Even with bare trees and brown fields, Italy is stunning. It gets down to -2 to -4 most nights and everything sparkles in the morning. The vineyards around Castelleale are gradually being pruned – two blokes with a rusty Piaggio van seem to have the contract for the whole area. Pre-pruning, the vines look amazing, with their bright orange shoots.*

second-best-figPruning is definitely the ‘in’ thing. Street trees are being pollarded, causing minor traffic jams as branches rain onto the road. Paolo’s caught the bug and been a bit saw-happy in his fig trees, on a ladder propped up a little precariously against the trunk and blithely reminding us that fig branches are notoriously brittle.

Both big trees are well over 100 years old and were, till very recently, taller than the house. It didn’t make picking the figs very easy. Every few years they get a radical haircut. It’s also not lost on us that he’s chopped off most of this year’s first (and biggest) fruits so figgy treats might be in short supply.

fig-kindlingI spent a happy day or two converting prunings into kindling. And couldn’t help remembering that figs root from cuttings. And that my suitcase could probably hold a fair few… Thanks to (lots of) wine, this rapidly morphed into a Big Project. I’ve a few cuttings from the best fig in the garden (a white Matalone), many from the second best one and, thanks to 5 minutes with a pair of secateurs, a bundle from the best-tasting black fig on the neighbour’s field.

That tree had been pruned too: cuttings came from the branches you can see on the ground before I get a reputation as a snip-happy trespasser. They’re having a brief soak in water before being poked into compost and bagged for humidity. Fingers crossed I get at least one of each to grow. Francesca wants one, and I’d like my little nieceling to have a tree grown in the same year she was born, from her grandfather’s garden. If more than that come good, I guess I’ll have my own mini-figgery!

carobAnother Italian discovery is carob. The pods are grown one county over and are delicious. Unusual, chewy, not like the processed, dusty healthfood bars. I am determined to grow them if I can.

I realise it could be a challenge. According to my research, seeds are temperamental and have pretty solid cases. Plus you need both male and female trees for pods to develop, 70% of seeds turn out to be male and they take 6-7 years to begin to bear. And they are proper trees, not titchy compliant bushes. Like many of last year’s experiments, it could all come to nothing though!

yacon-tuberA better bet are my overwintering Crimson Crush tomato sideshoots and tubers for this year’s yacon crop. The last of last year’s storage tubers are now another 100ml or so of syrup. Checking the crowns revealed that parts are starting to sprout. But I have no idea how big a bit to plant to try and replicate last year’s harvest.

So far, next to the newly-potted tomatoes, there are 3 sprouting tubers tucked up in compost – 2 with two sprouty bits each, and one larger chunk with five. If another two bits could hurry up and grow before the whole crown rots, I’d be very happy!


*Piero’s shot on the right, not mine…also on his Flickr page.

Categories: Diary 2017

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6 replies

    • Thank you, that’s very kind. To be honest I don’t think Paolo has a strategic pollarding plan. He just wants to be able to pick the figs. He tells me they have survived at least 2 other brutal hackings in the 30 years he’s been there. Do feel free to use ‘they do it in Italy’ as an argument though – particularly if it gets your really rather lovely garden a bit more light.

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  1. Our Yacon babies had tiny green shoots when we left home: I planted them in three inch pots of compost to try to get them off to a good start, but am really looking to you for guidance Beryl rather than the other way around lol
    Sounds like you are having a lovely time collecting new things to try to grow. See you soon xxx


    • I think that might be the blind leading the blind Kathy! I’ve only grown it the once before…I hope you come home to bigger green shoots, I can’t wait for mine to show. They had some gorgeous new yacon jams at Seedy Sunday, which is spurring me on.


  2. If you can figure out best approach on the yacon I would be very interested. I have the same dilemma. I had a great harvest at the end of last year but the crowns suffered from several bad frosts due to bad planning on my part. I hope I have not killed them, I will know soon enough. Not destroying them is my hope for this year and getting another harvest my ambition.

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    • I put the crowns in a bag of damp compost and left them on the unheated landing. They had 10-15cm of stem left too. So far it seems to have worked, with most of it still very firm. Will let you know if/when I see shoots of green.