The growing season is well and truly underway and with unseasonably high temperatures for the time of year, we are watering daily. Thanks to my Dad, not only do we have a new door to the well, but we now also have an on-tap supply of well water to the bottom orto. His ingenious idea was this: we blocked one end of the longest hose we had with a cork around which was tied some string. On the other end, M fitted a tap. We then filled the hose with water, placed the corked end into the well below the surface, while M walked the hose down to the orto. My Dad then yanked the string to release the cork, shouted for M to open the tap, and hey presto, water poured out. This means, that although the hose is not long enough to reach all the plants, we can at least fill up watering cans in situ, saving time and effort.

For once, we are ahead on the orto, not only compared with last year, but also with our neighbours, something which has been commented on by more than one of them. We’ve picked nearly all the broad beans despite the best efforts of our resident deer to strip the plants of their leaves, courgettes and patty pans are now in steady supply and the first cucumbers are just days away from picking, a whole month and a half earlier than last year (yes, I have been keeping a record). We are still waiting for the first ripe tomatoes but it won’t be long now.

I’m trying a couple of ‘firsts’ this year. I’ve grown two strong looking watermelon plants from seed and in an effort to have more of a variety of vegetables throughout the winter, alongside our usual cavolo nero, I’m trying cardoons, salsify and pumpkins. I’ve also been nursing a tray of celeriac seedlings for weeks now. They have almost taken up permanent residence in the dining room as the intense heat means they wilt within a couple of hours of being outdoors (I know how they feel!). M tells me celeriac are notoriously hard to grow. Perhaps if he had told me sooner, I might have saved myself the trouble! It also seems that parsnips are hard to grow here as well. It is a rare vegetable in Italy, not only in the greengrocer’s but also in the agricultural suppliers so my sister bought out in a packet in May but a month on there’s still no sign of them.

In addition to the traditional sowing and planting methods, I am also attempting to grow food from scraps. By placing the base of celery and lettuce in warm water and then leaving in direct sunlight, it is possible for the plant to regenerate. After a few days, leaves begin to shoot and once they are a few centimetres tall, the whole thing can be planted out in the soil. I have 2 lettuce and 3 celery growing already with one more of each soon to follow. Who knows if I’ll get a fully formed plant but it’s fun to try and costs nothing!

It’s now just got cool enough so off to water for today.

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