I will be in Italy until my husband’s work here is done for the summer. I miss growing my own summer veggies, but I do get to see how vegetable gardens in Italy are set up. Here is one garden that I saw on the shore of Lake Trasimeno:
The lake is beautiful. I made the little video in a town called San Feliciano. We also stopped at Castiglione del Lago, where we could see more of the lake from the top of the old fort.
Visiting the fort reminded me of when we took the kids (24 years ago?) to Fort Pulaski, near Savannah. We all had fun walking around the fort and seeing the cannons! The fort at Castiglione del Lago is about 600 years older, and its walls are higher, but the whole fort-experience didn’t seem very different.
Home vegetable gardens in Italy that I’ve seen so far give me that same feeling — that they are the same and yet a little different.
They do produce a lot of good food. The cool season vegetables like onions and lettuce look mature and ready to pull from the garden. Summer vegetables are in various states of development. Some gardens have a few older tomato plants, with large green tomatoes on them, abut also a few younger tomato plants, just beginning to flower. I plant my tomatoes this way — a few early and a few late, to stretch out the harvest.
One less-familiar feature of the food gardens I’ve seen is that supports for plants like tomatoes are almost always made from bamboo or from long sticks/branches. I have not seen the durable cages or supports made from metal like we tend to use in the U.S.
Another is that larger vegetable gardens in Italy are still planted in rows, like little farms. This planting pattern can make sense even in the U.S., where gardeners with lots of space often have power-equipment that works best when it has plenty of room for maneuvering.
Just like at home, though, people who have less space to work with plant their gardens differently.
It is great to see the creative use of the tiny spaces that many gardeners here have to work in! These gardens often combine plants in a way that is similar to the intensive planting model I am used to seeing at home.
They still, though, leave plenty of room between plants, because this is an arid region. It gets much less rain than we get in the Southeastern U.S. Wider plant-spacing gives each root system a little more soil to scavenge water from.
Gardeners with even smaller patches of ground available, or none, grow their crops in containers. In parts of cities where many people walk past each day, I have seen more herbs than vegetables. Outside the crowded parts of town, though, on less-traveled streets, more containers include vegetables and fruits like strawberries.
The choice of crops for each garden, like at home, is also very personal. One of my favorites so far is the all-artichoke garden, in a picture below.
At home, I know plenty of gardeners who grow ONLY tomatoes, because that is the crop most important to them.
They know that tomatoes taste best when they are grown and harvested right at home, so that is the crop they grow. They don’t waste their effort, space, money, or time on crops that are less important to them.
Maybe the all-artichoke gardener feels the same way about his/her chosen crop.