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With the arrival of the beautiful days, the idea of launching yourself in a vegetable garden tempts you? We have the ideal solution to finally take the plunge: the French-style square vegetable garden, created by Anne-Marie Nageleisen. This writer-gardener (she is the author of the little guide "Le Potager en Carré" at Ulmer), shares the secrets of her method for making beautiful crops. Between aesthetics and practicality, the French square garden seems to be a small revolution in the world of gardening. Nice discovery…
Tell us about your background
I "fell in the squares" fifteen years ago now when, to eat healthy, I cultivated a traditional vegetable garden in rows which required a lot of maintenance time. It was not always compatible with my work and I often found myself overwhelmed by weeding, hoeing, etc. The land I cultivated was steep and I created terraces to level it: this is how squares took place in my vegetable patch. I made a lot of mistakes to start with, but I was passionate about this way of farming, until I developed a particular method that I called "the French vegetable garden". It now allows me to live independently on my vegetable patch. It's been 10 years since I bought more vegetables!
What is a French-style square vegetable garden?
It is a gardening method that consists of growing vegetables, aromatic herbs or edible flowers, in squares 40 cm wide. These squares are modular according to the available land. They are usually grouped by 9, to form what is called a "crop board" of 1.20 by 1.20 m. Like no other method, "the French vegetable garden" optimizes space, making it possible to grow 9 different plants on only 1.5m2 with, as a result, real harvests. But beware ! It is not miniaturized gardening. This method involves really gardening: it is in a way an alliance between mathematics and horticulture. Because the right dimensions of the squares are not enough to harvest well. Indeed, nothing is less natural than growing vegetables in 40 cm. A "French vegetable garden" therefore requires following sowing and planting patterns that meet the needs of the plants, ensuring their good health and therefore their productivity. "The French vegetable garden" also has a strong ecological dimension, by paying particular attention to the life of the soil, by adopting specific gestures in gardening in squares, by having a global approach to the environment of the vegetable garden in squares, etc. .
What can we plant there?
I adapted the method to 100 different plants! This wide range makes it possible to respond to the varied tastes of each, to choose their cultures according to the climate of their region and to spread them out throughout the year. This is how I came to live independently on my vegetable patch. Some vegetables are not suitable for this way of gardening and I have chosen only those vegetables which produce enough and which optimize space. It is ridiculous, for example, to grow potatoes in a square vegetable patch: a single tuber in 40 cm is not profitable and harvesting with a pitchfork is impossible because of the wooden borders. Likewise, rhubarb takes up too much space, so I prefer to cultivate it around the vegetable patch. In order not to be mistaken, my books specify the vegetables and aromatic herbs that can be grown or not in squares.
What are the advantages of a "French vegetable garden"?
With a "French-style vegetable garden", the vegetable gardens are finished in rows of onions that are hard to cultivate, with more production than what is needed! Here the vegetables are sown or planted in just sufficient quantities. Easier to maintain physically and materially, this way of gardening is not very time-consuming and adapts to our contemporary lifestyles. Personally, I live independently on my "French vegetable garden" by devoting only 3:30 of my time on average over the year. The modular 40 cm squares can take place in small gardens, on a terrace or balcony. They are very aesthetic. Thanks to its horticultural and ecological principles "the French vegetable garden" offers a vegetable garden that is sustainably productive and aesthetic. By following the method, growing and harvesting your vegetables becomes a real pleasure.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into a square vegetable patch?
The first piece of advice I would like to give is that it is the content that counts, not the container. This means that a square vegetable garden cannot be reduced to assembling 4 wooden borders! The main thing is in the method, the art and the way of cultivating in the 40 cm squares. The second tip is that a "French-style vegetable garden" is a real vegetable garden, which requires good exposure (at least 6 to 8 hours of sunshine per day), good garden soil enriched with compost, etc. All the advice for a traditional vegetable patch applies to a square vegetable patch. The third advice is to garden naturally, always being attentive to the needs of plants, the qualities of the soil, the reception of biodiversity, etc. And my last advice is to take pleasure in gardening and to share this pleasure!
Do you organize training for amateurs?
I thus transmit my method during short workshops or internships of one or more days. Training in "French-style vegetable garden" begins this year (2014) at the King's vegetable garden, organized by the École Nationale Supérieure de Paysage de Versailles. It is a training that I will animate and that I support, by offering the material which will allow to create the vegetable garden in educational squares within the King's vegetable garden. This project inaugurates a "School of gardening in squares" which I will develop now. The current craze for gardening is a chance but also a challenge: that of transmitting knowledge and know-how with quality and truth. Because the new gardeners who are learning at the moment will one day in turn be relays to transmit to future generations solid knowledge that is respectful of our planet. More info: //www.potagerencarres.info/