Hello from SE France


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South East France (Zone 7a/b)
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Wow oh dang, what a lot of text. hmm, tl:dr hello, pretty new to gardening, need and want to learn more and ask questions that i could nog get answers from google from.

This forum seemed nice so id thought to try my luck here :)

Wanna focus on grafting and air layering and propagation.

Will cut the texts into several replies

Hello all!



Since a 2014 we live in an old watermill in SE France.

We choose the location based on climate maps, long term data shows there is as much sun hours as the south of France but the ocean has a cooling effect so it would not get as hot in the summer to prevent work being done.



Since its a mill there is a river flowing and there are mill streams creating several islands.

Our big island (1) was "protected agricultural" land is 3.5 hectare (8.65 acres)

The small one (2) is a triangle from the old river dam is about 650m2 (0.16 acres)

The middle one (3) is a square and about 1100m2 (0.27 acres)

The house front and back yard are plots of roughly 2200m2 (0,54 acres)
 
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1 Big island officially a farmer could yield crops here every other year and since its in line of sight from a mayor road to a large beautiful castle with oldest parts dating back a 1000 years, we are not allowed to chop down the large trees at the river banks (also in the town and all houses in a certain distance and line of sight from the castle are not allowed to have solar panels for example) which is great for we want it to become a forest. After some friendly battles with the local fishers who every year cleared a lot of the river banks for easy access, it is now settled that they dont chop down trees or any plant, use a mowed "road" i made to get around instead of just riding around and they now use an old bridge for their fishing.

A few years i carefully mowed around small oaks and other naturally growing trees there and a tally last year gave an amount of 4644 trees growing, some huge, some well above where the weeds can go and some needing some protection. The banks also have brambles, they are small but picked at the right time nicely flavored. We also let dog-rose grow there for winter vitamin C :)

For now its a carbon sink by means of the trees and as soon as I have made an easier way to get there we would like to cultivate the open parts into a natural food forest with perennials, but at the moment its good as it is.
 
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2 some big and small acacia trees, nice flowers to make lemonade with elder flowers or just to put some in a pitcher of cold water and attractive to bees. The main plant growing here is bamboo that grows to 14m in height .

I have placed two beehives on a spot sunny in winter and shaded in summer but no bees in it, kinda hope a swarm will find it and move in themselves but may need to drop one off at a beekeeper to get it filled some time.



which leaves 3, named the fruit island where I focus on now and want get sorted this year.

when we moved here it was a wild messy bushy place, half of it was bramble, ground uneven and apart from some big ash trees there was 1 big apple tree and 7 old prunes (productive reine claude with very sweet fruit) and an old pear that did not bear fruit, some elders and a hazel.

It took me a year to make is mostly neat, a lawn like surface/canvas to work with, chopped down the biggest ashes and worst leaning ash trunks to get more sun onto the island in the times before noon.

The apple that was 10 meters high and giving the prunes a lot of shade took me till this year to reduce in size and its now 3 meters high and went from producing small sour apples to big apples that can be eaten from the tree and not only good for pie of sauce.

Also reduced the height of the old prunes giving a lot of new growing baby trees more sun and now there are more trees producing as much as the second year, when i cut back the largest part of the apple.
 
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We planted a lot of fruit producing stuff

Not all survived the challenging climate (see below) but now we have established fruiting trees

2 cherry trees, that don't flower at the same time, so don’t bear fruit but grow pretty fast, close to the river, one is about 6 meters tall thick trunked and the other 4m, (coming from 1m pencil thick) they clearly like their spot and are a major reason for registering, will make a topic about grafting and air layering these to get the flowering more in sync.

2 almond trees that we maybe should water to get them to actually bear fruit, they flower but are not big or particularly happy, I’m about to massively change the grass around them (and all the fruit trees) to stop weeds , quackgrass and other water and nutrient using plants from competing.

3 amelanchiers/chadbush, lovely growing, early bloomers with lots of nice fruit, plan on airlayering and get their number up to 10 so we can also dry half of the fruit to get "krenten" (a Dutch word) which are dark small raisin like things, very tasty and to be used the same as raisins.

2 nectarine , that try to live, produce some fruit, also in need of less competition and they have that terrible leaf bloating disease (also plan on doing a topic on this, since its under control using egg shells, i don’t know why so like to chit chat about that in a separate topic :) )

2 pears, flower, but as with the old in a regular year its just too hot so not eaten anything from them, the old one does produce a few pears now so the pollinating effect if clear

2 peaches, no fruit a few flowers, not too happy now

8 apples, different varieties, all happy, growing and pruned to open vase shape, producing nice fruit

2 figs, producing a little, not sure how happy these are, when doing clearing of graas dumped some crumbling rocks under the mulch this spring)

2 cornus/dogwood, after planting i thought we lost these 6 years ago, the weeds and brambles had overgrown them, but cleaning the area next winter they survived, earliest blossoms, not that big, fruit atringent, not used them.

1 unknown stonefruit, hidden behind the hazel and prunes under two big ashes is an older stone fruit tree. It is also very early with flowers, and last year i saw one fruit, small firm hairless peachy thing, tasted sweet. I cut back some hazel and other shading branches and now there is more fruit, in earliest of stages this one is the reason i bought a tool for grafting thinking an early flowering rootsystem could be very nice, or well its all new so will make a topic on it too.

