When we lived in England we always had a kitchen garden full of edible goodies, or alternatively an allotment where we could grow all our fresh produce.
However, now that we live in an apartment on the first floor in Italy, we have had to get a little more creative.
Luckily we have two balconies, one on the kitchen and one on our bedroom measuring 5 metres by 1 metre each, so we have a little room to have our own little green space.
The Herb Patch …
Firstly, of course a kitchen garden wouldn’t be complete without a herb patch. Good herbs are readily available at supermarkets in Italy, but there is nothing better than stepping outside your kitchen door and picking your own! We’re growing the usual suspects like rosemary, thyme, sage, chives and mint. However, we have also decided to grow some herbs which are more difficult to find, like pineapple sage (which is fantastic in both savoury and sweet dishes), lemon thyme, and also tarragon, which seems to be non-existent in Italy!
Feelin’ hot, hot, hot …
People who followed my last blog know that I love chillies. However, in the north of Italy they are not too keen on chilies in their food as they are in the south of the country. This has meant that we have had to hunt far and wide for some hot chilli plants, as the ones in the local supermarkets and shops generally only sell the sweet “bell” pepper varieties, and we don’t really have the space to grow them from seed.
Luckily, we’ve got a good garden centre nearby, and we’ve also recently had a spring festival. This has meant that we have been able to pick up some Italian chilli varieties that I have never grown before. These include Diavolicchio Calabrese and Mazzetti chillies from the south of Italy. We have also planted some Fatali chillies which have a wonderful hot and citrus flavour, and also a Chocolate Habanero for when we want a really large chilli kick in our food!
When life gives you lemons …
Since we arrived in Italy we have wanted a lemon tree to complete the Mediterranean feel to our garden. These were always very expensive in England, but we bought a well establish lemon tree from our local garden centre for €27, and this has already produced our first lemon of the season. As you can see from the pictures there are already some more on the way! Naturally, we had to celebrate our first lemon by using it in a gin and tonic, and toasted the end of the long hard winter, and the return of temperatures nudging 30 degrees.
Maximising your growing space …
In order to utilise the limited space we’ve got, we bought some planters that we could hang from the balcony railings. The kitchen balcony planters contain red and white spring onions, and radishes for our summer salads, while the ones on the bedroom balcony contain edible flowers like marigolds and nasturtiums. The added advantage of the nasturtiums, along with the citronella plants is that their scent keeps the mosquitos at bay, as unfortunately they wake up with the hot weather too!
Our bedroom balcony is also our “nursery garden” where we’re doing successional sowings of radishes and nasturtiums. There is also a large tomato plant on this balcony, as we have no room for it on the kitchen balcony! In order to attract the bees we’ve also planted a japonica shrub, which not only has a beautiful scent, but will eventually give us some shade on the bedroom balcony.
So, as you can see, even if you have a small space you can have your own little green paradise!