The garden of Château Neercanne

The garden of Château Neercanne

Every year all kinds of fruit and vegetables are grown in our château garden and processed in the kitchen into refined dishes. Our chef de cuisine from restaurant l’Auberge, works in collaboration with a group of volunteers, to ensure that every year a more organic and professional farming can be done. This all to create the tastiest, purest result for your taste buds. (More information can be find via information cards on location).

Contact information

Von Dopfflaan 10
6213 NG Maastricht
The Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)43 325 1359

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Growth & Bloom

After a Springtime filled with mild days and rainy nights, our garden is in great condition. There has not even been the need to spray or irrigate the soil. Now Summer is in full swing and provides the garden with an enormous wealth of growing and flowering plants.

The lush vegetation is ready for harvest and bursting with flavour. The lettuce has grown like no other and has a remarkably large size. The new types of lettuce are still somewhat variable in results. We have learned that the same soil does not always provide us with the same results. One type grows very fast and is very flavourful, and the other one is unfortunately not to our liking. A good development and learning point for the 2022 plan.

The beloved tomato family had to wait until after Ice Saints on 15 May to be planted this year. Unfortunately, mother nature brought us a lot of rain the following week, which caused quite a bit of damage to the plants. Fortunately, the tomato plant is a strong one and the majority of the plants recovered well. They are currently in full bloom and we are looking forward to a juicy harvest in August.

Unexpected Visitors

Our garden is a much visited place; from the hardworking volunteers to interested guests, not to mention our bee population, which can be found there daily. However, we recently received unexpected visitors in our garden: the cows from the adjacent meadow. After seeing the wonderfully growing vegetables day in, day out, they decided to come and have a look for themselves. A small section of the fence was damaged and provided an open entrance to our garden. The two cows have fed their stomachs and tasted quite a bit. From sweet corn to lettuce. Our dedicated volunteers ensured that the neighboring cows were returned safely to the meadow and restored the fence and garden.

New Developments: Saffron, Wine and Flowers

There are also a number of new developments in our garden. For example, we will be planting our own saffron crocuses in collaboration with Le Vrai Safran from Belgium starting from the end of July. We are really looking forward to this valuable addition, not only for our dishes, but also for our bees.

Another new development is the flower garden that we have planted, in collaboration with local floral entrepreneurs, Fien Fleur and Babette Kessels. This garden is becoming a treasure trove of beautiful wildflowers, perfect for decorating our tables and spaces. The first flowers have already been picked, nothing is better than being able to grow this wealth in your own garden.

Finally, the vineyard is back at the château. New vines have been planted here by our General Manager Pierre Haenen. The Sauvignon Gris grape was chosen so that we will not have to use pesticides and can let mother nature do its work naturally.

26 April 2021

The spring season arrives

All change for the year ahead

Although the sun is now shining through more regularly, the weather remains chilly, and the cold northerly wind keeps our gardens in their dormant state. It means we can focus on all those important jobs and new ideas we have, including composting green waste from both garden and kitchen. In the next two years, our plan is to create a responsibly managed cycle, where all composted garden waste is used to feed our soil. We plan to supplement the compost with green kitchen waste which would, in effect, decrease wastage from l’Auberge de Neeercanne kitchen by some 10-20%.

It has been a tough winter for our bees. Of the three colonies that resided in the château’s greenhouse, rather shockingly, only one managed to survive. We fear that the population of bees was too small and was unable to keep warm during the more severe winter weather. We have therefore decided to introduce new queen bees, acquired from the Lieteberg Entomological Centre, in Belgium. This summer we hope to have three thriving colonies with healthy, strong genes and will continue to maintain an active association with the Jeker Valley beekeepers.

Despite the severity of the weather, we have started to sow various plants in readiness for the growing season. We are collaborating with Reinier Hoon, a horticulturalist from Kanne whose greenhouses are providing protection for the young seedlings. Our plan is to grow tomatoes, zucchini, artichoke, cucumbers, beets and a variety of lettuces. They are already peeking out of the ground and will be planted in our own gardens from mid-May onwards. In readiness, the garden beds are being prepared for planting with fresh compost and brushwood.

