Natural health has been my passion since I was an engineering student. I was often sick during winter and was accustomed to taking antibiotics. When I moved to university, I had to take care of my health by myself and wasn’t really willing to spend most of my time at the doctor’s office. That’s when I started getting into naturopathy and natural health.
Fast forward a few years, when I was a mom-to-be, I realized I wanted my children to have a healthy natural lifestyle from the start. I became even more serious about organic food and natural medicine. I was already an expert at using homeopathy and started discovering essential oils.
Entrepreneurship and mom life can be pretty overwhelming to juggle. It took me 2 more decades before I could have time to manage a (tiny) garden, with the help of my daughter for inspiration. Of course, my first choice was to grow some herbs for cooking and herbal teas.
I live in Canada, but I spend my spring in the French Alps in our family house, where I have room for my experimental garden. That’s where I created my tiny square of happiness.
My first garden attempt
The first year my daughter and I chose to plant a mix of organic veggies and herbs. Regarding herbs, I went for a mix of “Herbes de Provence” and lavender, as well as some more that I found at my local nursery.
Eventually, I picked up:
For the veggies, I chose:
- Cherry tomatoes; some non-organic plants but from a local producer (using permaculture)
- Round Zucchinis
- Black Krim heirloom tomatoes
- Salads (oakleaf lettuce and lettuce)
Seeds vs. young plants
We actually tried both! We planted seeds for the Oakleaf lettuce but young plants for everything else. The gardening season in the Alps is relatively short. I started my garden in May, quite late, with no greenhouse and little experience. I knew enough about plants to understand that growing plants from seeds would be difficult. I was right: our seeds gave nothing the first year, and one seed grew a tiny salad the second year!
I don’t have the time or space to start with seeds, so I usually go for young plants grown on local farms.
- Salads, both seeds and young plants, were a failure. They took too much space, gave too little, and were too fragile
- Tomatoes are a big yes: my father, who lives in our family house, had tomatoes up to November. He had 82 tomatoes from 3 Cherry tomato plants and 3 Black Krim tomato plants.
- Zucchinis were a failure. The few tiny fruits I got went bad on the plant before growing big enough.
- Green beans gave a handful of beans for 1 young plant. Like the salad, I find them too fragile, and they took too much space for too little outcome.
Regarding my herb square
- Mint took a lot of work to start and maintain. It is still alive today, however.
- Sage was a success. However, the harsh winter of the Alps is not good at all for the plant. The plant is not hardy in our climate.
- Chamomile was already growing on our homestead. I moved them to the garden, and they did rather well.
- Savory was a huge success
- 2 of the 3 rosemary plants died during the winter, but the third one is still standing strong now.
- The thyme was taken from the hills behind our house. Surprisingly enough, it didn’t survive the summer heat (although it grows in dry and rocky soils up in the hills).
- The basil did well once it moved close to a low wall where it was sheltered from winds. However, it is not a hardy plant and is very fragile, so I don’t think I will renew the experience next year.
After this first attempt, I know what I want to focus on: a herb garden with easygoing herbs, local mainly, in the spirit of a medieval garden. As for veggies, tomatoes make me happy, so I will focus on them now. I will try different heirloom varieties next year.
I really enjoyed building up my tiny garden. It’s also beautiful to see in front of the house. However, I am not a year-round gardener, and this is influencing my choices. But growing a garden for a few months and feeling rewarded by nature is very much possible.
Have a great day 🤍