Wednesday, June 24, 2009

3.25 inches in one day & il bruco verde

Clay soil

Look at that lovely color of clay. That's what I get for excavating and ripping out a whole area of wild strawberries, and in turn, received payback in the form of erosion. The downpour this past Friday totaled almost 3½ inches in a few hours, and I was worried for the damage that would inevitably happen on our garden slope. Thank goodness only torn leaves and nicked tomatoes during an instance of hail. The strawberries, looking more robust than ever the day after, are about the size of a fingernail and very sweet. They flourish like weeds in the back lot - I was so excited the first time I tried them (they grow all over the mountainside) and would raid the patches every season. That was pre-garden, because as our edible eden took shape, the strawberries were always in the way. We don't have any wild critters to curb the berry population. Come to think of it, we don't have a problem with birds either, but I credit the dogs for chasing them out of the yard during the day.

Bruco verde

I was going to ask for help in identifying this orange & black-spotted caterpillar, but after googling bruco verde (green caterpillar), I eventually found the connection to Old World Swallowtail. The only butterflies that I've ever known are monarchs, so this is somewhat of a thrill as there are two caterpillars on the wild fennel. This one in particular stayed in the same position all day long! Neither camera-in-its-space or petting its back made any difference whatsoever. He must have had too much to eat and fell asleep right away.

Average daytime temperature: 24°C / 75°F

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Bee and the Borage

I don't feel that this is true bokeh as the background doesn't include obvious point of light sources. In any case, it was fun trying to capture this bee at work - he going about his business and I to mine. This bee, and others just like it, are especially attracted to the borage and kumquat blossoms that are grouped in one area on the terrace. When the windows are open, I can hear them buzzing around while I'm working at the pc! An oversight is that I neglected to include flowers in planning the garden. Now that I know how much the bees love borage (they're constantly visiting the same plants throughout the day), I transplanted one of the potted borage to the rear garden where most of the veggies are grown, in hopes that the plant will naturalize itself and entice more of nature's hard workers.

Average daytime temperature: 22°C / 72°F

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Passa the pomodoro

Passapomodoro Bialetti

A sharp eye and quick wit will tell you that I'm just-ah poking fun-ah at the word passapomodoro. It also helps to know that passa is from the verb passare (to pass) while pomodoro is well...a tomato. This is an old tomato food mill made by Bialetti, and soon we should be passing tomatoes right/left, up/down at the rate the plants are growing. Perhaps that's why my inlaws gave their passapomodoro so willingly. I could tell that they hadn't used it in ages, and knowing my mother-in-law, she'll just say that it's easier to buy canned stuff from the store. I know that she isn't physically up to canning anymore, but she also said something similiar upon giving me her manual pasta machine!

Gardening work has been nothing but weeding in this period. In between the last post, the temperature dropped to 17°C / 63°F and it rained for several days straight. When the sun came out today I checked the tomatoes and found a baby Black Trifele, and then another! The plants are located in an area that is first to see the sun, even if I didn't intentionally set them there. This is the first time that I've tried growing the Japanese Black Trifle, and thanks to a post from Hanna's Tomato Tastings, I feel lucky to have chosen this one on a whim. Can you imagine the look on my inlaws' faces when I tell them that I'm making Japanese black tomato sauce? Haha!

Baby Black Trifele

Average daytime temperature: 22°C / 72°F

Friday, June 5, 2009

Italian growing zones: blue, red or possibly even yellow

At the very beginning of this blog I was concerned about knowing what specific growing zone that I was in, but to tell the truth, I really haven't heard or seen it discussed a whole lot in the local gardening forums around here. This led me to believe that gardeners simply go by instinct, by the signs of nature (the birds have arrived!), or by what their favorite garden shops tell them. My father-in-law, for example, wouldn't have a clue as to what I was talking about, and the last time he called for an update on the garden, all I knew is that he felt I had started my tomatoes too early. You see, he thought I had transplanted them into the ground whereas I had only started them indoors.

You might be thinking, well then how can they tell when the time is right? Not everyone is a born green thumb, so there must be some written indication, some credible source in which to refer to. In the previous post, Maybelline posed a couple of questions. Using an example of raperonzolo seeds (Campanula rapunculus), I thought it would make an interesting topic in a little show-n-tell:
  Are there growing zones in Italy or is that just an American thing?
  If there are, I'm curious to know what zone you are in?

Rapunzel seeds

On the map I've added a large dot where I'm at, and as you can see, it's in the blue as is most of the rest of Italy. Taking that into account, and the micro-climate of Lake Como, all I have to do is check which growing months (gotta love the roman numeral system) that blue corresponds to. Those rapunzel seeds could have gone in earlier but I'm waiting it out until summer is over. Nothing could be easier but just to be sure, I always look to see if my neighbors have started planting their gardens, and from there I take my cue.

These are just a few recent shots of what's been growing and/or harvested from my little spot in the woods.

Stella Alpina
Stella Alpina purchased at a nursery for only 1.50 euros per plant (I bought 3)

Rattail radish plant
Rattail radish plant

Rattail pods
Can't wait to serve these to my father-in-law. He'll never guess what they are.

Pea planter
My husband had never grown peas before, so at first he was doubtful that I could grow them in containers. To be honest, so was I...

Sugar peas
..until we sampled our first harvest.

Tomatillo plant
These could be either green or purple tomatillos because most of the seeds germinated late or never germinated at all, and so I saved the best of those that did make it (three!) and stuck them in a pot.

Allium with seed pods
The allium keeps amazing me in all of its various stages.

Average daytime temperature: 21°C / 70°F and a thunderstorm is brewing.