Friday, October 21, 2016

Late to the party: dahlia Aloha?

dahlia "Aloha"

Okay so here's a weird one. Just when my dahlias seemed to be slowing down a bit, out pops this yellow-pink cactus variety from the same plant, that back in August, gave me this burgundy dinnerplate bloom.

Spartacus dinnerplate dahlia?

The dahlia latecomer is on a stem that grows side-by-side to the burgundy one. The resemblance to Aloha in the image below (right) is close, but the coloring makes me think that I've still got something else other than the Aloha. So wish I could identify this!

L-R: Hawaii, Duet, Aloha

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

We got Cherokee Purples!

The first cherokee purples

Up here in northern Italy we're going through a rather long period of sunny days and a dry spell with no end-of-summer storms in sight. The cucumbers are still producing, and there's still a lot of green tomatoes on the vines, but I am gradually clearing out the garden as summer gives way to fall. The weather didn't start out so well in June, but at the way things are looking, we could be wearing t-shirts and shorts up into October. And then it's hello Hawaii in November!

Today's high: 30°C / 86°F

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Hawaii and Duet

Hawaii dahlia

Dahlia update: happy that these 2 dahlias turned out the way they're supposed to (as depicted on the description image). They stand out so boldly with their dual colors.

Duet dahlia

The garden continues to chug along with cucumbers, green beans, and some cherry tomatoes here and there. It's amazing how it all adds up when you pick a little bit every day, enough anyway so that there's always one hot and one cold vegetable dish for dinner.

Cucumber, okra, red bell pepper "Quadrato", and from Esselunga market - Melanzana Rossa di Rotonda, a small, round, reddish-orange eggplant with a protected designation of origin (DOP) label.

Todays high: 27°C / 81°F

Monday, August 8, 2016

This is no Aloha...

Spartacus dinnerplate dahlia?

I'm still waiting on the large tomatoes (hoping for a harvest at the end of this month), and that's being very optimistic. In the meantime, I try to keep up with the cucumbers, the only vegetables that have done really well this season. In salad, pickled, cucumber gazpacho (meh), and all over again when I've run out of ideas, cukes are just killing it this year.

On the floral end of things, the 'Aloha' dahlia that bloomed recently looks nothing like the yellow and scarlet-tipped dahlia shown (3rd one) below. The burgundy one in its place resembles Spartacus Dinnerplate, and is the biggest flower in the garden at nearly 8 inches across.

Todays high: 28°C / 82°F

Friday, July 1, 2016

You take what you can get

Dead plants, stunted plants, slow-growing plants, some plants (good ones). I've accepted the fact that this year's harvest will be a meager one. Spring started off well enough, but the constant fluctuation between wet, cool days and scorching sunny ones from May to June was of no help in getting the garden off to a solid start. But I was clever this time, because I did tuck some vegetable starts in pots on the terrace. They won't yield as much, but I'll take what I can get.

Cucumbers and bell peppers

French breakfast radishes growing in the grape pot

Wasabi rucola (roquette). They really do taste like wasabi paste!

Todays high: 28°C / 82°F

Friday, May 27, 2016

Posing poppies and waiting on whirligigs

Well I didn't plan on more flowers after getting the dahlias last month, but there is something so charming about poppies that I find hard to resist. A couple of Iceland poppies from last year did really well with zero bug and slug problem, so I scooped up another Iceland and also several Oriental poppies for variety. They are a pain to photograph in the slightest breeze!

Iceland poppies

Pink and salmon Oriental poppies

As I was saying, I didn't plan on more flowers....and then my osteospermum Whirligig order (from April 9th on Amazon), arrived yesterday in the mail. Hallelujah! It must've literally sailed in on the slow boat from China. I hope these seeds...

...will turn out like these flowers.

That is, if they even germinate in 2-3 weeks.

Today's high: 24°C / 75°F

Friday, May 13, 2016

All we need is warmth and a little more sun

I had high hopes that May's weather would match that of last year with an average 25°C and back-to-back sunny days, but it's not happening this time around. While we did get to finish a lot of little jobs in the garden and the front yard, I have yet to transplant all of the seedlings that are crowded into the greenhouse and getting taller/bigger by the day. We still have to put up hail netting and set up the drip irrigation system, but until that's out of the way there's nothing to do but wait for warmer days.

I'm trying hard to imagine how this part of the terrace will look like in a year (okay maybe 2 years), when it's shaded with grape vines. We potted a white and purple variety at the right corners in order for them to take over the top of the pergola and create a cooler space during the summer months. My father-in-law wasn't too keen on the idea of growing grapes in a pot (they are roughly 80 liters/20 gallon capacity) but that was our only option.

There's so much sitting in the greenhouse that even the herbs need to go elsewhere. We picked these up from a garden fair in Milan: french tarragon, purple basil, thai basil, and lime basil. The guy that sold these said that the lime basil makes a good pesto.

Last but not least, nurseries are offering newer strawberry varieties along with the usual ones and I am all for trying out whatever I can get my hands on. Have you ever heard of a framberry? It's a strawberry that tastes like a raspberry. We shall see...

Today's high: 15°C / 59°F

Monday, April 11, 2016

Pruning done, now the dirty work begins

So, that rainy period we were expecting? It never showed up which gave us a chance to get some pruning work done on the fruit trees. It's a necessary task to keep the trees in check, but as we were working on the persimmon, I could only see a great loss of what could've been a wicked stash of leaves for kakinoha zushi. (Sure, like I would know how to make persimmon leaf sushi anyway.) Wait a minute. Actually, they make it look so easy on youtube!

The dirty work in question is having to pick up a cubic meter of soil from a local nursery. The dirt in our garden is primarily clay with lots of pebbles, so every time we need to loosen things up, we have to source some dirt, dig it up into buckets, and haul it all back home. It will cost us 1-2€ per bucket, and MotH says we may need up to 50 buckets for what we'll be planting this year. Unfortunately it does not include this weeping cherry tree that looked so pretty when I spotted it while passing the nursery.

Today's high: 20°C / 68°F

Friday, April 1, 2016

April showers

1-month old Cherokee Purple tomatoes (potted at 7-day old germinated seedlings)

In the first half of April 2015 we saw a lot of sun and temperatures between 18-25C° -- amazing weather that I hoped would repeat itself again this year. Well it looks like we may be in for a damp month but that's okay as long as it doesn't rain buckets. On the first sunny day that arrives, I need to get moving and plant some Aloha and Hawaii in the garden.

Summer dahlias: Hawaii, Duet, Aloha

Today's high: 13°C / 55°F

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Leaf by leaf, bud by bud, petal by petal

New year, new growing season. With the average temperature hovering in the upper 50's, spring was already in the making at the start of February. Hello gardeners! I welcome the buzzing bees and chirping birds outside my door but hesitate to second-guess if this year will be as hot as the last. A lot of work in store for the vegetable plot but in the meantime, I am enjoying la primavera in each tiny leaf, bud, and petal.

Nashi pear

Last year's primula makes a comeback

Flexi compost aerator

One thing rarely mentioned on garden blogs are the tools used, specifically those meant to make chores easier. From the beginning we struggled with turning the compost with a small pitchfork, but this aerator that I recently bought really does the trick at loosening things up. Our compost bin has a circular opening and this tool is genius since it doesn't require maneuvering at an angle. It works like a corkscrew: twist in and lift. Working a small section at a time, the job takes a few minutes and you're done.

Today's high: 17°C / 63°F