Friday, July 30, 2010

Make room for the cabbage...and the onions

Cabbage and cauliflower

Heavy rains from a few days ago meant death to the just emerging carrot seedlings so it gave me some much needed space to stick half of the above (the cabbage) into a new home. They should do well in this cooler spot. The carrots were sown again, this time in a large pot because I have no more space!

Squeezing in the cabbage

Unfortunately, they didn't get to enjoy their "space" for too long because I dug up some young onion seedlings and through the miracle of the innernetz, found out that cabbage and onions make good neighbors, and in they went, all in a neat row.

Onion seedlings

Average daytime temperature: 22°C / 72°F

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Jumping the gun on Bull's Blood beets

Bull's Blood itty bitty beet

I should probably be slapped on the wrists for doing so, but I read somewhere that when the top of the beet root is clearly visible above ground, then it's time to harvest. Harvest is the operative word here, because in higher altitude prealps, we always wait longer than the green thumbs down at lakeside. Nevermind the fact that you should also take into consideration the days to maturity of which I totally, outright, so-sue-me-I-don't-care disregarded in this case. How pitiful that beet looks, nowhere near the 2-3 inches in diameter that it is supposed to be. The thing with yanking something out of the ground early is that you learn not to do it again, so I am happy to leave the rest where they are until well after summer.

Mirabelle plum cluster

These mirabelle plums are almost ready for picking; they just need to turn a little more yellow in color. The persimmons, on the other hand, have a long ways to go. Typically they appear on supermarket shelves around November, but have shown up earlier in the season if it has been a particular warm year. We have never gotten anything from the tree since it was planted 2 years ago, so it'll be the first harvest if strong winds, bugs or hail don't get to them before they reach full maturity.

Young persimmon

Average daytime temperature: 23°C / 73°F

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tess's Land Race Currant

Tess's Land Race Currant, originally uploaded by me.

I ordered seeds (Baker Creek) just out of curiosity because I don't put too much importance on cherry tomatoes. They are great in salads and that's about it. You can't use them in sandwiches (too small), stuff them, or chop them into fresh salsas (too much trouble). For me it is easier to just buy them and turn all of my energy towards growing large tomatoes. They are the ones that everyone gushes over anyway. Oh wow! You grew these yourself???

Well I've changed my mind. These currant tomatoes are cute, and naturally the first to flower, take shape and turn red, and makes a tasty tart-sweet snack when you're poking around in the garden. I admit to having felt a small touch of disappointment upon realizing that they would not grow much larger than a currant, but that's what labels are for. I don't know what I was thinking...jumbo currants?

These were sown indoors on February 23rd; repotted twice until I set them outdoors under a polytunnel in mid-May. In our prealpine environment, it took almost 5 months from then until today to be able to start harvesting. I'll likely grow these next year but maybe in a large planter on the terrace.

Today's high: 25°C / 77°F

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Rampion | Rapunzel: is there no one else that believes in fairytales anymore?

Rampion seed

Forget about the young lady with the long braids stuck at the top of a tower. I can hardly imagine how she managed to wash all that hair! The reason why I even considered growing this is because I have never seen rampion in anybody's produce section, and if Franchi goes through all that effort to put these out then there must be something to them, right? Search for rapunzel roots on Flickr and you get an eyeful of hair. Query rampion and it turns up a mass of purple flowers. I scattered the very, VERY fine seeds in a large bucket of dirt today. We shall see next spring if the fairytale vegetable will come true.

Uva spina | gooseberry

Garden update: the non-cherry tomatoes are much bigger, but still green. Really, all that manure in the soil did a lot of good even if I don't think we'll see any ripe ones before the end of this month. I am already planning on what I'd like to stick back there on the slope in the fall - gooseberries. Picked up this little container for just under 1€. Again, these were never available in Hawaii and while they do have a tart flavor, I like their unique appearance. If you have any growing tips, please share!

Average daytime temperature: 27C / 81°F

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mosquito control

Anti-mosquito arsenal

Recent late evening thundershowers and hot sunny days may have done a ton of good in the garden, but the rains have also given the mosquito population an edge. I have an extremely bad reaction after being bitten by a zanzara, and regardless of what's been said and written - all positive - on mosquito-repelling plants, I still find it necessary to supplement the geraniums and marigolds with chemical products. In the typical italian home there are no window screens(!) which further exacerbates the problem of keeping skeeters out. I remember one sleepless summer night in Tuscany where it was so hot that I simply had to open the windows - the bloodsuckers wasted no time coming in.

The above items are conspicuously stocked on major supermarket shelves just before summer comes along and I noticed that this year, brightly colored repellent wristbands were a fast-selling item. We mainly use heat-activated insecticide tablets (they look like small pieces of cardboard) outside, never indoors. There's also the vaporizer that plugs into an outlet but we no longer use it. The spray is for enclosed spaces like the tool shed or garage, but it's the coil repellents that ring a bell with me. They've always been a regular household item in Hawaii (we used them to light firecrackers on new year's eve) and recent visitors from the islands commented that the citronella and geranium-scented mosquito coils would probably sell like hotcakes (only the green ones are available in Hawaii). My husband did take it upon himself to install retracting window screens in the kitchen/living room where we spend much of our time, but the biggest improvement has been the double screen door panels with a doggie entrance - it keeps the insects out but lets the breeze in. The only hurdle now is to convince the dogs to use it.

There's a whole new world on the other side

And lastly, the gratuitous tomato shot since it's all about tomatoes for a lot of gardeners right now. Tess's Land Race currant on June 23rd, July 6th and today. They are so tiny but have good tart/sweet flavor.

Tess's Land Race Currant Tess Land Race currant tomatoes Ripe Tess's Land Race Currant

Today's high: 29°C / 84°F

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Live long and prosper

That's what I tell my plants when I'm out there pinching off persistent tomato suckers. In the past 13 days the temperature has gradually increased to where it is now averaging about 27-28°C. Coupled with the cooler nights and occasional rainstorm, this has been a tremendous benefit to everything in the garden and front yard, and I've been spending a couple of hours each morning doing weed control. There has already been beautiful and bountiful harvests from other gardeners on the web, but since our season starts a little later, this is the period where I wish summer would fastforward so that the tomatofest can begin. No zucchini, no cukes? Bah! I can get those anytime at the supermarket, along with lettuce, eggplants and beans, but heirloom tomatoes is another thing altogether, because in Italy we just don't have pomodoro (tomato) madness like everywhere else. The cuore di bue and san marzano types are the staples in most gardens, so I'm trying to figure out how I'll explain why mine are pink and purple when I share some with the neighbors. No, this is not genetically modified, I swear! It's still another month or so away and anything can happen (like a swarm of locusts or baseball-sized hail), so in the meantime, here are photos that I took this morning of what's thriving in the orto.


Tomato patch in July

13 days ago

Tomato patch in June

Bulls Blood beets and young japanese pear

Bulls Blood beets nashi-pear

Wild strawberries and purple & green shiso

wild-strawberries purple-and-green-shiso

Carbon and Cherokee Purple tomatoes

Carbon tomatoes (around 2 weeks old) Cherokee purple (around 2 weeks old)

Tess' Land Race Currant - today and 13 days ago

Tess Land Race currant tomatoes Tess's Land Race Currant

Average daytime temperature: 27C / 81°F