orWine Tastings in the Comfort of you own villa or B&B while on holiday in Tuscany or Liguria

To book an informative and fun wine tasting whilst holidaying in Italy or arrange for a wild food walk in your area contact me on tuscanytipple at libero dot it or check out my Facebook page

Total Pageviews

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Window of Opportunity

I was starting to get really itchy feet. Many a fellow gardening blogger had started spring sowing a couple of weeks ago whilst I was stuck on the wrong moon phase wondering if I was the only one following silly superstitions. It's not so much that I'm convinced this works, I just don't like showing a 'brutta figura' in front of my Italian neighbours. If they see you sowing tomatoes or the like during the waning moon period, they just tut and shake their heads at your utter foolishness. Only stupid foreigners evidently don't know about the cycles of nature.

The weather wasn't playing it's part either. According to local lore, today is the very day, half way between new moon and full moon, to start your spring sowing. And guess what: after days of miserable weather and lashings of rain, today the clouds parted and perfect conditions for sowing presented themselves! What's more, after a fantastic day of balmy sunshine, we were barely back indoors again, the rain returned giving everything a nice watering and more rain is forecast for the rest of the week.

On cue the almond tree opened it's first flowers too.

As I don't have a heated green house (not even a heated house for that matter), and the space I had created in front of an upstairs window for putting seed trays has been taken up by cats, who would cause chaos amongst my delicate seedlings, I have decided to sow straight into my newly built cold frame. More sensitive plants I sowed in trays covered with a plastic lid within the cold frame to give it a double glazing effect so to speak.

Incidentally, I had left a small gap during the construction of the cold frame, which I was going to block off anyway to avoid a draft. Today I had discovered that the gap was about cat-sized as a cat obviously enjoyed the nice warmth under cover.

Here is what we sowed today:

  • dwarf beans slenderette. I haven't tried these before, but according to the package they can be sown earlier (i.e. from Feb. onwards), so I shall stagger sowing.
  • pea 'progress No.9'. I don't usually do well with peas. The autumn sown ones are struggling and in summer they don't like the sun beating down on them either. Maybe they'll do better this time. This variety sounds like a song from the Beatles' White Album!
  • lettuce 'salad bowl'. A vigorous, easy and quick growing variety.
  • Rocket. It normally sows itself out quicker than we can eat it, but this winter we suddenly found ourselves without any. Don't know how that happened.
In the cold frame:
  • Tomato 'Marmande'. This one makes the bulk of my production every year, a large, fleshy and productive variety.
  • Tomato 'Gigante seedless'. I don't know what posessed me to buy a seedless variety, it won't sow itself out in my compost. I must have just read GIGANTE and thought that sounds good. I didn't bother with sowing any other varieties as some cherry toms, salad toms and plum toms seem to usually spring up spontaneously anyway and I always run out of space to plant them all.
  • Sweet pepper 'Feher'. This is a small pointy yellow variety ripening early and giving good crops for a long time.
  • Pepper 'Quadrato d'Asti'. Large red peppers, very sweet
  • Cayenne chillies.
  • Chilli 'spicy cherry'. Great for stuffing with tuna or anchovies and preserving under oil.
  • Aubergine 'halflange violette'. Obviously a Dutch cultivar meaning half long purple. Produced well last year
  • Kohlrabi 'Delikatess Blue'. They were slightly old seeds, hope they'll come.
  • Gherkin 'Vert Petit de Paris'. I love pickled gherkins. Last year I sowed some direct in the ground with only limited success, so I thought I'll start it off in the cold frame this year.
  • 3 types of lettuce: 'meraviglia di 4 stagione', a reddish open head, 'gentilina', green frizzy lettuce and 'brasiliana', an iceberg variety.
Finally I decided to experiment with a few things. I love lentils and they are part of the Italian cuisine, but for some reason I have never seen lentil seeds for sale anywhere. A bit of research on the net revealed that they seem quite easy to grow and can even cope with some frost. So I just took a few brown lentils out of an ordinary packet of dried lentils and sowed them. Let's see what happens, eh?

Secondly I gathered some angelica seeds from the wild last year. I thought I'll try and grow some on one of my lower terraces where I can't do much else anyway in honour of my friend Angelika (Engelwurz) mentioned in the previous post.

Thirdly I was going to write something in the next part of wild food of the month about the judas tree. Both flowers and 'beans' of this apparently pretty tree are edible. Trouble is I haven't tried any myself yet and also I'm not sure I could identify one. In Arcola, near our land there are some pretty pink flowering trees which I thought might be it. So I picked a couple of pods with a view of sowing some out and making a positive id. It appears it's not a judas tree.

This is what the seeds and pods look like.

Like a judas tree they have an abundance of pink flowers in spring, but these specimen are trained in a pergola in a public park rather than growing upright. So I'm not sure what I've got there, anyone any ideas? I should maybe take a photo when it is in flower. I sowed a few of them anyway, it's a pretty plant.


Stefaneener said...

No help on the tree, alas.
The cold frame looks effective. My seeds are up despite the moon, so we'll see. Nice of the weather to cooperate.
Rain again today. Not bad except our son put a baseball through a window, so it's just got cardboard over it. I'm huddled by the heater with a hat on. Thin California blood, I suppose.
Good luck with the sowing.

chaiselongue said...

