Tuesday, 26 March 2013
Pépinière Les Bancaous, Cabasse - 26 March 2013
Our first garden group visit this year was to Pépinière Les Bancaous in Cabasse. After all the rain we've been having, we were lucky with the weather. The garden centre is run by a young couple.
Their principal activity is growing organic vegetables and herbs. From their premises the plants, when they have reached a certain height, are sold on to middle men.
When they started their pépinière several years ago they did everything by hand, now they have machines to help them. The following are the steps that are taken in producing their plants.
They start off by filling reusable plastic seed trays (to hold 150 plants)
to 3/4 with earth. They then water the tray and place the tray under the sowing machine.
The seeds get picked up by the machine (photo 1, above) and are then deposited into the first row of the tray (photo 2 above), it automatically goes to the next row, till all the holes have been filled. To finish off another layer of earth is added to the tray. The tray is watered and put into a poly tunnel ready to sprout. After use the trays have to be washed out with bleach and water to disinfect. When we clean seed tray, white vinegar is sufficient, but in an operation of that scale, bleach has to be used.
Once the seeds have sprouted and the seedlings have their first proper leaves, they are planted on. Again there is a machine to help. The pots are filled by the machine with a mixture of two types of peat, a hole is punched into the pot filled with earth by the machine and then the small seedling plant is transferred into the pot, ready to grow on. This last stage is done by hand. Once they have reached their required height, they are sold on.
It is all a rather delicate operation, lots of risks. With all the damp weather we've been having, their onion seedlings developed a fungus, from the 3000 plants only 300 survived. As they are organic, they cannot use any pesticides, so constant monitoring of the plants is a must. They heat the poly tunnel by a wood burning stove,
and in early season they have dark coloured nets to prevent too much sunlight coming in. When we were in the tunnel the temperature was 29C, as the month progresses, the black nets are not sufficient and chalk will have to be painted onto the poly tunnel to prevent too much sunlight coming in. The temperature should not drop below 12C. If it drops below 12C an alarm is sounded in their house to warn them. End of April, early May the plants are ready to be sold.
Apart from the vegetables and herbs, they have a smallish selection of plants for sale ( a lot of Salvia's, succulents, some grasses, herbaceous plants and shrubs).
I think everyone found something to their liking. Unfortunately the vegetables were not ready to be sold, but I'll be going back at the end of April.
We had lunch in a restaurant in Cabasse 'Le Cabassois', lots of atmosphere. The owner is German and I think a lot of us ate for the first time Knödel. They can be made with flour or potatoes, these were made with flour and I think not to everyone's taste, but the meal was good value for money.