Friday, July 31, 2015

Vegetable Patch or Vegetable Garden?

The Choice Before Us

Gardening is hard work. Enjoyable, but hard. A vegetable patch, which requires constant care: planting, watering, hoeing,weeding, pruning and harvesting, and whose produce is by its nature almost entirely seasonal, is consequently very hard work.
There is a local saying, l'orto vuole l'uomo morto or 'the vegie patch will be the death of you', loosely translated.
With that in mind, here is how things are evolving da noi/chez nous.

Last year we established a new vegetable patch at Le Ripe. The site is larger and more open than the previous one; it is also fenced with something resembling a picket fence and will include a cutting border for flowers. The six raised beds, three  measuring 150x300 and three measuring 200x300, neatly edged with tuff and surrounded by weed-defying gravel, looked pretty daunting when empty.

The first planting, much to many people's surprise, was a green crop of beans and barley which was laboriously (and I use the word advisedly) dug in, in the early spring. This was supposed to enrich the earth with nitrogen. Le Ripe compost was added as well as some manure.
A year or so later, with one bed dedicated to perennial fruit bushes (gooseberries, rhubarb and - a trendy choice - a goji bush) and another which may be handed over to 'permanent' asparagus, (which for now can be planted with easygoing, exuberant butternut and pumpkin), things are not looking so daunting.
Aesthetics and a certain canny realism are beginning to prevail. The vegie patch will evolve into a vegie garden.
Tomatoes are the crop of choice in this part of the world, but perhaps in most places. So there will always be a bed dedicated to this wondrous fruit. Again we surprised locals with our iron tomato trellises, made to last as well as to be shifted from bed to bed as needed.
 Lettuces are another obvious summer crop. If you are going to be serious about them you need to stagger the planting to harvest them continuously over the summer. So they require a bed to themselves.
That leaves only two beds to fill. Once you add in the cavolo nero (Tuscan black cabbage or kale) and when it has developed well, you have occupied another entire bed.
The last bed can be for seasonal experiments, such as zucchine, bell peppers, aubergines, whatever takes your fancy, not forgetting a couple of hot chilli pepper bushes 
So, not so daunting after all and with plenty of elbow room for keeping everything tidy and under control as well as allowing for adequate crop rotation.
Thus what we are aiming for now is an attractive, orderly garden of vegetables, which will provide us with delicious, organic, home-grown seasonal fruits and vegetables, but on our terms.

For there is always the local market.  

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