With great enthusiam, Pepper and I went to the local garden center and selected various plants and seeds. It was springtime according to the calendar, but the rains and cool temperatures were not very spring-like. More than one neighbor complained that his plants were drowned and rotting.
I interpreted this as a sign that my late start was actually beneficial (hooray for procrastination!).
For the next few evenings, I walked down to the orto and worked in the garden. I hoed a row, then planted the plants or the seeds, then hoed the fresh dirt back over. I didn’t need to water much, as the soil was soggy. In fact, evening rains prevented me from working in the garden a few times. So it took at least a week to get everything in the ground.
I included several plants that did well last year: tomatoes, peppers, beets, and kale. This larger plot, which Albano and I are cultivating together, provided the opportunity to try new types: rucola (arrugula), watermelon, borlotto (a delicious brown bean), and artichoke. Albano was very busy and, though I reminded him several times to select some plants, all of the plants in the garden were my choices.
Speaking of artichoke, until I came to Italy in 1984, I had never eaten one. I was hooked from the first mouthful. They are delicious and the plant is beautiful as well. In several ornamental gardens, I’ve spotted artichoke tucked in among the roses and hedges.
Since the climate of Toscana and northern Florida are similiar, I am curious why farmers didn’t cultivate artichoke when I was growing up. Is it because the farmers are not familiar with it? Are the plants too large to be profitable – they can grow to a meter wide and almost as high, but produce few blossoms. Or is the different soil and moisture to blame?
I planted my artichokes in April, in the smaller plot I used last year. On one of his free mornings, Albano used the weed-wacker to clear his land- and lopped the tops off my poor artichokes. Fortunately, these are hardy plants (being a member of the thistle family, they are really weeds), the plants soon put out new leaves. I’ve transferred them to the larger plot and they seem to have survived their beheading.