Saturday, August 7, 2021

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Heavy rains, violent storms, hail, temperatures in the scorching highs and then sudden lows - we've had it all this summer and it ain't over yet. It has been a real challenge in the garden, enough that I'm considering giving it a rest the following year. But knowing myself, that won't be 100% and there will have to be something growing somewhere even if it's in a simple vase. Taking stock of what worked and what didn't, I figured it's time to come up with a strategy so I can work smarter, not harder.

The Good

Cucurbits. The pattypans, bi-color "Zephyr" summer squash, uchiki kuri and even the tiny cucamelons pulled through despite the wild weather, voracious slugs and constant presence of powdery mildew. As long as I can keep up with slaying the slugs, the summer squashes should be okay until the temperatures begin to drop. They're not well-known in Italy; my husband thinks pattypans look like something a Hobbit would grow.

Blackberries, pattypan, cucamelons

Also doing good are the Sublima and Black Magic grapes. I pruned excess vines and leaves in early summer to allow for more sunlight and air circulation. I never have the heart to thin clusters (for bigger grapes) but I reckon more is better. What we can't eat will go into the compost bin.

Sublima Seedless and Black Magic

The Bad

Stinkbugs! They've become more of a nuisance as each year goes by. Last year they damaged the majority of the nashi pears, inserting their needle-like mouths into young fruit. This year they took a liking to the tomatoes and I've tossed more into the compost bin than onto my plate.

The damage is called 'cloudy spot'. Doesn't matter if the toms are still green or ripe, stinkbugs feed on both. It's time to throw in the towel on large tomatoes; they're harder to cultivate up here in the mountains and not worth the trouble anymore.

The Ugly

The stinkbug should've been the ugly poster child but the blackberries don't look all that pretty this year. It's very possible that I have the beginning of a problem with eriophyd mites. In short, they're itty bitty nasties not visible to the naked eye. At first I thought stinkbugs were the culprit but I found information regarding a commercial fruit grower in northern Italy who experienced mite (acari) damage in their blackberry bushes. The mites, for whatever reason, seem only to feed on thornless blackberry plants.

I should just stick with thorny berry bushes. They're a pain to harvest but nothing bothered the tayberries or gooseberries this year.

Friday, July 2, 2021

The garden in July

The second half of the year already! At this point in the season it is now a waiting game in the vegetable garden: waiting for fruits or vegetables to mature and ripen, hoping for much needed rain, and praying for the summer heat to be done and over with. We haven't experienced the heat like elsewhere in Italy at lower altitudes but I expect that to change in July and August. I took these photos yesterday during my morning inspection of the garden.

The blackberries (thornless variety) should be ready to pick from August to September. This year I'm freezing harvests for smoothies and mixed berry pies.

The row of Peruvian ground cherry/poha berry plants are really growing slow in this space. I have others growing elsewhere that are 3 times bigger but still no flowers. I've read that it takes 6 months from sowing to harvest so with a little good fortune, something will eventually come of them.

Patty pans and Zephyr summer squash (pictured above in top photo). Like last year, the patty pans are taking their time finding their groove. The bi-color Zephyrs on the other hand, are already producing. I have most of these growing vertically on stakes to maximize space, and I hand-pollinate new baby squash every morning for a better success rate (the bees are not so much this year).

Cherokee Purple and Paul Robeson tomatoes recently started to set fruit. I know we need rain, but thankfully the sparse precipitation means less chance of the plants getting fungal diseases. I always worry about this if it really pours early on in the season but so far, so good.

I predict that we'll be harvesting at least 50 pounds of grapes this year. The white varieties that we have (Topazia and Sublima) put out plenty of flower clusters; same goes for the Black Magic grapes that did very well the previous year. Grape jelly is on the list of things to make but the harvest is really so much that it's impossible to give enough of them away.

Lastly, the bed containing the mini-variety watermelons (Yellow Cutie and Piccolina) and okra. Both took forever to develop in the greenhouse but once it was warm enough and safe (no more slugs) to set them out, they do seem to have grown some. I'm experimenting with training the watermelons to grow on the wire fencing for the most part but also allowing some to sprawl on the ground.

Today's high: 29°C / 84°F