We also decided to spring-clean the greenhouse by removing the nutrient deficient soil and adding fresh compost. It will give a fantastic boost to our tomatoes in 2021. We are very much looking forward to lots of delicious produce, many positive results and a fruitful year.

1 November

Autumn’s last harvest

The days are getting shorter and there’s a definite chill in the air as temperatures begin to drop. With the change of season, our garden gets less hours of sunshine which affects the way plants grow and reproduce. To prepare for winter we’ve enriched the freshly harvested beds with compost and have sown natural green cover.

The structures for vertical cultivation that were built last summer have been cleared and the blackberry hedges stripped back. Even though our garden looks a lot barer during this season, it’s still a lovely spot to enjoy sunny winter days.

One of the season’s biggest jobs is tidying up the tomato garden. We started this in good time to stay one step ahead of the winter frost. Firstly, the tomato plants were cleared, then the soil was turned with compost and sown with spinach, lamb’s lettuce and purslane – all leafy vegetables that we love to use in our dishes during the winter season. In addition, they serve as a natural winter cover, preparing the ground and giving new tomato plants the best possible start, come spring.

As we have enjoyed a mild autumn, many tomato plants were still laden with fruit and able to ripen beautifully. Those vines placed in parts of the garden which are less sun-drenched, have remained greener and firmer, producing a different taste to the sun-ripened variety, but still equally edible and tasty.

At L’Auberge we strive to waste as little as possible and so use the year’s last tomato harvest to produce a delicious chutney, that will also become a flavoursome base for new tomato dishes in 2021.

Would you like to recreate our chutney at home?

Click here for the recipe

An exciting moment for new planting

New heights

In order to boost vertical growth, we have built various new structures to cultivate the height of several types of vegetables. Giving the garden a whole new look, a climbing net was placed in-between pea plants to support their height, and the great news is that the beans are already ready to be harvested. Over the last few years, we have expanded our knowledge on different crops, such as pumpkin plants, which have been successfully interspersed among existing beds.

Using our trusty handbook ‘ecological gardening’, we combined new research and our existing knowledge from the previous tomato garden, to start work on new horticultural ideas. This involved recycling materials from old vines to propagate cucumbers, melons and pumpkins. Fingers crossed for great success! Following these preparations, we planted the first cultivation of courgettes, pumpkins and turban squash.

Efficient watering
There is a technical side to our garden, the water supply. As the garden gets quite a few hours of sunshine during the day and because recent summers have been generally drier, in the past we have had to regularly water the crops. Having researched more efficient methods of watering, we implemented a soaker hose system. Over time, this scheme has been expanded and is currently active throughout half of the planting beds.

Unwelcome guests

Every garden has to deal with its fair share of unexpected problems and issues. Thankfully we can always rely on Stefan Muijtjens and our trusted manual for support.

When the tomato seedings were ready to go in the ground, we noticed a significant growth difference between the plants, and on inspection discovered they had contracted green lice. We worked with Stefan to resolve the situation in an ecological way. Firstly, we needed to select the plants we wanted to treat and those we unfortunately had to let go. Luckily, we always plant ample quantities, so have built up a margin for sufficient retention of usable plant material. After removing most of the flies and lice, the plants were sprayed with water three times a day. One week later, the problem seemed to be solved! Now the healthy tomato plants are thriving and showing off.

The newbies
Due to the sunny weather and warm temperatures, the soil has warmed up sufficiently and seeding in the open ground has begun. A start has been made with cut lettuce varieties, such as cabbage lettuce, so that we can use leaves from our own garden in dishes all summer long. In addition, we have also sown radishes and beans, with turnip greens and pak choi also ready to be planted.

