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tara spinach leaves

By Tara Lissner, Swiss Gardening School

I guess it is fair to say that the April drought is behind us – so much rain! Not that we didn’t want or need it of course just not all in the same week. To keep us on our toes the ice saints “saint glace” have also been busy working their magic with really chilly overnight temperatures frosting the new growth on everything from grape and fruit tree crops to eager gardeners with their tomatoes and basil already planted. Local advice from everyone, including the nice lady in the queue at Landi this week, dictates that nothing tender should be planted outside unprotected until after the days of the ice saints These ice saintsSaint Mamertus, Saint Pancras and Saint Servatius, celebrate their feast days on 11, 12 and 13 May each year. This past week I saw early morning commuter cars covered in snow heading towards the autoroute – I remind you we are in May – keep an eye on the forecast and cover up your seedlings and tender summer bedding with horticultural fleece on nights when the forecast is for colder temperatures. The fleece should be removed in the day to harden off the seedlings and tender plants so they become accustomed to the temperatures.

With the arrival of May the plant market season is quickly upon us. From the small village “marché des plantes” to the bells and whistles of the wonderful “Jardins en Fête” this weekend in Coppet now is the time to get out and about and see what is on offer this year. Keep your eyes peeled for small posters advertising local plant markets, often short on notice they enliven village squares on a Saturday morning at the beginning of the season, Versoix, Trélex and Mies all are regular locations. The town greenhouses of Divonne will be open to the public on Saturday morning 20 May 09:00-12:00. Get a behind the scenes tour of the work that goes into making Divonne such a beautifully floral town. Click Divonne for more information.

I’ve been busy in my vegetable garden dodging the torrential rain. The beans and beanpoles are in, the potatoes are almost ready to be earthed up, the strawberries are flowering and will soon need their fruit lifted from the soil with straw, the raspberries are mulched and I’m waiting to buy my tomato plants at Coppet this weekend. I fear with all of this rain the slugs will be back in force very soon. The most effective way to deal with slugs is to use a nematode drench; a powder-like substance containing tiny nematodes which is mixed with water and applied to the soil, once in the slug the nematode releases a bacteria into the hosts which kills them. An effective product on the swiss market is made by Andermatt Biocontrol and is called bioslug. If you can’t wait to order by all means use whatever system works for you.

On to more pleasant subjects. I’ve been very happy to see my wildflower meadow is coming gently back to life, not least because our puppy decided to dig a trench through the middle of it. As it is on a slope I hadn’t noticed the damage until it was too late – a repair job of refilling the trench has now been completed and the area concerned reseeded, needless to say puppy is being more closely supervised in the garden.

Things are really taking off in the perennial borders. Peonies with their tight buds eager for the sun to reappear to help them open, the delphiniums are reaching for the sky ready to impress. While you still can still get into your borders give some support to your perennials, with days of rain and wind the new stems can be damaged and may well snap. Wire stands and supports are ideal, bamboo and string also works very well. It is best to do this staking before the plants get too big especially if you are using a cage, I’ve recently wrapped a delphinium in newspaper, secured with tape and carefully placed a tall wire cage over it, pushing the cage into the soil and then very gently removing the newspaper. The delphinium survived.

The good news about lots of rain is that the weeds come easily out of the ground. The bad news about lots of rain is that there are now lots of weeds! I’ll be busy this weekend pulling weeds and buying plants at Coppet. Enjoy the weekend and perhaps I’ll see you there.

What's On

Les Jardins du Château de Vullierens - until 18 June
The wonderful iris garden above Morges is now open for the season until 18 June from 09:00-18:00 every day.
Jardin des iris

Jardin de cinq sens, Yvoire
This delightful walled garden has now reopened for the season, always a delight, see their website for full details.
Jardin de cinq sens

Arboretum du vallon de l’Aubonne - until end October
If you have not yet discovered the Arboretum now is the perfect opportunity to do so. Their new website is packed with activities from three family brunches, Sunday guided visits and other special events and activities. Well worth a visit.

Our new look website is up an running with a number of garden visits and courses before the end of June. Don't forget to sign up and register via the website.

Garden visit – Jardin des Vullierens, Wednesday morning 17 May
Expore the iris garden above Morges with us.
Garden visit

Perfect Pots & Clever Containers - R. Jaggi, Tuesday morning 23 May
Learn how to get the best from your pots this summer and go home with one.
Perfect pots & clever containers

Author's bio


An enthusiastic, self-taught gardener, Tara Lissner is passionate about gardening and eager to share her zeal and knowledge with other gardening fans.

In 2012, she joined forces with Hester Macdonald, a British-trained landscape designer, to launch the Swiss Gardening School.

(Photo by Jean-Luc Pasquier)

Swiss Gardening School