Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Don't throw away those old socks!

Now that the family 'padrino', my father-in-law, has seen and complimented our efforts in the garden, the first thing that he wanted to give me were some ties for our tomato plants. Yes, the assortment of tomatoes that I started from seed are all producing flowers and fruit! If they continue in their natural stages of development without interference from the dogs, I should have a lot of pomodoro "firsts" in this part of Italy.

But getting back to those ties... My father-in-law gave us a little bag which contained these curious cloth rings. He recycles old socks by cutting the calf part into bands (I'm guessing about 3/4 inch or 2 cm) and puts them through the washer to achieve these end results. All that's left to do is to snip the soft ring and voila! Instant tomato bush ties that allow for the stem to expand with no risk of harming the plant. Added plus, the uncut rings also doubles as a quick ponytail holder when I'm working in the garden!

sock tie

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Finding your italian zone

Visualizzazione ingrandita della mappa

Even before playing with the idea of starting a garden blog, I should've figured out at first where I stood in the gardening zone. Little did I know that this bit of info could help me find, or to be found, by others with similiar climate conditions. Hello all of my fellow gardeners...I'm italian zone 8, although with the microclimate created in our valley, it can differ year to year.

The bottom link helped me to discover which zone I corresponded to in the general area, but it was the USDA Zone Map which pinpointed what my zone would be in relation to average annual minimum temperature. Look's like I'm zone 9b. Now I can toy with the idea of planting a persimmon tree. Hmmm...

Italian gardening zones @virtualitalia.com

La zona di clima puo' essere utile a chiunque vuole sapere quali piante vanno bene per il suo clima. Sia albero, sia frutta e verdura, conoscete le vostre zone per coltivare meglio!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The eggplant tomato tree

Eggplant and tomato clip art courtesy of ClipArtLog

Still hot off the wire... The news of an experimental eggplant and tomato tree in Sicily may just become all the rage for vegetable gardens the world over. The english version and accompanying image (see link below) is enough to make me a believer, but what piqued my interest in the italian article was the mention of not only one, but several types of eggplant grafts to the rootstock - nostrana (average italian garden variety), melanzana bianca (the white egg-shaped ones), and tunisina. What's tunisina eggplant? It would logically seem to be an eggplant from Tunisia, although I've never heard of such a variety. A very lovely photo can be seen on flickr here.

Un'albero che produce i pomodori e le melanzane senza l'introduzione di OGM? Minchia! Sarebbe un miracolo!! Secondo me l'unica cosa che manca sono i capperi. E vi giuro, non e' una caponata vera senza i buonissimi capperi di Pantelleria...

Guidasicilia.it - Un geometra ha creato l'albero di melanzana e pomodoro

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

If only my zucchini were tomatoes...

Two weeks after the hailstorm. Despite torn holes in the leaves, pock marks on the fruit, and a sort of powdery mildew, the zucchini are still growing strong and remain the undisputed queens of the garden. First it was nothing but blossoms, of which the males were immediately snapped up and stuffed with ricotta and set under the broiler or slipped into the frying pan. Now it is a whole lot of zukes in risotto, with pasta, on the grill, in soups, and I'm like, enough already!

Sadly, I don't think the cucumber plant is going to make it. With the hail and then the doxie sneaking a nibble or two on the stems and leaves, I'm all out of hope for a possible audition in another episode of Grocery Store Wars.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Mole be gone!

Ma cos'è questa pianta? (What is this plant?) I think my father-in-law already knows that whenever I show a keen interest in something, it means that I want to take it home with me. He didn't have any idea what the botanical name was, only that it was the scappa talpa plant. The plant that made moles want to pack up leave. Earlier on, we had been transplanting a few young Thessaloniki tomato bushes in the garden, a gift that I wanted to give my inlaws since I had started way too many to fit into my own garden. Of course this little planting session did not go without free advice on how to properly water the newcomers to his orto (garden).

“Don't pour water from the top! Water below. Water on the leaves acts like a magnifying glass in the sun. It'll make too much heat on the leaves, you understand?” he says with a smile in his eyes.

Back again to the scappa talpa plant, he told me that 10 years ago his yard was full of moles - and holes. My mother-in-law chimed in at the mention of the holes, “sono pericolosi!” (they're dangerous!). A neighbor had given them a young plant and from then on, moles be gone! But still to this day, they only refer to the bush as scappa talpa. Scappa from the verb scappare (to escape) and talpa (mole). So far we haven't had any visits from the tunnel-excavating critters, but I couldn't resist doing a bit of sleuthing on the net, and what did I find? A plant species called Euphorbia lathyrus, otherwise known as the Gopher Purge or Mole Plant.

Not bad for just 15 minutes of digging around...