Friday 31 July 2009


One of my pre-exam blitzs last night, it was so depressing to see the amount of weeds, slugs of all sizes, fading crops and very little to replace them - as you know I have not been sowing a lot lately and most of what I did sow was exterminated by draughts, slugs and earwigs.

But the courgettes are growing and so are cucumbers, tomatoes and sweet corns. Tomatoes I actually found in a better state than last time I saw them, and I got 6 plants of pumpkin that I managed to transplant.

And - there was another surprise, how amazing I always find the vegetable world... Garlic picking was long overdue, so I braced myself and stated digging wherever I saw a stump. Being tired and in a hurry I hadn't even changed so I was wearing cream trousers and shoes and was not in a position to do serious digging. I am sure I left something and hope I manage some time this weekend to check.

Anyway, I was digging underneath the wilted, rotting stumps, pulling them at the same time, when I saw something unexpected: looked like a bluebells seedhead but very close to the ground. Curious but not very patient I digged it out to check. It was just another garlic!

Above the head, squeezed out of it and just over the soil surface, a short plant made of little garlic cloves had developed. Last year most of the garlic plants had flowered, so I thought that seeds was the way garlic reproduced, but obviously not only that: if you leave your garlic too long it won't just go on growing underground: apparently it grows out of the soil again.

Writing about it it seems even more strange, maybe I dreamt about it, but I found other little cloves lying around... Will try to take a picture of the curious specimen which I re-planted.

P.S. far from perfect, as I just had my mobile with me, but there you go...

-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday 21 July 2009

At the rescue... and on the hunt

It has been raining for a whole week, and I have been studying, so no allotment really, but I popped in tonight to water the tomatoes in the greenhouse.

I was in a hurry and went straight to the water butt; while I was waiting for the trickle of water to fill the can, I had a look behind the shed where I keep the rat trap as I do out of habit... to my amazament, there was something in it: a little blackbird. I had to look twice as my brain did not process that straight away. Anyway, I opened the cage and it was gone in no time, so I am pretty sure it was all right.

Quite how he managed to jump into the cage through the wire funnel at the entrance of the first chamber, and then jump on the flap that leads to the second chamber I cannot figure out, nor can I think of another reason why it went through all that rigmarole that is not curiosity - I have now left the cage open just in case...

On another note, you should have seen the amount and size of slugs on the plot today. I am sorry to say I am going to give up and start using pellets, albeit organic: the ferric phosphate ones. I do not particularly like the idea, and I will use them sparingly and in addition to other organic methods, but I have spent £60 in nematodes already - supposing it is any better to release in nature a parasite in big quantities than it is to use a chemical - and my investigations did not give me any reasons to think they are especially dangerous to any other form of wildlife than the target.

If you know of any fact-based reasons not to use them, please let me know, but I would like to eat some of my brassicas this year...

Thursday 16 July 2009

End of the broadbean season

I had to pull the broadbeans out as they were wilting and anyway the season was over: I have made some 5kg which is less than last year despite planting double the amount, but still not a bad crop overall.

Some peas were also ready: it is such a pity I am not having time to plant beans as well...

Monday 13 July 2009

Bumblebees HEART Leeks

-- Post From My iPhone

Proliferation of rats and gooseberries

Having decided for do-it-yourself disposal of the obnoxious rhodent, I enrolled my husband and we went - albeit reluctantly - on Friday night after work: to our surprise rats had multiplied overnight; to our relief, the operation was swift and dignified.

As we were there, I took the opportunity to pick some gooseberries: over 4 kg, and still counting...

... I made jam yesterday, had tried gooseberry fool last week and two friends took me some crumble they made with my little present of soft fruit. I even tried them fresh, as my neighbour vouched for their delicious taste: after a gluttony of this size I am inclined to avoid gooseberries for the rest of my life!!!

However, as I said, I have more to pick this year, and there will be even more next year, as I have cuttings from the current bush, and earlier this spring had bought an extra plant with purple berries. Friends and neighbours beware - they will come your way!!! Actually, I am going to the post office later on to send a nice little gift of jam to Italy! :)

-- Post From My iPhone

Friday 10 July 2009

New rat, bigger one...

I went to have an overall check and to pick gooseberries, but did not manage to do much: there was a new rat trapped in the cage, and all my energies were drained by planning for disposal.

One useful thing I did though: as shallots grow in a bunch around the set you plant, they tend not to grow too big. So I tried pulling out a couple to make more space for the others to develop. I have also picked a couple of mono-clove garlic heads, not clear how they came to be.

The leek flowers are quite spectacular now that they are all in flower, purple spheres on their tall stems... and bumblebees seem to love them!

Thursday 2 July 2009

So hot I was alone

It was really hot tonight, and I was alone, which meant that the water pressure was ok, and watering was not such a stressful job.

Really enjoyable after a full four days without gardening... I transplanted more tomatoes, some soya bean plants, weeded here and there, added a couple more humming lines, which seem to be working very well to protect the soft fruit and finally got to pick the first, huge gooseberries: I'm going to make gooseberry fool with them!

In the meantime, the red currant is almost ripe, and looks pretty stunning - I must say that many soft fruits that are pretty common here are unusual in Italy so there is much to learn on how to eat them as well as how to grow them.

Everything is growing reasonably well, all considered: the sweet pea I transplanted ages ago is finally flowering, courgettes are on their way and the sweetcorn is also slowly catching up. Celery is 20cm and strawberries are still cropping, although I have noticed that they do not taste as good when they are all red and ripe, as when they are a bit behind. Also, there are two figs as big as tennis table balls, and more seem to be coming out, which is really exciting!

Leek's flowers are in full bloom, and they seem to attract bumblebees, so in the end I am happy I left them there - and I can plant brassicas in between them anyway. In fact, I sowed kohl rabi, which I hope will come out, as I have tried some from Riverford's vegbox in a glorious roast with my first potatoes, and it's an interesting tasting turnip.

Till next time...