The Vegetable Garden in the third week of May

Yesterday was a lovely day for working out in the garden. It was overcast with only a very slight breeze. It is strange that one of the things I really disliked about England was that often the cloud cover seemed to be low enough to touch my head but here cloudy, dull days are so rare that I now actively enjoy them; but here the cloud is much higher so it never feels as oppressive.

I spent some time tying in the small sized tomatoes. I have to report that the hail on Easter Saturday did more damage than I had first thought; all of the leaves that had shown spot damage just after the hail are now yellow with huge black marks. I will definitely not plant out the tomatoes so early next year, even though the plants have put on lots of healthy new growth, I think they would be further advanced had I planted out larger plants later. Hail can happen at any time here so planting late won’t necessarily save the crop being damaged. Continue reading

GBHD – What is there to cook from the garden?

As spring slowly arrives my thoughts turn to spring vegetables but nature has a way of disappointing; spring vegetables won’t be ready until April or even May, in March if we’re lucky there are still a few of the winter crops to sustain us.  But this is the period that is known to be lean.

Calabrese, cut ready to cook

Calabrese, cut ready to cook

Today I picked more Calabrese, tonight I’m going to make Orecchiette in the Pulgese style.  Last week I made risotto and some we ate as an accompanying vegetable.  With the warmer days the spears are growing more quickly and it won’t be long before the plants will be consigned to the compost heap; but they have given such value; definitely growing even more plants next year.  I’ve already decided to try growing them from seed myself and have already bought the seed, I suppose I will need to start the seed in mid-June, if anyone has any experience in this I’d be grateful for the advice.  I usually plant this type of winter vegetable out into the beds vacated by the onion crop; they then have time to grow into mature plants before light levels drop.

Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’ is another crop that just goes on and on.   In spring very young leaves can be cut for salad adding very pretty colour to the salad bowl, then by mid-summer and through the winter it leaves can be cooked in a variety of ways, again a very reliable crop, I sowed more seed yesterday to replace the plants you see here.

Chard 'Bright Lights'

Chard ‘Bright Lights’

Similar and very quick to grow is Pak Choi, I still have a few plants from last autumn’s sowing and have just planted out a few new seedlings, I pricked out some into modules and then decided to try a few straight into the ground (these are red Pal Choi from Jekka McVicar.

Autumn sown Pak Choi

Autumn sown Pak Choi

Leaves already turning red of this spring's sowing

Leaves already turning red of this spring’s sowing

You can see how stony this bed is, when the winter/spring vegetables come out I’m going to add some manure ready for Peppers.

There are still a few leeks

There are still a few leeks

The cold nights have given the radichio and wonderful red colour

The cold nights have given the radichio and wonderful red colour

Fennel planted among the Calabrese for protection have lasted the winter, the firsttime ever.

Fennel planted among the Calabrese for protection have lasted the winter, the firsttime ever.

Broad beans, now planted out from an indoor sowing

Broad beans, now planted out from an indoor sowing

Still a few lemons, I haven't had to buy any for ages

Still a few lemons, I haven’t had to buy any for ages

Tomatoes, peppers etc. growing well in the greenhouse

Tomatoes, peppers etc. growing well in the greenhouse

I’ve tried leaving peppers in the greenhouse through other winters but they’ve always died, this year, even though we’ve had a month or six weeks of sub-zero night temperatures the plant has survived and will hopefully give me some early peppers too; so something that is always worth trying even if not always successful.

... and a surprise, the pepper I left in the greenhouse all winter has produced a few peppers

… and a surprise, the pepper I left in the greenhouse all winter has produced a few peppers

Thanks to Barbara and Christine at The Gardening Blog for hosting, why not check out what gardeners are eating from their gardens today.

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.

The Greenhouse

I’m joining Helen at The Patient Gardener for her round-up of what’s happening in the greenhouse this month.

I posted about carrots grown in a pot in the greenhouse over winter here, we are now eating the crop and they are delicious.  I like carrots raw in salads and the purple ones I grew add an interesting colour.

The tomatoes are growing well, I am continuing with the on-going task of tying them to their canes.  As last year most plants I am allowing to grow three stems and the rest of the other side shoots I’m removing.  I may later try the off-shoots as cuttings (as recommended by Bob Flowerdew) and plant them up to produce new plants later in the season.  I’m not very sure of the timing for doing these so it will all be trial and error, has anyone else tried it?

We have had salad lettuce all winter and there are still some to harvest.  I have planted 3 melons and 3 yellow peppers in the back border but I’m concerned as there is a lot of roots from the Laylandii that have obviously been attracted by the irrigation tubes so that the soil in this border isn’t going to be as rich and moist as I would have liked.  I think I will have to put a membrane of some kind to stop the roots and maybe make this a slightly raised bed.

I germinated the seeds in the house as it was too hot for seed production.  There are some aquilegia from seed I collected from a plant in the garden and also some McKenna hybrids I bought.  The Achilea that germinated well are damping off; they were pricked out into my own compost which I fear is too rich for them, they need sharper drainage even at this stage.

I took sedum cuttings this week some leak and some stem cuttings (this site is great at explaining what you do), it is too soon to tell how well they will grow but I do remember my father taking leaf cuttings from a sedum plant of my great aunt and he was very successful.

A large empty pot contains Freesia corms that I’m very much hoping will grow to provide some perfumed cut flowers.

As soon as I put up the shade netting the temperatures dropped but even with the cold winds we are experiencing at the moment the temperature inside is comfortable warm.  I usually have the door open during the day and will soon, I hope, have it open at night too.

The broad beans I sowed in November are now cropping quite well. As I want the tomatoes to have more air and space I am harvesting by pulling up the whole plants.

Rainbow chard waiting to be planted out

Beautiful vegetable foliage counts for Garden bloggers Foliage Day on the  22nd, just leave a link with your comments on the GBFD post.