Rick Gush
June 25, 2009

The slugs in Rick's village are large

We’ve got some cool looking slugs here in Italy.

This first photo is one of the dark ones I saw in the garden this week. I’m pretty sure he’s in the Arion genus. Note the red stripe on his tail and the turquoise spots on his sides. A beautiful beast.
 
The big news in the garden is that I got the new coldframe set up this week. 

It’s a manure heated coldframe that I built for an article I’m writing on the subject. The Romans used this technique in their mica-covered coldframes to grow vegetables. The photo shows the box built underneath to hold the manure, and the glass covered coldframe above. 

Rick's coldframe features a technique the Romans used

I’ve painted the box in stripes of white and grey sort of as a joke. In medieval times, the nobility in this area used stripes of white marble and grey slate to build their fabulous churches and palaces. I tell my neighbors the box is the Castello dei Fieschi. (The Fieschi family were one of the genovese Doria family’s big rivals.

My plan is to use the manure heating for two months in the early spring, when the seedlings will appreciate the bottom heat. Then for the rest of the year I’ll make compost in the box. 

I’ve added a hopper on the left side for adding the daily vegetable refuse from our kitchen and a big door on the right side so I’ll be able to open the box and turn the compost pile with a rake. I’m really quite pleased with the clever design. I’m sure I’ll find out later what’s wrong with my theory.

I just love how Pride goeth before a fall. Of course, my exultation about the exploding tomatoes last week has been followed by the first discovery of fungus this week. 

I had one plant so infected that the green fruits were streaked brown, so I cut that out and I also cut out three other plants to make more room between the remaining plants. 

I think the plants had grown so big that they were crowding each other, and then after a week of warm and humid weather, the plants couldn’t dry out and perfect conditions for the fungus were created. 

I think this fungus is Phytophthora infestans, the same fungus that caused the Irish Potato disaster. It’s pretty common in Europe, but not so much in the states.

Losing four of my thirty tomato plants freaked me out a bit, but yesterday I planted four new plants in a distant terrace.

It’s been a few days now since I’ve seen any new signs of fungus, and I’ve again got my fingers crossed.

I’ve also painted the outside of the coldframe dark green, and while I like it, my wife says it’s ugly, and clashes with the grey and white stripes on the box.  Oh well, a gardener’s life is never easy.

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