now lunch.

THREE ORGANIC ALTERNATIVES TO HORMONE ROOTING POWDER With Spring almost appearing its time to think about taking cuttings. Here at Montrouch we have a series of strong mother plants awaiting a hair cut, the Rosemary, Mint, Thyme are all looking suitably shaggy. The problem however is how to maximise the survival rate and to ensure strong growth. For chemical gardeners this isn’t a problem, a good hormone rooting powder does the job, organic growers however have to be a little more creative.


Organic growers don’t use hormone rooting powders for a couple of reasons, firstly the most important active ingredients are synthetic plant hormones, produced in chemical plants nor real plants, and secondly many contain fungicides to prevent infection which can damage plant growth and yield.

One of the most important active synthetic ingredients of hormone rooting powder is Indole-3-butyric acid, fortunately this nippily named plant hormone is also naturally present in weeping willows.

Willow Tea

A willow tea can be made using either the bark of a willow, or preferably, as it doesn’t harm future growth the free spring yellow branch shoots. There are a number of ways to make the tea but this is the one I find works best

Simply cut the shoots into 3 centimetre lengths in warm water for a good 48-72 hours, leave for a day and then dip your cuttings in the tea and plant. Put in the fridge the mixtue seems to last for three to four days.

Honey Tea

A Honey tea is also a great way to get cuttings to take off, take a spoon of organic honey, dissolve it in a cup of warm water, leave in a dark place until cool and then use as with the willow tea. I don’t quite know why this works, I think it probably has something to do with honey being a natural antiseptic, and preservative. I use it on those herbs I have had problems with disease wise and anecdotal evidence from last years shows it seems to reduce rust on my mint. Warm the tea is great for sore throats as well, particularly with a dash of lemon and a splash of whisky.

Give it a lick

Saliva, literally licking the cutting end before planting some says has similar effect as honey tea, probably because saliva is an antisceptic. Personally I haven’t tried this one on large enough a scale to make any reasonable comment. Do 1,000 rosemary cutting and you will have one dry mouth, let alone the burning from all those traces of essential oil.

There are a number of commercially produced organic rooting powders from large scale horticultural suppliers. Vitaxand Sinclair, but rather cough up hard cash why not have a go at making your own?

If you are lucky enough to live in France we have a French supplier, Frayssinet Nutrion, that produce a plantation soil called Orgasyl that has an organic rooting solution in the soil. We ahve had great results from using it for cuttings.


Snails and slugs are the bane of organic gardeners, basil, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuces and other tasty leaves can be destroyed in one night-and their is nothing more disheartening than seeing the heads of tray seedlings fall victim to the nocturnal slippery slimes. Without the use of expensive poisons there is no simple solutions, here are a few ideas that organic gardeners can try and hopefully find the right combination that works for you.

The first thing to point out is that there are no hippy dippy solutions, slugs and snails cannot co-exist with a herb and vegetable garden, not if you want anything to eat at the end of all your hard work. It’s simple, it’s a them or us situation. Yes there are solutions below that aim to discourage them but ultimately displacement or death are the only two options.
What I have tried to do is come up with a range of solutions, some more deadly than others, no one solution will work on it own. Also as usual I tend towards low cost solutions, primarily as I have little spare money they are my preferred option, and secondly I’m not sure that the more expensive solutions are any better.

Let’s start with the soft options.

Keep a clean garden, slugs and snails love decaying leaves- indeed that is their main diet not your plants. So remove pulled weeds, fallen leaves and the like and pop on the compost pile as you go. If you have the space position the compost pile a way from your vegetable and herb,a keep a wild garden space around it. The snails and slugs will love it, but so will their predators- hedgehogs, frogs and toads.

Barriers and distractions

These solutions are designed to either discourage the beasties from going near areas or to encourage them to go to alternative spots where they can be collected and disposed of- that is destroyed or moved a long long way away. If you like snails of course you could starved them and then roasted with garlic, butter and herbs. Good with freshly baked crispy bread and a strong red wine, so I’m told.

Copper. The ultimate snail stopper. For some reason a copper band acts like an electric fence for snails and slugs, it gives them a shock and they will not cross it. Copper unfortunately is rather expensive. If you have a small space you want to protect, like a growing table in a green house, and some old copper piping you could wrap the legs in it and that would work. Probably a good idea of to give the table a good scrub down first to make sure there are not any little devils, or their eggs, inside the fence. If you have a large area, and a lot of old copper piping then you would be better to keep reading and take the piping to a reputable scrap metal dealer- it’ll get a good price and pay for all your seeds for a few years.

