I don't think this photo needs any comment - but just in case, it is something I've never seen before, in fifteen years of country living and gardening. In fact, this is something that I'd have sworn was impossible: a slug descending from a tree, spider-like, on a string of its own mucus. It may have been an GMO slug, some sort of arachnid-gastropod determined to shun the beer and the eggshell traps I'd set for it in my cabbage patch, by parachuting directly down onto a tasty cabbage leaf. I don't know for sure. But I can tell you what I heard quite distinctly as it dangled down right in front of my nose: slug laughter!
(Full disclosure: I very much appreciate your tips on how to fight garden slugs, which I'm implementing right now. In reality, the spider-slug, clever though it was, hadn't actually found my garden yet: I encountered it in the woods, where it descended from a tree to peek into the basket of pine cones we were collecting).
So many fiercely-hot chilies this year - I string them, and hang to dry.
I pulled out most of my scrawny tomato plants a couple of weeks ago, leaving only the four that had survived all the fungus infections and were defiantly sporting new little orange flowers.
Cabbages for the fall.
The rosemary hedge I planted from cuttings a couple of years ago is thriving.
Eight pumpkin vines, and only one (peculiarly shaped) fruit.
I love hydrangea blossoms in all their stages.
Coexisting diversity flourishing together: cucumber climbing a grapevine.
Lemon verbena draping its branches over marjoram and strawberries.
Wild chicory blooming all around my garden at this time of year.
My favorite winter vegetable: artichoke - aggressively spiny outside, but delicious inside ... a little like winter, I wonder?
A corner of my garden gone wild: French beans invading the tomatoes on which a pumpkin is happily climbing, and some Queen Anne's lace for prettiness.
I'm a little overwhelmed by the intensity and the pace of life right now, and I will take a little pause from blogging this week. "See" you all next Monday!
I know you have no idea just how much that crate of vegetables I harvested yesterday moves me, but let me tell you. This is a terrible year for my garden, and all the gardens and crops in our area. As I have mentioned perhaps too many times already, the weather has been truly abysmal, and because of it, or on top of it - who can tell? - we've been hit by unprecedented waves of plant disease. They attacked in particular basil and tomatoes. Now, can you imagine summertime without basil (and pesto!) and tomatoes (and bruschetta!)? I can't, but all the manure, the stinging nettle fertilizer, the companion planting, the mulching, and my care haven't helped my garden to thrive this year.
For the past several weeks, my work in the garden has been very unusual, and of the nursing rather than nourishing kind: pull out a diseased plant here, pinch off unhealthy leaves there, pick and discard damaged fruits (remember: do not compost diseased plant material as it would likely infect the compost - pile it away from the garden, and burn it when the season and the weather allow). And, hunt down snails. For the life of me, I've never seen so many snails in my garden before! Snails by the dozens ...
So, this crate of French beans, July strawberries (the poor things must be very confused, as they continue producing as if it were still May), zucchini, one cucumber, a handful of small basil leaves, and a few tomatoes from what remains of the 30 plants I'd originally planted, moves me indeed. Because of its bright and healthy summer palette, and because despite adversities, a garden and nature always gives. And I received so very gratefully.
1 - In spite of almost total neglect, our strawberry patches overwinter and thrive year after year.
(I really give our strawberry plants very little tending. I only remember about them when they bloom in springtime and become dense with white blossoms, which is such a pretty sight that I begin furiously making up for my lack of care, weeding, watering, and mulching away. But when crop season is over, I forget about them again ... )
2 - Although our strawberry plants are all runners from mother plants of the same varietal, they vary hugely in size, for reasons that escape me.
3 - This year was a bumper crop, far too many strawberries to eat fresh. So one day I made jam with the excess -- I've never ever made jam in May, so early in the season!
4 - But this jam I made in May didn't make it to winter, as preserves are supposed to do. Instead, it got eaten up in June. Does this make any sense at all?
5 - My kids have to clear my knitting off the kitchen table so that they can have their breakfast of bread and strawberry jam. (But I suspect that many of your family members have to do the same.)
It's the second week in June, a time when all gardeners have been working away out there on their piece of land for weeks and weeks, yet I still haven't written at all about my garden. I too have been out, preparing the soil, digging, sowing and planting, but at a very slow pace, and I only finished planting our garden this weekend (the basil was the last to go in).
This year, in fact, I didn't rush the new gardening season when the calendar or the gardener's almanac alerted me that it was time to plant summer crops. Instead, I looked at our woods, and watched for the new leaves on the winter-bare branches to come. Then I took a handful of garden soil, squeezed it and rubbed it between my fingers, and felt its temperature and its texture - was it still winter-clammy? And I felt the water in the irrigation tank by dipping my hand in deep, to see if it was still winter-frigid. This year, I waited for signs that would tell me that in our narrow, wind-swept valley the time had come to plant a garden.
Because spring crawled along at a slow pace this year (yes, again!), my garden did too: I planted only when the soil and the water warmed up, only a couple of weeks ago. It's a little late according to the gardening schedule for our growing-zone, but years of local experience have taught me that plants will have a much better chance of thriving and producing good crops when the delicate balance between temperature, soil type and sun exposure is optimal - and this, within the same growing zone, can differ considerably from one area to another. Our little plots of land perched on terraces on a steep hillside in Liguria has a micro-climate and growing rhythm all its own, which I've been striving to learn and respect.
April went out just as it came in: with an epic thunderstorm that brought (still) more rain, and even hail. But last night the sky was an inviting red, and the boys went out to play pingpong in the drenched garden, and called out to me to take photos of the amazing sky. (I love it when my kids rush in to tell me there's a great photo which I must not miss.)
The sky was indeed amazing (I admired it out the window from the dry sanctuary of the house), and promised good weather: rosso di sera bel tempo si spera, red sky at night shepherd's delight - two proverbs in two different languages, same concept: a red sky in the evening is a very good omen.
Welcome red sky at night, welcome May!
Mid-April - the time of year when the boys come in all hot from outside, and start questioning their firewood chore ("Do we really need to fill the woodbox still? It's so warm now, surely we won't built a fire again until October!" - it's incredible how body temperature is sometimes directly correlated to chores), and although we still need to build a fire now and then, it's true that outdoors is far warmer than in the house, and more and more time is spent out in the garden, where nature is awakening.
It's a new gardening season, with some changes from the previous years:
- Mulching: this year I'm embracing it, starting right now. I'm procuring my own organic mulching material by cutting the spring grass now, well before it goes to seed, and spreading it in the garden freshly cut. I'm trying a little experiment: grass-mulching also where I've just sowed seeds, because mulching has multiple functions for me.
I mulch not only to conserve moisture and to reduce weed growth, but especially to discourage Ms Cat from using the softly turned garden soil as her litter box, which is something she's begun doing in her old age, and which besides all other considerations, upsets seed growth considerably. Spreading cut grass mixed with aromatic parsley (I have so much parsley this year!) seems to do the trick, and has been a great feline deterrent.
But would the seeds grow through the layer of grass? Well, I was pleasantly surprised to see that my peas, lettuce and radishes have sprouted nicely, while the weeds haven't (yet).
- Ping-pong: April is the time of year when the ping-pong table comes out of its winter storage in the barn, and this year we have a new player.
A seven-year-old someone who's finally tall enough to hit the ball, and dance around while doing it ... not the same style of play as her brothers, but a great improvement from her point of view.
- Knitting in the garden: a new spring-time project.
Happy beginning to a new gardening season to all!
Family life at the edge of an ancient rural community near the Mediterranean
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