Then there is a gazebo, with six sides, metal frame, with six different grapes, red and white, ready at slightly different times for harvest, young plants, newer types, they are happy and give nice shade to sit under in the summer.

there are some berry plants and i plan on extending their row with different berries and strawberries on mulched weed free row.

And i plan on a row of asperagus, got 10 crows, and its time to do the work and get a 7 meter row ready for them. also bunch of strawberries ready, the idea is planting some strawberries of different kinds on the spots that need weeding, so its a nice to weed, for there is sweet reward while doing it :)
 
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Front terrace of house has an old big wisteria, like really old, we have a picture of a wedding party from 1919 and there it already is big. I let it grow and guided it, with some bamboo its now the railings of the bridge to the fruit island, id rather prune railings then sand and paint :) this year we lost the first flowers to frost, very sad but it ll produce flowers and attracts all kinds of pollinators from end march to September. I plan on airlayering this and guerrilla plant them on the banks across the river, would be nice to add a purple wall in the trees and plants that grow there and are not used by anybody and maybe even help to keep the trees smaller so the owners of those plots don’t need to bring heavy material every few years to reduce the tree sizes as they do now.

Over the bridge I let the wisteria run the metal rain pipe to a large window two floors up, it has opening windows from floor to ceiling and the lowest windows were kind of dangerous with hardly any fencing and a drop of the floors plus the deeper mill stream that runs through the house there. Now the wisteria is a nice flowering fence and its pruned decently. If it grows too thick and starts to give too much pressure on the pipe I plan on cutting it and let a air layered jasmin and winter jasmin use it als means to make it green with flowers almost year round.



Front yard, more very tall bamboo

1 bay laurel, used in cooking, evergreen so plan on doing air layering and planting them on some spots to block views and wind in winter. Grown from 20cm/6inches to 2,5m tall, 1m broad plants.

Some lavender, overrun by the bamboo rhizomes and bamboo shade, so will pull, tear and with all the lavender i have planted on a lot of spots, and have grown to nicer sizes now, plan on tearing and make a row next to riverbank as purple edge while being low enough to still see the river.
 
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Side house, old white grape, extended max front sides and i hope to get it to grow all the way to the back terrace on the first floor we spend a lot of time to give shade instead of the parasol we use. from the other side another same type of grape is also guided towards the terrace, but the roots are a long way off so thus far they haven’t reached it yet.

A long row of old cherry laurels is the barrier between our place and the neighbors field. I did let that go the last 3 years and they have grown to 5 meters high, this year its time to cut it back to 2m, the thick trunks i’ll dry and use as firewood two winters from now, and the branches i intend on making fences with (stick a sturdy row of branches in the ground, then weave branches till desired height is reached, made a low one around the compost bins to test and its remarkable sturdy, looks nice and a nice way to use them.



backyard

two old grapes, productive.

1 fig that has grown itself next to an old rose and it is huge and seems to have started fruiting this year.

1 olive, that is thriving, evergreen so plan on airlayering this on too

2 very old tilia/linden trees 25m tall, we eat leaves and use flowers

1 old walnut, produces nuts, but squirrels are pretty good at snatching the best ones :)

A new walnut has planted itself next to an old dying ash so we’ll see when that is going to do something, its in its 3rd year now.

1 jasmin well established, on trellis and barnroof, about 12m2 and 3m high, nice for scent of flowers and used for tea brewing, plan on airlayering it.

1 winter jasmin, for the yellow flowers in the winter, plan on airlayering and find some suitable trees around the place to let it grow against for a winter sparks :)

A running raspberry, producing red fruit size of decent strawberries, will replant some to the fruit island.

Some herbs like an old rosemary 1,8m high 1,5m broad.

There are bunch of elderberries scattered around, we let them go, we use the flowers for lemonade, berries for baking/juice and syrup en the branches and leaves to repel flies, really usefull easy growing plants.

On some spots i pushed cuttings of the happy fig in the ground so it might become more figs this year, we'll see
 
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Joined
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Location
South East France (Zone 7a/b)
Country
France
climate

pretty challenging

normally its not really cold in winter, first years here no frost but this year it reached -15C / 5F

Highest temperature in shade was 44C 111,2F but 30/35C 86/95F is more normal with nights usually 5C lower yet sometimes it stays hot at night. Not ideal for my favrite flower passiflora so I gave up on those.

In spring and autumn it rains, winter too but in summer it can be so dry the river runs completely dry, this used to be very very rare, happening every 20 years or so, but we have it happen 3 out of the 4 last years now.

the town sewer dumps its cleaned water just upstream of the fruit island, so there is always water there, we move all the fish caught in puddles and deeper area there if the rivers dries up and its probably the reason the cherries are so happy, they are planted close and lower.

In winter water rises, this too has gotten more extreme, 2 of the 4 highest water levels ever recorded were in the last 4 years, turning our front yard into a lake, and when it was highest our our was in the middle of fast flowing river. The house itself can stand floods, its been here for 1000 years and after the first flooding i made changes to the lowest rooms, now its short work to prepare and clean. I joke, "we don’t have to go to Venice on holidays, Venice comes to us" and we need a boat to get out of the house at those times.

The river dumps a lot a lot of material when it goes down, leaves, wood, sand, dirt. So mulch in abundance.

We use the sunny spots where the river has dumped stuff to grow pumkins, sunflowers and gourds. But i intend on making those areas more permanent veggie spots, by making soil holding fences from the woven cherry laurel branches and placing new material from the millstreams onto that, elevating it over the years with rich natural things, creating raised beds easy to work on standing in the mill streams.
 
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