I was speaking to one of my uncles last week and learned that in Southern Italy where he lives, they are already harvesting spring vegetables – summer vegetables for this part of North America! Here in Ontario, however, although we have reached above zero temperatures we are no where close to planting yet. But don’t get discouraged – garden preparations are underway! These last few weeks have been a busy time for avid gardeners and farmers as they prepare to get as early a start as possible to their bountiful summer gardens. Many Italians pay close attention to the lunar cycle and weather patterns to make sure they seed their plants at just the right time. On the farm, this meant an early start with a good breakfast then off to the greenhouse, settle yourself down on the rolling seats and away you went, planting one seed at a time! For a home garden, all you need is a little container, some potting soil, and a window sill. Yup, this is how those impressive Italian jungle gardens start – the basement window sill. There are plenty of contraptions you can buy to start your garden indoors, but trust me, this is a tried and tested method! It’s worth buying some potting soil when starting your own plants from seed. Fill an empty container almost full of soil, sprinkle the seeds on top of the soil followed by about 1/2 inch of soil on top of the seeds. Finish with a bit of water and that’s it. Be sure to water them as needed (depending on the soil you use, perhaps every other day) and in a few weeks the seedlings will be ready to split and transplant to a roomier environment.
We met up with Nonno Giovanni last week to document some of his seeding methods. You can see below that he has saved his own seeds from last season and is just reusing plastic containers for his seedlings. A little water, dirt, and of course – a little love, is all you need. The names on the containers were cause for a good chuckle. You won’t find those varieties in the store. Girolamo is the name of the person who gave him the seeds not the type of tomato! Corna di Capra, meaning ‘goats’ horns’, is the name he has bestowed upon that type of hot pepper due to its shape so this way he can remember which ones they are! Seed sharing is very common amongst neighbours, family and friends. In so doing, little do they know they have preserved some precious heirloom vegetable varieties!
The peppers and tomatoes Nonno Giovanni has planted won’t go in the ground until after the last frost but they need this time to grow strong sturdy stems. Other vegetables like peas, lettuce, collards, and broccoli will go into the ground much sooner and offer us some late spring/early summer good eats!