Readying The Vegetable Patch

Progress on the house has been slow over the past month or two and so I’ve turned my attention to something that I can have direct control over, without waiting on a boiler pump, flooring tiles or – even worse – a bathroom contractor to show up.

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I’ve wanted a vegetable patch for a while but didn’t think that an opportunity would present itself as quickly as it did. It’s a beautiful south-to-south-westerly facing plot which is almost entirely in full sunshine but with a little stretch of shade under the fig trees in the far end.

Whilst I’ve been day-dreaming about this “orto” (“vegetable patch” in Italian) I’m not going to hide that I’m also rather intimidated about the whole thing.

First of all because my boyfriend’s parents – who cultivated this patch of land before me – are blessed with ridiculously green fingers. Over the last year or so, I’ve watched a bounty of vegetables rise up from the soil and appear on our plates. In comparison, my most significant horticultural high point to date is keeping a house plant alive for five years while living in Paris.

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Not exactly the same thing…

The internet, as for most things, is a wonderful source of information but also the origin of much paranoia. Typing “how to prepare an allotment” or “grow your own vegetables…” churns up more questions than answers. I mean, I know the soil is mainly volcanic… but I don’t know about the exact pH or the composition of the topsoil. Even then, when I’ve understood that carrots need sandy soils, chili peppers need sunshine, what about fennel? *cue another Google search…* Another unknown is how well any of these plants will take to being planted directly into the arid soil. In the past, anything green and leafy in my possession has lived in a pot with specially purchased compost soil acting as a security blanket.

Building (permanent) beds on my farm. From left to right: – topsoil broken up with kuwa (Japanese hoe), subsoil broken up with @craftygatherer broadfork, surface raked and (most of the) roots removed – topsoil broken up with kuwa (Japanese hoe), subsoil broken up with @craftygatherer broadfork, surface raked and (most of the) roots removed + a few bucketfuls of earth added (from the drains I've been digging) – topsoil broken up with kuwa (Japanese hoe), subsoil broken up with @craftygatherer broadfork, surface raked and (most of the) roots removed + a few bucketfuls of earth added (from the drains I've been digging) + grass mulch (chopped up remains of all the grass I cut clearing the field) piled on top. – Next step: cover with tarp and let break down over winter… #japan #nagano #saku #mochizuki #kasuga #shinden #nogyo #farming #farminginjapan #kenshusei #nogyokenshusei #organicfarming #notill #broadfork #craftygatherer #permanentbed #lepotagerdescerfs #日本 #長野県 #佐久市 #望月町 #春日 #農業 #研修生 #農業研修生 #開墾 #ブロードフォーク #有機農業 #不耕起 #不耕起栽培

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I was thinking about creating raised beds because a friend of mine (see above) who is amazingly knowledgeable about these things – why do I associate with these agricultural types?! – would have prepared raised beds… but he also would have prepared them at least 6 months ago. I need to remain realistic and, in order to be ready for summer whilst also accomodating my bad back, that’s simply not possible. I’m obviously going to create walkways but I’ve resigned myself to the fact that my vegetable patch will never be suitable for Pinterest.

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On the subject of not adhering to the Pinterest lifestyle, let it be known that I’m not going to bother with heirloom tomatoes – at least not this year. Similarly, wild garlic, dinosaur kale, goji berries and other things that keep popping up in impractical online recipes will not be putting down roots in my plot.

I’ve also found some solace from The Old Farmer’s Almanac which is detailled and informative without being overwhelming. The other peace of mind I’m constantly reminding myself about is the fact that my main crop (at least this year) will be tomatoes… and I’m in Italy, the land of the tomato. How hard can it be….?

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