Wordless Wednesday – end of the crop

Last of the ripe red, yellow and orange peppers

Despite the cold weather this autumn I think this is the latest that I’ve picked ripe peppers.  They were planted in the bed between the rows of olives so they were protected from cold winds and the first frosts.  I picked these on Monday knowing that they wouldn’t survive the hard frost of Monday night.  Once they were roasted I removed their skins and seeds and have frozen most for future use the rest I’ll dress with new season oil, capers and preserved lemons.

I also picked all the green ones and put them in the fridge; they won’t ripen now, but I can still use them in stir fries for a while.

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.

2011.11.30 End of Month View, November

Thanks to Helen, the Patient Gardener for organising this meme, I think it is the one I enjoy reading more than any other because everyone approaches it from a different angle.

Unbelievably the weather has remained spring-like all this month.  The mornings are chilly, and there is always heavy dew, a good thing as there hasn’t been much rain, a couple of showers and that’s it.  Some mornings the dew has looked like frost but no plants show any signs of frost damage.  I am still picking strawberries not many but it is lovely to have them at this time of year.  This is the first time I’ve ever grown strawberries as in England we lived near a pick-your-own and it never seemed worth the space to grow them.  In Italy they are only available in the shops for a relatively short time.  I didn’t even expect a great crop this year but I’ve been amazed at the quantity and quality of fruit.

I still have some peppers growing outside and they still ripening slowly.

Peppers in the vegetable garden

The two grafted plants in the greenhouse didn’t produce all that well during the summer, I think it was too hot and probably they needed even more water than I gave them.  Now they have grown to over one and a half metres and have lots of peppers that are ripening well.  They are larger and more ‘meaty’ than during summer.  A couple of weeks again when I was listening to the podcast of Gardeners Question Time it was mentioned that a trail is being done to find out if peppers will over winter in a cold greenhouse during the British winter, this has encouraged me to think that I will try to grow these two plants as perennials.  The programme suggested that during the coldest weather the plants would need to be cut back to the thick, almost woody, main stem.  As the grafted plants should have a large established root system now, I am hoping that if they do survive the winter, the root system will be better at taking up all the water available and that they will produce more even during the very high temperatures of July and August.  The plants are covered in fruit and I have pinched out the all the growing shoots and picked off the top flowers hoping that all the fruit will ripen.  I will let you know how they progress.

I mentioned some time ago that I wanted to plant some fruit trees in an area that is outside the fence in a zone protected from the north winds by the slope of the land and a tuffo ‘cliff’ – I’m not sure what you’d call it really; the perennial weeds were removed and it was all ready to plant when the flood from the surrounding field engulfed the area in a layer of mud.  This occurred in September and the ground is still very damp.  After the flood lots more creeping grass (gramigna) grew as the farmer had spread seed to grow to feed his sheep!  So last week I went and chose some trees.  I wanted to try some peaches and was, as usual, pleasantly surprised by the variety on offer at my local supplier.  I opted for three peaches which should fruit in July, September and October; I chose late flowering and fruiting varieties as having tasted those available in the shops these later varieties have a more interesting flavour and the late flowering should mean that they won’t be damaged by a late frost as has happened repeatedly with an Apricot that I planted in the vegetable garden as quite a large specimen and that I intend removing.  I also planted a cherry.  I want to try and grow the peaches as espaliers but I couldn’t buy whips so will have to try and prune the small trees as best I can – any advice would be very gratefully received.

I thought it was, perhaps, a German variety.

An amusing addendum to the purchase of the above is the labels, some of which were handwritten, obviously incorrectly copying the English Red Haven and changing it to Rhedaven!

The intention is to put up posts and wires to train the peach trees

What else is happening?  Well, despite the mild, warm, sunny days most of the plants know that winter is approaching and their leaves have changed colour or they have dropped.  The wisteria is still hanging on but only just.  There seem to be more leaves that have changed colour this year rather than just losing their leaves, this must be a result of the long, slow, gentle change from summer to autumn to winter.

Wisteria leaves against a blue sky

Walking around the garden today it was the light that I found so enjoyable – the sun is so high in the sky in comparison to in England, for me it made the day seem like a day in September or May; it was so pleasantly warm and the sky such an intense blue I just wanted to soak in the moment.

Rosa Westerland’s sunny colour seems to sum up the warmth of the day.

Even though the Gaura was still blooming in the circular rose bed I decided the time had come to free the roses from the heavy growth that was choking them.  The small seedlings I had left in the bed last year had grown dramatically, instead of a small root system there were tuber-like, hand-sized roots with a huge capacity to store nutriments and water.  Many of these I’ve potted up; someone will surely want them next year, many I’ve moved onto the slope where due to the hot spring some of the small seedlings I’d moved there last autumn hadn’t survived the summer; I’m more hopeful that these larger plants will establish during winter and will be able to withstand the drought next year.  It is nice to see the rose bushes again and they will surely benefit from the light and air; I really must keep the remaining Gaura in check and not allow them to choke everything else next year – perhaps the Chelsea chop will slow them down.   A Pennisetum villosum had seeded into the edge of the bed and is now a full sized plant, I need to move it elsewhere but I’m not quite sure where.

R. Sophie's Perpetual struggling through the Gaura before clearing the bed

The bed looks very bare but at least the roses can now breathe!

The garden reveals its treasures in a relaxed way, the days make you want to linger and search for all that is changing.  My last image is an Arbutus – its shiny, evergreen leaves combining with the ‘strawberry’ fruit and white flowers to attract a still-active bumble bee, it is a different variety than I usually see in the garden.

My Breakfast today

Yesterday when I opened the greenhouse door in the morning there was an overwhelming perfume of MELON!  So this morning I ate just fruit for breakfast, all of it from the garden.

All harvested yesterday afternoon

There were many more raspberries and strawberries but I’d eaten them before I thought about writing this post!

The melon weighed in at 1.75 kg, its weight was just beginning to make the stalk come away from the fruit.  Here it is growing in the greenhouse and in all its glorious stages.

In the greenhouse, at the end of last month

Just picked

Cut, it was very juicy

I still can’t quite believe that I can grow melons, which is the reason for the excessive number of images.  Those of you who have this Ikea chopping board will understand the size of the melon.

Figs are really my favourite fruit and this year there are more than ever before but the birds have also decided they rather like them so I don’t know how many they will leave for me.  The strawberries are being very productive and the raspberries are still producing enough to eat some every couple of days; new stems have grown that will produce more fruit next month, I imagine.

We are eating meals that consist many of vegetables as there is so much produce being harvested.  Yesterday evening we barbeque-grilled peppers, sliced aubergine and zucchini (courgettes) and I made a tomato salad with T. Mamande precoce (early) and a yellow pear-shaped tomato that I grew from seed that came from a tomato a friend gave me 18 months ago (I had been worried that they wouldn’t come true from the seed as she had many different varieties.

The green herb on the tomatoes is a thyme-like herb that tasted of pepper, sometimes I use basil as well.

Grilled aubergine and zucchini


Refreshing Cucumber and yogurt

For a little appetizer I cooked a cob of sweetcorn.

There is something so very satisfying about harvesting and eating immediately crops from the garden.  I especially love picking strawberries and raspberries and eating them still warm from the sun.