Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Gaze on them (or peel them) and weep

The label on the onion sets, when I bought them last February, claimed the variety was 'Stuttgarter Riesen', Stuttgart giants. This is the total of yesterday's harvest.

If I had a euro-centime for every stone in the vegetable garden, I would be fabulously rich and would spend all my days dishing out the dosh to the worthy, i.e. Lydian Airs regulars. The 'soil' consists of trillions of small stones bound together with a sort of natural cement, a clay composed of minute particles of Lybian desert blown across the Mediterranean over the millenia. This serves me well for wall-building (even if nobody else has got a good word for you, while there's still just time I'd like to say thank you, Col. Ghaddafi), but for growing things I might as well plant them in coal. In summer it dries to a hardness recognisable on the Moh scale. Some ash trees shade the vegetable garden from the pitiless sun, but in doing so they take all the water I lavish on it every evening. Full of hope each autumn I dig in compost and peat and other nutrients, but the goodness is quickly leached down far beyond the reach of any onion roots.

(In fairness to Mother Earth, strawbs and rasps do quite well in spring and early summer. The beetroot harvest in June marks the beginning of the season of despair.)

So their size isn't their fault. But I can't help feeling 'Stuttgarter Zwerge' - Stuttgart dwarfs - would be more appropriate.


Z said...

I always thought that clay was fertile and retained moisture, but you and Dave both seem to have problems. I mourn for your disappointed hopes.

Dave said...

My clay is very fertile, as my flower displays show. I grow my onions and carrots in pots though, which I can fill with stone-free soil.

Rosie said...

Sounds like the soil here. First raspberries ever out today. Millions of small tomatoes, some green potatoes. One uncatchable locust munching through everything else.

dinahmow said...

hmmm...I would need to do some mathematical calculations, but I think that thee and we are antipodal.
Bloody sandy-stone soils!

Vicus Scurra said...

How well do you know your onions?

Christopher said...

Z: Thank you. Perhaps I should start talking to my vegetables. Then I could express your sympathy to them. I'm ready to try anything.

Dave: Stone-free soil? Is this some kind of joke?

Rosie: Congrats. on the rasps, at least. I expect there will now be pots of SWRI-type jam. Locusts are one pest we don't have, other than as a metaphor. Metaphors aren't always too easy to catch, either.

DM: You have the detritus of the sands of the Sahara in Queensland?

Vicus: Not much to know, in the case of my onions.

Dave said...

Bought in potting compost, and my own home-made, I meant. No stones.

Christopher said...

Ah. I see. Maybe I should try the same. And clearly what you manage to grow so sucessfully is a feat of clay.

Tim said...

My garden people have just left, having drastically chopped back the sage (in its second flowering), oregano and marjoram, all of which are rampant. Had I been growing them this year, the tomatoes would be in glut and the beans would be running towards the sky. And this is England!
I reaped my stone crop years ago.

Christopher said...

You have garden people? You mean gnomes?

mig said...

Still they are definitely onions, not to be sneezed at.

We once offered our children 50p per bucket of stones removed from the veg patch. They gave up when we refused to pay them 25p for a half bucket and the stones remain under what is now grass.
Perhaps you need trenches? Or terraces. Like they have in mountainous areas

Christopher said...

Thank you, Mig, for this valuable confirmation.

We have trenches. The raspberries were planted in a 2' deep trench lined with newspaper. (It was News International paper, now I come to think of it. Maybe that's the trouble.) The ash roots osmose the very printer's ink off the paper.

We have terraces. I spend a lot of my time building them. The lizards thrive in them, if not much else does.

Spadoman said...

Should have just peeled and ate the sets by the looks of it. Maybe there is a market nearby where you can get really good produce at an exorbitant price. That's what I do. Sweet corn is in the height of the season and the roadside venfor is offereing 5 bags, (14 ears each) for $20.00 US. That's 70 ears of sweet corn. I'll blanch them and freeze them, some on the cob, and some I'll strip the kernals off and bag them. Always a hit during the Winter.
You might have trouble getting much fromn that harvest. I'll gladly share my corn with you.


Christopher said...

Good advice, Spadoman. At least none of those onions shrank. Roadside vendors here are selling peaches and nectarines just now, by the tray of 30 or so. Much better than commercial ones, which taste of nothing this year for some reason.

I could try selling my onions at the roadside as lucky charms. I don't think they're much use for anything else.