Friday, September 20, 2019

Planting more strawberries

Few weeks back my stronger half prepared a new strawberry bed on which I've transplanted my old strawberries. I said that I would fill up the bed with my sown strawberries when they get big enough and today I've transplanted all of them. 

In March I've sown a pack of strawberry seeds I've bought. I wasn't too optimistic because usually this kind of experiments don't go too well, but this time most of the seeds germinated and I got dozens of little strawberry seedlings. 
They were kept on my balcony for the past 4 months and now they are strong enough to survive their first winter. 

I'm sure some of them will die but there should be plenty left. I haven't bothered separating each and every plant, instead I've transplanted them together with all the potting soil.

 My garden is wet enough so I won't need to water them, if it is wet enough for mushrooms it will be wet enough for strawberries. 

Rain hasn't been too frequent, but it has left us with very moist soil and everymorning dew. This is one of the main reasons why I haven't been too much in the garden and my beds are a real mess, but everything is still pretty much alive, except for the cucumbers. 

I should be starting my autumn sowing and preparing for winter but I still can't touch most of my plants. I will need to make a garden plan for next year to know what I can remove and what beds need to be dag first. Every autumn is the same: so many work, so little time to do it. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Tomatopedia: Viva Italia

Past couple of years Roma tomatoes have become very popular due to their broad usage. Their thick skin makes them perfect for cooking and this is the reason why tomato lovers decided to make a hybrid variety called Viva Italia.
Viva Italia is a determinate vigorous tomato which grows between 1.2m to 1.8m (47-70in), in open space it will stay around 1.2m, but it will make a big bush and take up 60-90cm of space.

The plant is regular leafed and takes up to 70-75 days to mature. It requires the same growing conditions as any other tomato plant does. Plant forms small clusters with up to 7 tomatoes per cluster. 

Fruits are very meaty, sweet with thick walls. Skin is easily pealed if the fruits are boiled for a minute and this makes them perfect for cooking. They can be used as "pomidori pelati", peeled whole canned tomatoes and in salsas, sauces, paste and even fresh tomato soup. 

What differences this tomato from other "Roma" varieties is it's heat and disease resistance. Viva Italia will grow in large variety of conditions. It will tolerate drought, low temperatures, high temperatures and moist. It can get late blight, but it will get it much later than the other Roma varieties. Blossom end rot is almost non existent for this variety and other diseases I haven't noticed on my plants.
Although it's said that the plant loves heat and is very heat resistant I have to somewhat disagree with this. Yes, Viva Italia likes heat, but not extreme heat. Part of my garden where we plant tomatoes is in full sun from 10am to 6pm. When we have very hot summers our temperatures are over 35°C(94°F) and this means that the garden is baking on more than 50°C(122°F). This kind of heat doesn't go well with Viva Italia. In this kind of heat this tomato just refuses to flower. It doesn't get any disease, but the flowers don't form and there is only large bush with no tomatoes. 
This is the reason why I always grow two "roma" tomatoes: Viva Italia and Rio grande. Rio grande loves extreme heat and gives amazing fruits during the heat, Viva Italia on the other hand preforms excellent in milder summers and even rainy summers. Unlike Rio grande which is very blight susceptible and gets blossom end rot very easily, Viva Italia will give high amounts of fruits in challenging conditions.
Viva Italia

Rio grande
Another common opinion is that there is no way to store seeds of Viva Italia because it is a hybrid tomato. Storing "Roma" tomatoes is a bit difficult because they are very meaty and have very few seeds per fruit. Viva Italia is a bit more difficult. Being a hybrid variety there is a very big chance you could get seeds that won't germinate, or you'll get "parents" plants, or even sterile plants. This doesn't mean you can't try. I've been taking my own Viva Italia seeds for many years now. You'll have to store more seeds than you'd usually do, sow more seeds and be prepared to get weird looking tomatoes that have nothing to do with Viva Italia. But once you hit the jackpot and get the perfect plant you can easily take seeds from it and continue taking them each year. This way I store all my tomatoes and 90% of times I'm successful at saving hybrids. 

Viva Italia is a perfect tomato for gardeners that struggle with diseases and want a vigorous highly producing "Roma" variety but it could be a struggle if you want your own seed production.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

September in my garden- what can I do?

September is a month in which we start preparing for the end of the gardening year. Although the start of the month is still very rich and gives lots of fruits the end of the month brings first frosts and cold weather which make us prepare for the end of the vegetable gardening. 
Beginning of the month should be used for harvesting. Harvest your tomatoes, apples, grapes, plums, dry beans, zucchinis and the rest of still productive plants. Take out your potatoes and use the rainless days to dry them. 

Also collect your flower and vegetable seeds to ensure your production next year. October fogs and frost could damage the seeds so September is the perfect time to collect them.

Once you stop harvesting it is time to start cleaning the garden, storing the poles away from the rain and snow. 

Once the garden is clean it is perfect time to sow the late autumn varieties and prepare our early spring varieties. Sow your late peas, snap beans, spinach, winter lettuce, rucola, radishes and lamb's lettuce. Also sow your winter kitchen herbs like windowsill parsley, baby lettuces, mint and plant garlic and onion for green salads.

Prune your roses, except for the ones that repeat flowering, also keep deadheading your annual and perennial flowers.

Ending of the September is the start of the first frosts. September frost mornings are usually not too strong and don't last for many days so the only plants that will get damaged are very frost sensitive ones. Peppers should be harvested before frost no matter if they fully ripe or not. Tomatoes should also be harvested green, they can ripe on indoor temperatures but the frost will kill them. Beans are also very frost sensitive and should be harvested, but they can be protected with agrotextile in the evening. If the frost doesn't last too long plants could survive. 

Cabbages can be left in the frost. but if the temperatures start dropping very low and frost keeps for more than 5 days it should be harvested. Kale, on the other hand, can stay outside and will get even tastier after it gets frost bites. The leaves get a sweeter touch.

End of the September will be a good time to start buying and planting spring bulbs. Bulbs planted in autumn will start coming out in early spring, giving us earlier flowers. Still be careful with the bulbs that can freeze. Keep them in pots in protected place and move outside in the spring. 

Don't forget to use the end of the month to do your finishing grass mowing, wood storing and garden digging.