Life on the riverside - planting tomatoes

In Gironde, we lived about a kilometre from the Dordogne river, and 30m above it, so the ebb and flow of the water didn’t really affect us.

Then we moved next to a river, the Clain, and its ups and downs had more of a direct affect on two of our plans.

Firstly we chose an area of the garden with good soil and the right balance of sunshine and shade to be the vegetable patch, but by February 2021 and the floods it was clear that we'd bit chosen well after all.

Secondly with rushing high waters, we couldn't cross the bridge to the island ... which meant we couldn't keep the goats as we didn't want them marooned in winter.

However, by May 2021 the river had settled down, the sun was shining, and flooding was but a distant memory, or so we thought!

It was clearly planting season so we ordered our varied collection of tomatoes from a keen young grower over the river. We carefully chose the best spot, in nutrient-rich ground, against a sunny wall in the lower garden – we added extra nutrients and protection in the form of cut nettles too.

Our neighbour provided us with newly cut stakes, which were neatly joined together, to form the perfect tomato growing frame.
You get the picture ... we went to a lot of trouble!

A week later, the plants were doing well with regular watering and a daily dose of admiration. Then it rained. That was good, a bit of rain is good for plants – I went to bed one Sunday evening quite pleased with the good job done.

The next morning, patiently waiting for the kettle to boil I glanced out of the kitchen window and had to do a double-take ... the bottom garden was no longer a garden, but part of the river. We’d had a BIT of rain, but further south they’d had a LOT of rain, and now it was flowing north towards Poitiers bursting its banks as it went.

After the initial horror, I quickly prepared another bed in the top garden. The water on the lower level was about a foot deep and had become murky. With trowel in hand I just had to follow the stems down and dig out the root ball as best as I could. Each one was put on the wall looking thoroughly bedraggled.

Saved from drowning, but it was back to square one - the new bed wasn't ideally situated and received little preparation ... and how many hours had the plants lingered under water?

I probably got a handful of tomatoes from these plants last summer, but thanks to local growers, I never ran out of tasty colourful tomatoes in all shapes and sizes.

There were no floods this year, but ‘planting tomatoes’ will not be on our list of things to do - I will continue to support the local expert and put our energy into other jobs, like maintaining the riverside and clearing the island. Then we, and our guests will be able to appreciate the beauty and feeling of peace that the quiet flow of clear water can bring, whilst enjoying a guaranteed delicious tomato salad.

Nature is a form of medicine, but you need to step back and disconnect from time to time to really appreciate her benefit.


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