Allotments – a la francais

As promised, French allotments! I was lucky enough to meet a group while I was in Castelnaudary who are more or less what you could call an allotment association, although they are nothing like what we call one.

To understand French vegetable growing for the kitchen, you have to understand something about French inheritance laws. It was once the case that any land owned by a father was divided equally between his children. This meant that farms were constantly subdivided, and sold back and forth between siblings if they wanted to keep the land together. In towns, something different happened. Where land surrounded a house (which often also had outbuildings and stables) it also was divided between children. As the land was built on and new houses encroached on the divided garden, many people ended up with a separate garden, sometimes on the other side of the road! These small gardens in isolated areas between houses are often mistaken for allotments by English visitors. The true French allotment or jardin ouvrier (workers garden) dates from 1896 when they were set up to give factory workers ‘a taste of nature’ – isn’t that nice? Anyway, like our own allotments they fell in number. There were around 800,000 at the end of the second world war but by the 1970s only 150,000 were still in existence. Now they are on the rise again.

This photo is of a jardin non-attenant – or detached garden, of the first kind, which is owned partly by the houses that back onto it, and partly by the houses on the other side of the road. As you can see, it fronts a river, and there are some ingenious systems in use to raise river water by pump siphons to irrigate the land. Other than that, it looks just like an allotment to me!

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Friday, August 15, 2008


Anonymous Linda said...

I didn't know that about French allotmenting - interesting! Another example of how French literature degrees fail to teach you about the real world! My memories of French gardening are of teacher friends endlessly watering their vegetable plot in the hot June evenings.

August 20, 2008 at 2:44 AM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Hee, hee, I'm amazed to actually get one over on a French literature graduate! But I'm just a nosy parker, you see - I went armed with photos of my plot as an introduction and grabbed gnarly old Frenchmen as they watered their plots and made them tell me their secrets! More on Frenchmen and their vegetable gardens next week ...

August 20, 2008 at 9:08 AM  

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