This all sounds great - good luck with the seed sowing! It feels like time to start the new year. Here, too, people talk about the phases of the moon, although I'm not sure that everyone follows them. They also sow on saints' days - St Joseph on 19 March is supposed to be for sowing haricot beans, so we'll try them then.

Kate, the Australian Vegetable Vagabond who visited us a year or so ago, says that she was told by a biodynamic gardener that there were also days when you shouldn't do anything in the garden. She reckoned that these 'superstitions' or whatever they are at least mean you spread the work out rather than feel you have to do everything at once!

Heiko said...

Thanks Stefani. Oh dear! a basketball through the window... in winter... I hope you devised a suitable punishment for the lad, like extra shifts in the garden!

Chaiselongue, it's exactly the way I look at it, it sort of structures your gardening year. The funny thing is the guys around here wouldn't even call themselves by new-fangled names like 'organic', and if you said 'biodynamic', they'd stare at you uncomprehendingly (is that a word?)

Mr. H. said...

Sounds like you have a lot of growing on.:) Trust me you are better off not starting your seedlings inside the house if you don't have to. My least favorite part of gardening is having all these flats around the house, hardly any room to move around and the cats think they are in litter box dreamland. It's way to cold outside for ours, 19°F this morning so we have no choice.

I love that you pickle your gherkins, I might try that with ours this year. We grew them for the first time in 2007 and love them.

A seedless tomato...hmm. I did not know there was such a thing. Your lettuce selection sounds wonderful, I can't wait to plant some of my own.

Anyway, it sounds like you are off to a great start for this seasons garden and that Judas tree look-a-like sounds most intriguing. Have a most wonderful day Heiko and don't let any more cats into those coldframes of yours.:)

Kate said...

....and I am that Kate...hi C-L.
Last year in France an old neighbour shook his head in dismay at my sowing regime. He had traditional dates for everything; I only had ideas, some experience and, being Australian, no traditions. He grew beautiful vegetables his way and it surprised him to see that I grew beautiful vegetables, my way. And when it came to cooking them, "Quelle catastrophe!" exclaimed his wife at my methods..... but then she asked for the recipe!

Ayak said...

Our almond blossom is coming out now...lovely isn't it?

Mr A started digging over the soil ready for planting, a couple of days ago, and has had so many neighbours walk past, tut-tutting and telling him it's too soon, that he's now stopped. He's not a gardener and reckons they must know better than him.

Heiko said...

Mr. H. I'll keep those cats under control although from today we'll temporarily have 2 more cats and a dog!

Kate, interesting to get these worldwide connections. But hey there's surely no harm in sticking to moon phases, unless the weather prevents you from finishing a job at the right time. Thanks for linking me up.

Mrs. Ayak, good luck with the gardening. The digging over of course should have been done before (during the waning moon phase!), but as I say, it all comes down to when you have time. Good luck with the garden!

Jan said...

I'd be happy if I just had to keep a cat out, although I think I've won the battle against the mice... touch wood. That sounds like a lot of sowing, you must have a very big cold frame. I was given some seeds that look like those of the Judas tree, but I haven;t planted them yet.

Beck Middleton said...

I have also been planting by the moon phases. Frustrating sometimes.
The almond blossom is coming out here too, in fact I was just about to post a photo on my blog!
Looking forward to hearing how you go with your seeds- if you are interested I have some spare tomato seeds which I could send a few of to you - check the entry on tomatoes in my blog to see the varieties.

Heiko said...

Hi Jan,
Did the seeds look anything what i've got in my hand?

Jan said...

I've just had a closer look and, although similar, mine aren't the same. The pods I have are about 5 inches long, quite flat - although they are very dry - and are ridged where the seeds are inside. The seeds are a lighter brown than yours and are about 3/8 inch long, so smaller than yours I think. Sorry, I should have looked more closely in the first place!

Heiko said...

Jan, I have a feeling it's a simple wisteria I've got, in which case the seeds are poisonous.

Angela said...

Aaaww, I am envious!!! Your garden sounds so lovely and rich! Here, we still have SNOW on the ground, although it is finally beginning to melt. But I can`t wait, no matter what the moon says! What exactly is Angelica? Maybe I should plant that, too?
Thank you for your comment. No medals for me! I`m just having a lot of fun from it!

Heiko said...

Angelica is known as Engelwurz in German. It's a tall biannual herb, all parts of which are edible. The roots can be eaten as a vegetable, the stems are typically candied and eaten as a sweet, the seeds are used to flavour liqueurs. If you want I'll send you some seeds, there are already some in the post to Germany for my friend Angelika.

GetSoiled said...

Oh Heiko, I hope you are planning on a lentil party. I love them too, and considered growing them but...found out that most pods have only two lentils...oh boy, I see many a days of you and all your musical friends going at it! Maybe it will even inspire a Lentil Song? I don't believe there is one...or even better: A Lentil Poem from you?

Heiko said...

GetSoiled,I think the 2 lentil per pod thing may be the reason not more home growers have them. I'll give it a go anyway and see how much I'll get out of it. A lentil poem? Now there's a thought. Can you think of anything rhyming with flatulence?