Hi everyone. I live in rural inland Croatia, where the climate is so very very different from London's. Just as I'd got the hang of when to plant what at my allotment, we upped sticks and came here. We've got plenty of land, but it hasn't been worked for about 20 years, and some of it was until recently underneath farm building that have now been demolished. Most of the products that I'd use to help the soil along aren't available here. I'll be able to get manure from the farmer next door but it will be fresh not well rotted. Any hints and tips on what I can do to help the poor starved soil will be hugely appreciated. Another area I'd love help with is the winters. Last year we were down to minus 14 at some points, and there is snow cover for at least 2 months, so is there any point puting, e.g. broad beans and garlic in the ground pre-Christmas, which is what I used to do. We also have incredibly fast temperature fluctuations - the temperature can change by 15 degrees in a day. I would ask my neighbours all these questions, but my Croatian is still very basic, and they speak with such an accent here (probably the equivalent of Geordie) that we can rarely understand each other. Anyway, sorry to ramble, and thank you in anticipation.
We haven't met before.
Be very careful with fresh manure as it will burn the roots of most plants but what you could do is dig very deep holes (maybe 3-4 ft deep or more) & fill them half full of the manure then cover with the soil you excavated. You could then sow seeds of nitrogen hungry vegetables like cucumbers, squash, melons, beans & sweetcorn etc.
You should start keeping rabbits because their manure is safe to use straight away & they will provide you with a plentiful supply of meat,
Mulch all your plants to retain water & to keep them warm in winter. You should be able to keep broad beans & garlic through the winter if you mulch very thickly & maybe use fleece?
Try reading blogs & forums that deal with vegetable growing in similar climatic areas ( Canada, USA, etc. ) I can suggest some if it helps.
Hattie/ aka Nadine
PS: I have been using a volcanic rock dust in the last couple of years & that does wonders to depleted soil. This is a link to the British product but maybe you can find a local source.... Good luck!
"The beautiful is as useful as the useful...perhaps more so."
from Les Miserables
Last year we were down to minus 14 at some points, and there is snow cover for at least 2 months, so is there any point puting, e.g. broad beans and garlic in the ground pre-Christmas, which is what I used to do.
Hi from EP Bulgaria....
We were down to -18 and snow covered for three months on and off. I planted my broad beans in October, much to the delight of my neighbours who scratched heads and gave me a peculiar look....I've just harvested my overwintered broad beans and the secret is not to let the snow get at them otherwise they go mushy. I covered mine with polythene and they were fine. My garlic and onions also made it through.
As for unworked soil....if the weeds look robust according to Monty Don then the soil is OK...good luck....I'm a novice at this gardening thing. My neighbours think that my eight tomato plants, ten peppers, two cucumbers and five broad beans, ten runner beans, fifty garlic and about the same of onions are laughable....they always have a glut of everything and always make sure that I take some of theirs anyway...
I prefer the flower things and have introduced them to flowering tobacco instead of the one that they grow for the cigarette companies and freesias. Freesias smell good in the day and tobacco at night. They now have spider plants which they never had before and my japonica kerria is a big hit. Just waiting for my mock orange to come out...they'll all want it.
If you enjoy Croatia as much as I enjoy Bulgaria with my wonderful neighbours....you'll have a lovely life.....Just get a few words of the language and you can try BYKI (Before you know it) and download it free...some of the lists added by others will give you a head start...
Who lives long sees much : The diary of my life in Bulgaria
Hi Hattie - thanks for the tips. I think I'll get a trailer-full of fresh manure from my neighbour and leave it to rot down for use in autumn, if it's ready, or in the spring. Here, the norm is to build huge mounds of manure - about the size of a shipping container - and then cover the top with soil using a JCB, then cover that with plastic held down with bricks. I don't think I'm quite in that league just yet! I used to build hotbeds on my allotment for courgettes etc. but I'm too late for that here this year. I bought a sack of rock dust in the UK to bring with us, but the removal and storage company for some reason wouldn't accept it. I haven't seen anything similar here yet. Still so much to learn ...
Hi EP - nice to hear from another ex-pat (I dislike that term but can't think of anything better right now). I'm delighted to hear about the broad beans and garlic; I'll definitely get some in the ground in October. I will also be starting my seeds off much earlier next year; I was still working mostly on English seasons, and so most of my stuff is way behind my neighbours'. Everyone here, no matter how humble their cottage, has flowers in their garden; I have never seen such magnificent peonies. I'm growing loads of sunflowers, not the giant ones, but the smaller reddish/brown ones, and some white and pale yellow, plus stocks, marguerites and geraniums. I hope they will brighten up the builders' yard that is our garden, and feed the birds too.
I am enjoying life here very much. The bureaucracy is a nightmare, but the people are wonderful. And there's so much space and open countryside and peace. My husband is in London at the moment and he can't wait to get away from the crowds, noise, litter and expense!
Hi Bib, I am another ex-pat from Latvia. We have cold winters too, down to about -29C is the coldest we've seen, and three foot of snow both winters. One year the ground froze solid first and then snowed, my thyme plants nearly made it through the winter but gave up the ghost in the spring, whereas my swiss chard and turnips survived the onslaught of deer and the freezing they got the first year and came back in the spring. The second year we had snow first and cold later and my chard and leeks disappeared and nothing came back. So I guess it is a matter of trying and see. Here in Latvia people cover up plants with branches of spruce for protection, I think I am going to add a mulch of straw under the spruce protection this next year as our lavender and sage are always slow to come back in the spring, but they have survived. Marjoram survives very well and is healthy and vigorous as are the strawberry plants, mint and lemon balm. I have never tried garlic or broad beans but we are trying broad beans from a spring sowing indoors and putting them out this week. We can get big changes in temperature too, with blasts of cold every now and again and then just have fleece handy or something similar for the nights. We mulch with straw too, keeps the wind damage down, protects the plants in the downpours and keeps the soil moist in the dry periods.
I thought you might be interested in this woman's work. Ruth Stout pioneered this no-dig gardening system....it is very good if you have a large area to deal with.
There are 4 pages to the article, with an interesting comment at the bottom of last page, which might prove useful.
"The beautiful is as useful as the useful...perhaps more so."
from Les Miserables
Thanks Joanna. I've been to Riga in winter and my word it was cold! We had intended to walk across the bridge to the other side of the river (the river was still frozen, but we weren't that brave!) but after about 10 yards we simply had to turn back and find a coffee shop to thaw out. But what a lovely city to visit, I'd happily return and spend a whole day wandering around the Central Market.
Straw is a great idea - we have a barn that's half full of old but still sweet straw that was already there when we arrived. And fleece and other insulating materials are much easier to come by here than in the UK. It's going to be quite a learning curve, but I'm looking forward to it.
Please keep the handy hints and tips coming! Right, I'm off out now to pick elderflowers and I'm going to try Fiona's elderflower cordial recipe.
I walked across one of the bridges in April and nearly froze to death and the river wasn't frozen, then again it was also quite windy which didn't help. Your right though, as cities go it is a beautiful city to visit.
I think experimentation is the only way to go, I was surprised that the Marjoram is very happy with just a spruce coat every year, I would have thought it would give up the ghost, so very happy about that. Oh I didn't add that the protection is as much against the deer as the snow, they are quite destructive particularly in March when they are getting really hungry and start appearing in the gardens even during the day.
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