Plot 51: Dahlia Discovery

You often get gifts left behind from the previous allotment holder. Most of these gifts at the moment, tend to be rogue potato plants that spring up all over the place; presumably odd potatoes missed during last year’s harvest. Another gift I’ve received is an unwanted one: Masses of mint roots buried in my brassica patch where there was a feral mint plant previously. But I did discover a very welcome, and unexpected gift while clearing the plot for my hollyhock nursery.

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Underneath the mass of weeds and rubble I found a huge dahlia tuber, and when I say huge, it was 17 inches long and 10 inches wide (43 x 25 cm). Part of the tuber was eaten by slugs but there was plenty of evidence of growth meaning it could be divided up into five new potential plants and the woody middle discarded.

I’ve only ever grown annual dahlias before, so these ‘proper grown-up’ ones are new to me. I’ve now got two tubers that have been found on the allotment, one that’s doing very well in the ground, and this new find, that I’ve now got 4 tubers from, (I gave one to my neighbour). I haven’t a clue what colour or type of flower they’ll be so it’ll be a surprise.

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I like surprises and these will also come in the guise of several other dahlias, as I’ve been given 4 cuttings by other allotment holders and I’m hoping these will fill out and get going once they’re in the ground and produce some lovely cut flowers for the home.

I’ve already got 3 plants planted out, one being the first discovery (as mentioned above) and the other two are shop bought tubers that had a generic picture on the front but no recommendation of colour or type.

I have also purchased two named varieties and these are now potted up and once large enough will be outside with the others. There was no image on the tubers when I bought them so I’ve had to copy these from the net. But I’m looking forward to these two subtle blooms.

Dahlia

Plot 51: The C Word

So much for the controversial heading, C is for calamity and chillies.

Earlier in the year I had a chilli calamity, I had sown and tended four of them with love and in a moment of madness I popped them outside on a sunny February day to enjoy the sunshine. The problem was, as we all know, life takes over and I forgot about them and the following morning when I remembered them, they were beyond salvation.

A friend very kindly gave me a tray of mixed chillies and they’re now all re-potted, labelled and languishing in my greenhouse under an old net curtain to protect their tender leaves from the scorching sun. I keep looking at them knowing they hold the promise of a spicy harvest later in the year. I’m already planning on making sweet chilli jam and Oilo Santo (Recipe here)

April (20)

Now we’re into April and the tomatoes are a good size so they’ve been potted into bottomless pots (ring growing) and planted out in the greenhouse.

There’s also a cucumber and two pepper plants and in the hope of flowers an old dahlia tuber I found while digging has been potted up and I’m, fingers crossed, looking forward to seeing it burst into life again.

C also stands for cabbage and yet again calamity.

I had a tray of around 40 cabbages I had sown that were ready for planting out, but just waiting for me to get the plot ready for them. In my wisdom I popped them onto the bottom shelf in my greenhouse, along with the basil, lettuce and sprouting broccoli. As I was so taken with my chillies and tomato plants I completely forgot to water them and 3 days later I remembered and found a tray full of shrivelled brassicas and the other plants hadn’t fared well either. The lettuce and basil were consigned to the compost and the broccoli and cabbages went into intensive care, or rather a sink full of water. Only time will tell if they rejuvenate or they too will be thrown into the compost bin.

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After an hour pricking out sweet William seedlings and winter flowering pansies ready to take over from the summer bedding, I was thinking that this year’s display of flowers has been the best yet since moving to Abruzzo.

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Previous years have seen me pay more attention to the orto and raising vegetables, however this year apart from a few tomato and chilli plants and I’ve not bothered with veg growing and concentrated more on flowers.

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The sunflowers have been stunning and are definitely on the list for next year’s display.

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Choosing what to grow can be a case of suck it and see, things that do well in the UK can be horticultural disasters here in the heat of an Italian summer and I’ve had some failures. Sweet peas start off well but once the temperature climbs they fail to do the same, cornflowers get off to a good start but here the flowers seem to be somewhat smaller than in England.

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My greatest achievement is my hosta box, I love hostas and despite them preferring damp shady spots mine do well here. They only get full sun after 2:30 pm and take lots of looking after which means watering twice a day and a daily ritual of picking snails off the planter to stop the leaves becoming perforated by the greedy molluscs: This year we had only three holes in just two leaves.

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I’ve decided to add some flower beds in the rear garden and have already started to collect seeds in readiness for next year’s display, that I hope will be more dramatic than this year’s has been.