GBHD – What’s in the vegetable garden

I’m joining in with Barbara and Christine with their What we’re harvesting today meme; it’s interesting because they are now approaching winter and in Italy we’re going slowly into summer.

There are some strawberries almost every day

The strawberries have slowed down considerably since last month (am I really thinking “thank goodness”?)  There are some to eat most days and lots more flowers to give hopes of many more to come soon.

…and lots of promise of more to come with lots of flowers

Broad beans don’t always fulfill their promise

Having our own lemons is a treat

This year I decided not to buy grafted pepper plants and I am sure that this year the peppers will in fact be ready earlier.  If I wanted green peppers there are already a couple that are large enough to use.

Not actually harvesting peppers yet as I don’t usually eat them while they’re still green, except in Gazpacho, but I don’t have the other ingredients yet.

Not actually harvesting peppers yet as I don’t usually eat them while they’re still green, except in Gazpacho

The vegetable garden is already quite productive.  The greenhouse enables me to buy in small plug plants of many things early and grow them on, so that when I plant them out they are already good sized plants.  The tomatoes in the greenhouse have mostly already reached the top of their canes and those outside are well on the way to doing so too; the job of the moment is to keep them tied in and the side shoots pinched out.  When I plant the tomatoes I add an alkaline tablet to each planting hole to help prevent bottom rot.

The soil was, I think, a little acid for some of my herbs and vegetables as I’d used my own compost as top dressing and perhaps it needed a little longer to decompose.  Initially the basil was very yellow and it is only after watering with the heavily alkaline water from the well that it is now looking temptingly green and ready to use with tomatoes and very soon the first pesto sauce of the year.

The outdoor tomatoes are winning the race as to which will have the first ripe tomao to pick, this week, I think

The Basil was really yellow and sick looking but is now looking much better, I love using fresh basil with tomatoes and mozzarela de Buffalo

The Basil is looking beautifully green now

We have had rain all day today and when I went out to take these photographs it seemed that the sweetcorn had grown 10 cm during the day!  They are under-planted with melons, which are growing slowly, and Rainbow chard planted between them that will fill the space when the corn has been harvested (this inter-planting is also a sign that I am running out of space).

I can almost see the sweetcorn growing

I have already harvested quite a few of zucchini and the yellow variety that I grew from seed is just producing its first, rather weak-looking specimen.  I’ve used them in frittata, pasta sauce and in salad to replace cucumber which isn’t ready yet.  I like them cut very thinly into ribbons (like pappardelle) and served with an olive oil dressing.

Onions and garlic are growing well and I have been using any of the onions that have tried to produce flowers and young fresh garlic is perfect for Spaghetti, aglio e olio e pepperoncino (spaghetti dressed with garlic, oil and chilli with a topping of some freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano.

Garlic on the right and red onions on the left

There are various lettuces popped in around the plot, we’ve been eating them all through the winter

On the right misticanza, there is a lot of mustard leaves included, some would have been great but there is too much, on the left Barlotti beans are flowering now the cool weather has delayed their growth

Pak Choi has been a big success; it tastes delicious and grew from seed that I planted in April, I’ve been harvesting the outer leaves and leaving the rest to grow, I don’t know if this is standard practice but seems to work.

There is rocket around the garden that I add to salads and also Syrian thyme which adds a spicy edge.

Greenhouse

Those of you who have been following this blog will know that I recently purchased a greenhouse; I thought I would update you with its progress. The only place in the garden to site the greenhouse is sloping so we had to build foundations to give it a firm base. The greenhouse is 3.08 m x 4.50 m, I know I am very lucky to have such a large space and I hope to make the very best use of the possibilities this will give me.

Foundations ready

10th March - the greenhouse arrives

Two men managed to construct the greenhouse in 4 hours!  I was most impressed, especially as they took away with them all packaging and didn’t leave any rubbish lying around.  My surprise may seem unusual but very few workmen in Italy leave everything in a tidy state – I assume they believe that cleaning-up is woman’s work and therefore completely beneath them.

Snuggly sited between the olives

Once the inside had been dug to remove gramigna (my kind of couch grass), I set about planting some vegetables.  I bought some plug plants of pacchino tomatoes and 2 types of lettuce; I planted 4 tomatoes in the bed and potted up another 3 to grow on inside until conditions are suitable to plant them outside, probably in mid-April. As an experiment I planted 3 frilly green lettuces in the bed in front of the tomatoes and the other three outside to see how much more quickly they would be ready to harvest.

Tomatoes, lettuce and basil planted

They all doubled in size in about 3 days.  But the 3 I planted out may never be large enough to harvest – something is eating them.

Lettuces outside, these and some others have been eaten!

I’m not sure what is eating them, my immediate thought was, of course, slugs or snails but a friend has suggested that the damage could be caused by locusts.  Last year there were quite a few in the garden but they didn’t appear to do any damage, with the very cold winter we’ve experienced with temperatures regularly below zero I thought they would have died but no, I’ve seen several in the garden already so it could be them.  I will make more effort to kill those I see – a plague of locusts is the very last thing I want!!

Seed tray stand I brought with me from England

As there is no power as yet inside the greenhouse I have been using a propagating tray on a windowsill inside the house.  I’m using a spread sheet so that I can see germination times for everything I sow.  So far Swiss Chard Bright Lights germinated in 3 days!  As did some’ old’ seed of Verbascum phoeniceum Hybrids.  I planted the whole pack of these (it says 1000 seeds) as the pack was very out of date and I just hoped for a few to germinate.  Fingers crossed they don’t rot off so the garden can be filled with colour.

I will use the area outside the greenhouse for plants I’m hardening off and for all plants not yet planted in the garden.  We’ve made a hard standing of tuffo blocks all along one side so the self-watering trays I have will have a flat surface to sit on.  I also hope to get a couple of cold frames to put here.  It is protected from the cold north wind here and hopefully from the summer winds from the west too.
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