The Courmettes garden: an effective awareness-raising tool

13 August 2022

Started in 2017 and then abandoned, the Courmettes garden has now been revived thanks to the good work of Claire and the volunteers. The aim is to make it an awareness-raising tool for adults and young people, to encourage them to protect nature and, why not, to start a garden at home! All this, by putting into practice the principles of permaculture. Here’s a small overview, in pictures 🙂

Welcome!

200m2 of land – it’s not that big, but our team has enough to do! In the picture, from left to right, starting with the front row: Claire, Anna, Chloé, Sarah, Bridget, Baptiste, Clément, Alejandra, Elena, Selina

What’s growing?

There are the classics: beans, peas, lettuce, leeks, cabbage, chard, tomatoes, cucumbers, marrows, beans…

…apples of various kinds, pears, blackberries, raspberries, currants…

And more original, such as: pawpaw, saskatoon trees, a persimmon tree, a satsuma mandarin tree.

 

But why a garden?

About ten people live at the Domaine des Courmettes, and A Rocha organises environmental awareness camps every summer. The idea is to be able to produce part of the meals provided at these events locally and without pesticides.

The garden is also a place to meet, share and exchange ideas on the protection of biodiversity and the ecological crisis as a whole. Since November 2021, nearly 200 people, adults and children alike, have visited (and worked in!) the garden. For Claire, it provokes wonder, the desire to put one’s hands in the earth and start a garden at home or in the community. It is also an opportunity for those in the know to exchange best practices.

Drought and predators…

Reviving a garden at altitude (the estate is situated at 850 m) is not easy: the planting season is shorter (from May to October) and the temperature changes are brutal. And like all the departments in the Alpes-Maritimes this summer, the Domaine is suffering from drought, and the lack of water at Les Courmettes affects the garden’s production on a daily basis.

And what about permaculture?

At Les Courmettes, we try to apply certain permaculture principles: we do not turn over the soil and we work it very little, we leave certain areas uncultivated, we mulch, we do not use any chemicals, we favour biodiversity and above all, we get our supplies locally: we compost with the leftover vegetable peelings from the community’s meals, we reuse the straw used as decoration at weddings at the Domaine, we get our supplies of natural manure from the sheepfold, we buy shredded material from a local tree pruner.

As a result, slowworms and toads come and take refuge under the straw and eat our slugs, and the nasturtiums planted near the beans naturally attract aphids. Insects abound: golden spiders in the artichoke flowers, bumblebees, rhinoceros beetles…

We test the oyas: a pot made of porous baked clay that distributes water according to the needs of the plants. This prevents water stress and saves water.

Environmental education for schools

Thanks to the European Union, which supports the project, in particular to raise the awareness of children in the surrounding schools (see our catalogue of nature and garden outings for schools), Claire’s project will be able to continue for the coming year. CASA (La Communauté d’Agglomération Sophia Antipolis) also offered the Domaine three compost bins, took care of the installation and trained the team in their maintenance. We thank them warmly for their support!

Come and garden with us!

From 18 to 24 September, the Domaine offers a residential week to learn how to garden. Neither a training course for specialists nor an intensive permaculture course, this week offers you the opportunity to discover and put into practice some of the main principles of natural gardening and different ways of gardening (even if you don’t have a garden at home, you will be able to pick up ideas, for example, to join a shared garden association). Themes such as the design and organisation of a productive and sustainable garden, the soil and how to take care of it, sowing and planting, composting and mulching techniques…

 

Are you a gardener yourself? Do you live near Les Courmettes? Are you interested in helping us in the garden? Don’t hesitate to contact us!

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