Friday, June 7, 2013

Protecting the summer garden

Fast forward 8 months through one very stubborn winter and a sorrowfully dreary spring. L'Orto is back! One too many cloudy days, heavy rainstorms, and an unexpected snowfall at the latter end of May put a stop to getting anything into the ground. Everyone was anxious for the weather to turn around, and now that it seems to be doing just that, I share the latest news on what's growing in the chestnut forest.

Tunnel de forçage

Brussel sprouts. Flanked by leeks and a couple of red bell pepper plants. Everything came from the nursery, but the row covers - tunnel de forçage - are from a french garden shop that we visted last fall. This is the first time trying them and they are WONDERFUL. Unlike the plastic sheet covers that I need to pin down over the frames, the tunnels are sturdy and heavy enough that all I need do is place them over the row of seedlings. So far I've had no problems with cabbage moths laying eggs on the leaves, and other pests still haven't found their way in. There are evenly spaced holes in the top, allowing water to drip in, but when I'm in a rush, the tunnels are a breeze to lift and set aside.

Tomatoes. Grown in pots and bags. I picked up several sacks of potting soil specifically formulated for tomatoes, eggplants and bell peppers. Since I had to do crop rotation this year, I'm out on a lot of space in the back garden (where the toms used to grow) and moved them to the front yard. I've also got some tomatoes growing in a small patch of dirt at the edge of the lawn, but anything else is in a container. I picked up grafted plants to get things moving faster and am growing one each of datterino, pachino, Black Krim and Black Truffle. Note the "barriers" that are necessary to keep the dogs from biting off the leaves. I also started some Cherokee Purple and Black Pineapple from seed but they are barely 6 inches tall at this point.

We're still getting the occasional hailstorm so I put up some plastic sheeting for protection. Between the 7 eggplants, basil, parsley, yellow bell peppers and tomato seedlings, it's a tight squeeze but this part of the front yard faces south and they get a lot of sunlight.

Two zucchini plants get hail protection with a lid from an old cold frame.

Calceolaria. After such a colorless spring I couldn't help but add this to the shopping cart, along with a whole bunch of herbs and a caper plant. They don't have any kind of attractive smell but the yellow and orange remind me of summertime, barbecues, ice cold drinks and long, lazy days ahead of us.