Work starts (finally) on the vegetable garden

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Back in February 2009 we published an article at the start of the project that was to become the giornaledibarganews vegetable garden.

In that article we wrote the following words:  Gradually the economic problems besetting world finances and markets starts to make itself felt here in Barga. The “happy island” is not immune after all. Effectively we are all connected up and intertwined – its a world market economy after all. The far extremes of the disposable society where goods are constructed marketed, sold, used and then thrown away once broken or a newer model supersedes them has come home to roost. The system has now broken. Whose fault it is is up for discussion but what is clear is that huge shifts in expectations are about to take place. Things are not going to be the same ever again.

It is time to get the spade out and start digging. We are talking about a market garden, a vegetable patch – the orto.
Over the next few months we will be documenting the progress, or otherwise, of the barganews vegetable garden as we move from a hazy project on a sheet of paper to fresh vegetables delivered to the kitchen sometime this summer (hopefully)

How true those words have turned out to be as recent events here in Europe and Italy have shown.

The project has now been running for over three years but news has been a little scarce recently concerning the vegetable garden so now is probably a good time to bring everyone back up to speed.

To sum up, we could say that last season was good in parts but mostly it was a terrible year once again for home grown vegetables.

The hot dry summer of 2011 meant that water stopped flowing down the stream by the side of the fields in July which then caused some serious problems for the tomatoes, peas and beans plants, most of which shrivelled up and died without water. The only thing that seemed to grow on regardless of the dry conditions were the weeds which managed to overpower the electric fence, shorting out of the current and allowing animals into the field which promptly demolished the maize just before it was ready to be harvested.


So far this year we have also had some problems with rainfall.  For most of the winter this lack of rainfall had left rivers and streams down to an all-time low and then later on in the early spring,  the reverse happened and constant rain completely waterlogged fields making any attempt to put a tractor to work an  impossibility.

Finally this week the sun came out and dried out some of the waterlogged fields and albeit weeks behind in the agricultural calendar,  work started on the giornaledibarganews vegetable garden.

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There were still some remains of last year’s  plants –  some sorry looking cabbages,  all of which were probably ploughed back into the field by Giorgio on his tractor.   After last year’s almost disastrous deep plough which brought up a huge amount of clay, bringing it to the surface where the sun promptly baked it hard,  this year  he took it a bit more slowly,  with more consideration for the ground and not cutting quite so deep.  Last year the bottom field  needed two weeks of more or less constant work with the rotavator  to bring it back to a usable consistency.  This year,  that lesson was learned and hopefully will never be repeated.

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As we have already published on this site there is another way of making a vegetable garden (article here)  which involves a technique  which has been invented  recently called The No-plant, dig only vegetable garden  – a nice idea  especially as it cuts down on the workload  but for the moment we are following the old system where vegetables have to be planted.

So the first real job was to set out the poles for the electric fence as once again the battle with the porcupines starts in earnest.  Over the last three years these incredible animals have quite happily  munched their way through almost 1/3 of the planted potatoes.  Will it be the same this season?  Hopefully not but  a fairly philosophical frame of mind is needed when dealing with this problem.  Actually it’s not just the porcupines which cause the problems,  but a few other animals including  wild boar,  badgers,  deer,  moles, birds  and of course not forgetting the huge array of insects all waiting to gorge themselves.

So,  it is late,  very late in the season but finally we are off and running … well not actually running …. more like dragging one foot after the other slowly out of the clinging mud, as you can see in the last images, the water is still there making life difficult.

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