Pumpkins Sprout From Paris Kerbsides




Competitive urban courgeophiles are hard at it proliferating pumpkins in a contest to grow the largest legume in the most incongruous spot in Paris – so ensuring flaneurs look up for falling calabashes as well as down for dog poop.

Yes they will grow on the pavement if you tend to them properly

Agricultural endeavours in the capital are not restricted to pumpkins however. Street artists trundle toy lorries of veg (see video below) behind them — a change from dogs on a leash — to the amusement of local children or decorate the mundane keep-car-off-pavement street poles (see Frich’Perif – Paris Label below), with flowers and other less conventional items.

Additionally a flowering movement known as POTOGREEN is helping soften the urban environment for Paris dwellers and introducing an ecological tone to the street scene. More formally the City of Paris has set up 50 animation and three outreach centres in the XIVeme arrondissement to encourage urban gardening.

Claude Feuillet of Concourbitacées 2012 contest organisers said: “Last year, we started planting seeds on street kerbs: we like the challenge of making things grow in almost extreme conditions … We thought it would be interesting if the idea were to spread across the city and thus we decided to stage a competition”.

“We are a group of five or six volunteers that regularly care for garden space in the villa de l’Ermitage, 75020 (east Paris)”. For this first competition, Claude and his team hope to attract around 20 intrepid individual growers and collectively maintained shared gardens run by neighbourhood associations. The basic idea is to see who grows the biggest gourd in Paris under extreme conditions and subject to some tough urban environmental constraints.

These include: lack of growing space and fertile soil, limited lighting, difficulties in watering, ongoing threats from dog mess, vermin and vandalism, conditions likely to make pumpkin production — a plant probably among the least suitable for urban cultivation – difficult and thus a worthy challenge, he added.

Additionally the rules are strict, no fertilisers, only bio that is organic pumpkins are acceptable.

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For this first competition, Claude and his team hope to attract around 20 intrepid adventurers, individual growers and collectively maintained shared gardens run by neighbourhood associations. The basic idea is to see who grows the biggest gourd or pumpkin in Paris, a challenge given the extreme conditions and tough urban environmental constraints. These include: lack of growing space and fertile soil, limited lighting, difficulties in watering, ongoing threats from dog mess, vermin  and vandalism, conditions likely to make pumpkin production — a plant probably among the least suitable for urban cultivation – difficult and thus a worthy contest, he added, particularly as the rules are very strict, no fertilizers only bio (organic) pumpkins are acceptable.

Speaking to a Rue 89 reporter he said some of his team such as Isabelle Gourcerol, are growing their competition entries on their balconies (she has started a pumpkin and two calabashes). Others have opted for sunnier wastelands such as found around villa de l’Ermitage while the boldest attempt to grow a plot of pumpkins on a broken and trashed pavement.

“The city is not the best environment of course and we are warning those attempting to grow in restricted spaces such as their balconies to ensure they secure their plants — we don’t want pumpkins raining down from upper floors onto unsuspecting passers-by, after all the world champion pumpkin weighs in at 1000 kg.” he said (hopefully?). The competition will end with a big pumpkin party in October or November this year just in time for Halloween or All Saints’ Day.

The rural reality may be absent but a reminder can always be arranged

Categories for green-fingered guerrillas that is gardeners, keen on participating are:

1. Big Bertha: the largest pumpkin grown in the urban area in terms of weight.
2. The Climber Orange : a special prize will be awarded to the pumpkin plant that manages the impossible, that is to say grows under the most challenging conditions; such as hung on a wall, pole, grid, tree, etc. Apart from the size of the pumpkin judges will take account of the most original configuration of the plant and the incongruity of its surroundings, as the key factors for winning this award.
3. Golden Bitumen: various prizes for the largest pumpkin grown on the pavement or in the street. Several configurations are possible: the plant can be grown above ground, in pots, bags or any container but can also be planted in any potholes or uneven spots on the pavement.
4. Peculiar Blaise : prizes for the largest pumpkin grown in open ground; in a shared garden, on waste ground or on a building site.