1 June

The art of planting

In our garden, vegetables, fruit and herbs slowly starts growing in April.
When the final cold and icy nights are over, it’s time to get to work.
Behind the scenes our volunteers and agricultural professional, Stefan Muijtjens, -> click to work hard to cultivate the garden. The old living room of the former general manager plays a special role in this process…

The cultivation plan

In order to make optimal use of everything that grows in our garden, a schedule clearly indicates what each bed is used for and when each plant species is planted. This scheme is designed by Stefan in a nice and clear overview, focused on diverse and varying plants. This plan is extremely helpful, as we look to avoid monotonous land use and use as many species as possible. The premise behind all this is to maintain a healthy garden and soil.

Our plant groups

Our ambitions go beyond the kitchen. We strive to cultivate our own plant material in the garden. In order to achieve this from the seed on, we divided the group of volunteers into several focus groups, so that we can work in a very targeted manner and together build  an abundance of knowledge and skills. Each person becomes an expert in their specialization, which transfers beautifully into a collective effort to develop the garden at our castle, growing closer to the ultimate end goal.

From living room to “maternity room”

After preparing the last beds in our garden, the soil is raked and tilled with a swirl to create a nairy grow bed so that the plants grow at their best. Compost is also added and processed with the ground cover. Then, on a typical fresh spring morning in early April, it’s time to plant the very first plant material.

Furthermore, a start is made to grow our own plant material in the old living room of our former general manager, Peter Harkema. ’A living space first used for him and his wife is now the “life” of our own cultivated plants. After the seeds sprouted, the first plants were planted in our garden in the May loop. It’s an exciting time for us and our garden, evoking a sense of curiosity and anticipation, a feeling garden enthusiasts can appreciate.

From planting seeds to sharing plants

The seed group has been hard at work to develop a precise and targeted approach. We set specific goals and deadlines to achieve sufficient amounts in result of the seeds growing. Not all seeds planted are successful, so we take this into consideration in order to meet our target production. That said, we avoid overcrowding our garden, giving our “plant friends” proper space to grow.

If our garden grows faster and better than expected, we create an ‘exchange day’ with the surplus of vegetables, fruit and herbs on hand. It becomes a unique moment to invite guests into our garden to exchange ingredients and knowledge, so guests can enjoy and cook with our ingredients at home.

1 March

Ending past garden year

A new garden year can’t properly begin without ending the previous year. This is done as follow: the garden beds that are no longer in use at time are sown with green cover. This has a three-part effect; first of all, keeping the soil in place during the winter months, secondly it keeps the soil structure separate from the root system that is formed by the plants and finally the plants also serve directly as a breeding ground for when spring arrives and new compost mixed under the ground is being created.

Preparation and new goals in our garden

In the month October or November we all sit together with the team of Château Neercanne to evaluate our previous garden year. The positive points but also points for improvement are clearly mapped out from which objectives for the new garden year are drawn up. With this global plan we will start to reform our gardens in the best possible way.

One of our greatest ambitions for the upcoming year is to create greater diversity in the garden. This is not directly done in different types of products, but more as variation in type of seeds. For example, not just growing the green zucchini, but a mixture of different zucchinis. In this way we can also investigate which products grow most prosperously and which varieties have the tastiest flavour.

As a result, our kitchens work less with cultivated plant material and we will grow this almost entirely ourselves. This means that we realise everything in our own garden from the seed.

A wide selection has been made of different vegetables that are grown in the garden of our château. This selection is mainly aimed at classical, organic varieties and hybrid varieties (or crossed and combined varieties) are removed. This remains a somewhat difficult issue, but also aims as a strong goal within our garden.

From seed to growing nutrition

In the month of December the orders for our garden are made at various garden seed dealers. We opt for organic seed because this fits in perfectly with our organic way of working in the garden.

The first seeds were already delivered at the end of February. At that time, preparations in the garden are already in full swing. The compost for the garden beds is distributed. The snow and cold make it quite nerve racking  for our gardens, but the sun wins it every time and gives a big boost in the development. We notice this mainly from the positive growth of the herbs in the garden, which indicates to us that our products are definitely going in the right direction.

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