Salt. Salt kills snails and slugs, they won’t cross a salt wall. Sadly salt also washes into the soil with rain and can have a very negative effect of the soil. It’s not really a very practical solutions. See more on salt in the Homicidal Maniac’s section below.

Seaweed. A salty mulch. If you have the chance to live near the sea seaweed is a perfect mulch. Pile it round your plants, ensuring a little circle round the base so the seaweed doesn’t touch the stem. It will slowly dry and/or compost down. A very effective and fertile solution that keeps the roots cool and damp in summer and builds up soil fertility. The organic gardeners dream.

Sawdust and wood shavings mulch. Have been shown to act as mild deterrents. My one point would be that sawdust from chainsaws or mechanical saws that use a a vegetable oil lubricant are fine, but an oil base lubricant saturates the wood dust and would not have a good impact on your soil.

Wood Ash. Make a ring of ash from the fire- again prone to being washed away by rain- can enrich your soil when used in moderation.

Crushed egg shell. Really a solution for the green house. Snails and slugs don’t like to cross dry egg shells. Loses its effectiveness if wet.

Coffee. You don’t see many snails in Starbucks. Coffee grounds around a plant may ward off snails and slugs, equally a coffee spray can help protect plants greenery from bugs as well. I haven’t tried this as all my coffee grounds get put in with the worm food and the coffee in me.

Combined with a deterrent strategy to keep them away from your plants it is a good idea to have a distraction solution, to help reduce their numbers.

Snails and slugs like damp dark environments, spending most of the daylight hours hidden away under stones, and under ground.

False Shelters. You can fool them to hide from the daylight somewhere you can find them, a plank of wood laid down near where you have damaged plants, or an up turned plant pot both work well. Simply check every morning and remove them. You will rapidly see their numbers reduced, but never eradicated. Some will never fall for this, always returning to their preferred sleeping spot.

Citrus Peel. Another alternative is to put something down that will actively attract snails and slugs, if you make freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice then the remaining peel shells are very attractive to snails. Once again place them next to places in the garden or vegetable plot where there are signs of infestation, a couple of hours after dark, or at sun rise in the morning check them out and remove the offenders.

Homicidal Maniac Solutions– my preferred option

After suffering repeated set backs at the jaws of snails and slugs, whole trays of basil seedlings stripped of their early leaves, young cucumber plants eaten back to their stems, lettuces reduced to stubs, I have little love for snails and the like. However for kinder and more gentle readers I would suggest collecting the snails and slugs and removing them a long, long way from your garden- a road side ditch would make an ideal dumping ground for captured beasts. If of course Mrs Jones from along the way always beats you in the village show vegetable competition you could sneak over late at night and pop them over her fence- but that would be mean.

A few words on killing slugs and snails, just standing on them or crushing them anyway is not very effective. Sure you kill them but you may not kill the eggs they are carrying. A better solution is to carry a bucket of either soapy or salty water and pop any found into it to drown, this kills both the beast and any eggs it may be bearing.

Home made beer traps. Snails and slugs love the malty sell of beer, yet alcohol is a poison for them, as indeed it is for us drunken in sufficient quantities. To make a simple trap, take a plastic bottle, a liter pop or mineral water bottle works well. Cut two ’doors’ about three or four centimeters from the base and fold back- see image.

Dig in place so the ’doors; fold out flat with the ground, fill the bottom with a cheap beer, not a non-alcoholic one. Check regularly and empty and refill as necessary.

Poultry If you keep chickens, ducks or geese another solution to greatly reduce the number of snails and bugs on your land is to rotate your poultry over sections of the garden not in use in winter, the birds will pick through the soil and eat any tasty bugs, and their droppings can add to the nutrition of the soil.

Hedgehogs, frogs, toads and birds.

All these eat snails, slugs and other bugs. Rather than write a thesis on ways to attract and support these wondrous animals and birds take a look at the British Hedgehog Preservation Society’s website which is packed with information, and themRoyal Society for the Protection of Birds site, equally informative.

Night Patrols with a flashlight will always be a key part to any gardeners life, however judicious use of a number of the ideas above will greatly reduce the damage done and increase the yield from your garden.

Suggestions for Patrolling The best time I find is the grey of pre-dawn after a damp night. Secondly slugs and snails are not fast movers and they tend to eat closes to where they hide out, if you find new damage you ralast rely have to cast about more then 2-3 feet from the plant to find the culprit. Follow the slime trail. Last but not least snails and slugs seem to love the cover we put out in the garden, probably because its close to dinner and get’s watered regularly- the underside of plant pots, seeding trays, garden furniture.

All the solutions above will help with reduce the number of predators eating your plants, none of them will eradicate them. Indeed you don’t really want them all gone, they are an important part of the eco-system and provide food for many other species.

Happy hunting.