The organisers’ website is fulsome in its praise for the urban zen of inner city pumpkin production:

“Welcome to the Urban Pumpkin Contest 2012”

“Tired of easy to grow geraniums on the balcony? Already harvesting radishes, cherry tomatoes and peas in a neighborhood allotment, and now seeking a real  challenge? Hacked off by the unkempt, gray wasteland in front of your house and raring to give it some real green and orange colour? Dally no longer: join us by June 30th in this competition to grow the finest and biggest organic pumpkins in the most unexpected corners of the city.”

The website sets out how to participate:

“The 2012 Urban Pumpkin contest is open to all. To register is simple, contact us and we will send you the electronic entry form with payment details. During the growing period we will ask you to send in at least one picture of your plant, if possible with the vegetable already developing. Once the pumpkin is harvested you need to photograph it and clearly identify the produce and the place where it grew. The photos, location (address or GPS coordinates) and a summary presentation (if desired) of your crop will be published on the competition website as it progresses.”

So if you live in Paris and hanker after a bit of market gardening with a challenge here is the pumpkin contest website with more details of how to become a courgeophile winner: http://www.concourbitacees.com/

Of course pumpkins may not be your thing but there are many other Paris gardening and related events on offer try this blog for an up-to-date list.

Apart from Courgeophiles, Parisians can join Paris street artists doing their own form of militant gardening:

or visit Montparnasse to see one of the City of Paris’ outreach centres:

Pumpkins growing at Montparnasse in the chic XIVème arrondissiment

Here the impressive buildings of the nearby Montparnasse complex house a Gardeners Centre that includes vegetable planters made from recycled materials.

The video clip below records the Frich’Perif 2009 contribution (on the Paris Label website), to the growing range of gardening and other neighbourhood enhancement activities local residents and street artists have launched in the capital.

Paris Label below offers a photographic record of an earlier POTOGREEN project: “Unhappy about the starkness of the anti-parking poles invading many Paris streets, Paule Kingleur from Paris Label created some eco-friendly hanging gardens to liven up the environment. The pocket gardens in a bag are made from four recycled canvas bags filled with a range of small plants in the form of a minature hanging garden. Paule Kingleur’s homemade mini botanical gardens are good for the environment and the POTOGREEN planters help encourage residents to participate in beautifying their neighbourhoods.

Potogree planters colour-up the neighbourhood

and here a future horticulturist surveys progress…

Watching it grow

…while this motorist appears to be carrying the message with him making his the capital’s first mobile garden?

Taking the garden for a drive

Story: Ken Pottinger
editorial@french-news-online.com

UPDATE: Ricky Myles, editor of guide2paysdelaloire.com writes of a vineyard resuscitation project in Angers offering those  involved the ultimate prize, the bottled fruit of their labours: “Every weekend, under the supervision of those experienced in viticulture a dozen volunteers learn to prune the vines. The idea is for volunteers to become green-fingered in a leisurely way. There is less emphasis on hard graft and greater emphasis on rehabilitating nature”, explained Sébastien Couvreur with secateurs in hand. Students, pensioners and families, work in a friendly atmosphere even in the pouring rain.”  See more details here

 



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8 Responses to Pumpkins Sprout From Paris Kerbsides

  1. Ricky Myles May 29, 2012 at 11:56 am

    Gardening is the new Zumba. Especially liked the Cinquecento powered barrow! It is good to see otherwise unused vacant or derelict space being put to fruitful uses. Down in Angers, there’s something similar with old vines, naturally. Though they haven’t gone to the extent of training them up roadsigns. http://www.guide2paysdelaloire.com/news/90/Vignes-en-Ville-Angers-City-Vineyard-Project

  2. www.French-News-Online.com May 29, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Thanks for Angers vines H/T Ricky, have added a footnote!

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