Monthly Archives: October 2011

Ripening Tomatoes Indoors

Ciao , ortolani della nostra terra,

Once you’ve successfully shepherded tomato plants through the summer perils and the frost is about to descend and devastate whatever is left, roll up your sleeves and harvest the green fruit left on the vine before it’s too late.

Even in late October, if the frost hasn’t arrived yet, healthy plants should have the top 1/3 of the canopy full of green tomatoes that can be ripened and consumed until Holiday time. Even though most people feel satisfied of having had a bounty during the month of August, they don’t realize there are still three more months left to enjoy the most popular vegetable grown in backyard gardens throughout the world.

 For years I’ve seen friends and fellow gardeners wrap tomatoes in newspaper and unwrap them every once in a while to discover mold and rot. Bad habits are hard to shed. If you don’t like the taste of ink or moldy produce, there is an alternative.

Today is the dawn of a new day for new organic gardening enthusiasts and doing it the very old natural way is new again, plus it’s less labor intensive. If you want good tasting tomatoes, sever the stem of the plant at soil level, remove its leaves and hang it upside down in a shed, garage or basement, and enjoy the fruit of your labor for the remainder of the year. Tomatoes need a certain amount of air circulation to prevent spoilage when stored for a period of time, and this will give added air flow than if wrapped in newspaper, plus the stems supply additional nourishment before drying out. I’ve been practicing this technique for a while and it has worked quite well.

Ci risentiamo,

Nick Mancini, The Organic Italian





It’s Garlic Time

Ciao, colleghi; 

Our garlic sowing time is fast approaching in the Northeast United States. During my Garlic/Saffron Presentation at the Westport Continuing Education Program the other night, I asked if anyone wanted to volunteer and concoct a formula with 3 organic fertilizers that I want to use for  my garlic beds. Without hesitation, Ellen, stood up, went to the board and ably formulated an approximate 5-10-10 comprised of ¾ parts Soybean Meal, 3 parts Collaidal Rock Phosphate and 2/3 parts Green Potash.

It amazed me that she achieved the results so quickly because this is a beginner’s class. Fertilizer companies suggest weighting the materials to be applied to the soil instead of measuring in ratios, nonetheless, we start out by measuring in parts until everyone understands the concept, which is not simple even for seasoned gardeners. Organic fertilizers are not complete fertilizers because most of them lack one or two major nutrients, therefore, one needs to learn such process to grow above average produce. 

I’ll explain why I use this NPK formula: 

Nitrogen Source – I like to use Soybean Meal (7-0.5-2.3) because the high level of nitrogen and potassium are released as the soybean meal breaks down, and this provides fertility over a period of time. Plus it’s an excellent fertilizer to incorporate into the soil when planting and transplanting. For side dressing during spring and summer consider the faster acting blood meal or fish meal.

Phosphorus –  Colloidal Rock Phosphate (0-3-0) is another of my favorite nutrients for two reasons. First because is a natural product made by surrounding clay particles with natural phosphate, which supplies minimal phosphorus but adds micronutrients to the soil. Second it’s water soluble and has faster access to root systems than other types of the same nutrient; it can be also be used as a foliar spray.

Potassium – Green Potash (0-0-15) a naturally accruing potash source derived from kelp. Greensand is added for the benefit of the trace minerals and potash. 

Next time we’ll talk about soil amendments and trace elements, 

Nick Mancini, The Organic Italian





Hot or Cold Composting?

Ciao, ortolani e giardinieri, 

            Since I only practice organic gardening, the most sensible way to compost for me is to do it as natural as possible, which is cold composting instead of hot, a technique that has tremendously improved the soil structure in my garden. This indispensable way of adding organic material to your soil has finally come into its own, in fact, my presentation at the  Hopp Ground Garden Club in Bedford, N.Y. yesterday was well attended and enthusiastically received, whereas, years ago, compost presentations were not even considered. Nowadays,  everyone is beginning to understand the benefits of  composting, and especially when using worms. 

 The following article on The Inside Dirty on Composting, written by Lisa Pierce Flores for life@home, described my views beautifully, and her interviewing me on the subject was skillfully translated by saying: 

Not all gardening experts are hot on the topic of hot composting. Nick Mancini, a master gardener who has presented seminars at Norwalk Community College, (CTNOFA) Northeast Organic Farmers Association and the Fairfield Farm Workshop, is among those who discourage the practice of hot composting. “The beneficial bacteria and fungi that attack pathogens cannot survive such heat,” Mancini says, meaning that your garden plants may be less sturdy than plants raised in cold-compost soil. Instead, Mancini advocates vermiculture, or worm composting, which he uses to enhance the soil at the gardens he maintains at his Westport home and the Westport Community Garden. He also tends a vermiculture-nourished garden with the help of preschool children at the Child Development Laboratory School at NCC.

Vermiculture, Mancini says, “conditions the soil and adds nutritional value,” while the beneficial microorganisms retained throughout the process “give plants more stability and resistance to pathogens.” 

Ci risentiamo,

Nick Mancini, The Organic Italian


Harvesting your Asian Pears

Ciao, ortolani,

It’s that time of the year when our usual rewards, other than the pleasure we derive from gardening, can be multiplied by growing fruit trees in our landscape, and most definitely organic Asian pears. This added feature is not difficult to achieve, even in small properties such as mine. The beautiful apple lookalike fruit with the texture of apples and the crispiness of pears ripen in mid to late September in my zone, are delicious, and very expensive to purchase in supermarkets, plus, you’re assure they are 100% organic.

Asian pears are practically insect and disease free, and espaliering them into an attractive form can easily be achieved to give an extra dimension to your garden. The beauty of these trees is that they are ornamental, easy to reach and can be planted along fences and walkways. In addition, they produce full size fruits, and abundantly, year after year.

 Other than my espaliered dwarf  Chojuro, which is about 18 years old, I’ve grafted some of its shoots onto my Bartlett Pear tree for added pollination. Asian Pears, like conventional Cultivars can be easily maintained, and every garden will greatly benefit whether aesthetically or otherwise; if you only choose one, make sure there is another compatible variety nearby to help with pollination.

Since my gardening is totally organic, I only spray horticultural oil twice during the dormant season, and an organic fungicide/insecticide at pre and post bloom. The rest of the year these magnificent specimens that produce white flowers and succulent fruit, manage well without my intervention, and to my delight, the fruit can be stored in a fridge for at least a couple of months.

 If you haven’t tried growing pear trees in your garden, now is a good time to start. Purchase bare root trees from reputable companies, plant them before winter sets in, and hopefully you’ll enjoy the fruit of your labor until you’re a hundred.

Con buona salute,

Nick Mancini, The Organic Italian