Monthly Archives: November 2011

Make it Green

Buon Venerdi Verde,

Let’s call today Green Friday instead of Black, and no, I haven’t spent the night waiting outside Wall-Mart or any other megastore waiting for their doors to open, my focus is on gardening. During the week I erected my dismountable cold frame (4×8 feet) on top of the raised bed which I already have sown rucola and spinach. After having sprinkled a little organic 10-10-10 and a dusting of Aragonite in the area to be planted, this morning I transplanted scallions, kohlrabi, parsley, red and green lettuce, so my wife and I can enjoy it throughout the winter.

 I have built the sides of this cold frame out of 1 ½” Styrofoam, and its top with 2” wooden laths covered with heavy-gage clear plastic, not the opaque plastics sheathing used by painters to catch paint drippings. For now, the enclosure gives the plants adequate protection.  During the bitter winter nights, I’ll drape the top with a piece of discarded carpet padding, or hang a spotlight with 100 watt incandescent bulb inside it.

I have two additional cold frames bulging  with endive, escarole, beets, broccoli, garlic greens sown from true-seeds or bulbils, and other  cold resistant crops. The rest of my raised beds, other than the one used to grow saffron, are sown with organic winter rye to protect the soil from eroding and to add nutrients.

If you have any questions in regard to the cold frame of what crop to grow, feel free to email me.

Remember,  a four season garden is productive, fun, challenging, and good for your health. If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s not too late to start.


Nick Mancini, The Organic Italian


Protecting fig trees

Ciao, Ortolani,

 The cold is finally descending upon us, and fig growers in cold regions are scrambling to cover their prized trees for the winter months, unless they are grown in containers and brought inside until spring. I do both. The one in the container I keep reasonably small and bring it in at this time of the year. The one in my garden, which happens to be an offshoot of my great grandfather’s “Latterula” back in Italy, I painstakingly handle with great care.

Like most fig trees that people grow in my area, Southern New England, happen to be Brown Turkey or Celeste. The two subtropical relatives are somewhat more cold resistant varieties than mine, nonetheless, I have been successful in wintering it for decades.

This is what I do religiously every fall and want to share it with you. So, if you’re a beginner, or not a beginner and enjoy this wonderful delicacy, but haven’t been successful so far, this is how I keep mine from freezing.

  1. Place a perforated PVC or metal pipe in the ground, vertically in middle of the tree.
  2. Bunch the branches tightly around the pipe and tie them with a strong twine.
  3. Build a structure around the tree with 2×4” (5×10 cm) studs anchored at the bottom.
  4. Cover all sides with 1” (2.5 cm) foil face Styrofoam; use screw to fasten.
  5. Cover the top and make sure the perforated pipe is sticking above the insulation.
  6. Place a small pipe at the bottom of the structure for cross ventilation so the condensation that may build up inside during warm days won’t freeze at night and kill your plant. This pipe can be temporarily plugged during the very cold period and unclogged once the temperature rises.
  7. Wrap the entire structure with a tarp, but make sure the PVC sticks above the tarp and the pipe at the base is not obstructed.
  8. Seal it well so vermin cannot go inside and eat the bark.

I hope my blog has been helpful. If you need additional info, email me. And, if you have other  

suggestions, let me know so we can share them with our fellow gardeners.

Buone cose,

Nick Mancini, The Organic Italian


Garlic Forever

Cari Ortolani,

A couple of weeks ago I talked about amending my soil with compost and a 5-10-10 organic fertilizer in anticipation of sowing my garlic. I also sprinkled a little Aragonite since the raised beds are somewhat new and not fully balanced to my satisfaction. This past week, I collected 5 leaf bags full of white pine needles to mulch my garlic and shallots. I used pine needles because they’re light, let oxygen filter through and will not mat down as much as other mulches, especially leaves, plus, they’re free and plentiful at this time of the year.

Since my soil already has nutrients, the only other amendment I use is Azomite. This product contains over 67 trace minerals beneficial to plants and animals, and nowadays is a standard supplement in garlic beds for knowledgeable gardeners.

Yesterday I sowed over 100 regular cloves of Organic German Whites, plus another 100 cloves of my second year garlic, which I start either from true seeds or builbils during the previous fall.

Since I live in zone 5-6, I make my furrows 4” deep, sprinkle a dusting of Azomite, mix it in the soil with a cultivator and plant the cloves, then cover with soil without packing it down. The second year cloves I only sow  2” deep because they’re much smaller and may have trouble germinating if sown too deeply.

Afterwards, I erect a 4-5” poultry fence on the perimeters of my raised beds, cover the soil with 4-5” inches of pine needles and place a netting on top to prevent squirrels from digging. The short fence keeps the pine needles from blowing away and the little plants from being injured by frost. 

Ci  risentiamo, 

Nick Mancini, The Organic Italian