Un po’ di giardinaggio Posted by on Apr 16, 2009 in Grammar, Italian Language

Oggi facciamo un po’ di giardinaggio (today we are going to do a bit of gardening). At this time of year we are very busy working on the orto (vegetable garden). I wouldn’t say that we are big gardening experts, but we have had an orto for many years now and we manage to be self sufficient with our vegetables throughout the summer and autumn. In the winter we still have a supply of cipolle (onions), aglio (garlic), patate (potatoes), and zucche (pumpkins), plus of course all the marmellate (jams), frutte secche (dried fruits), and verdure conservate sott’olio  (pickled vegetables) that we have made during the autumn.

Those of you who enjoy il giardinaggio will probably find the vocabulary in this article useful.

We begin with il terreno (the land). We have about 500 square meters of terreno spread over three terrazze (terraces) on a south facing hillside. Being south facing  ‘il nostro orto e’ molto soleggiato’ (our vegetable garden is very sunny) and therefore good for growing things like pomodori (tomatoes) and meloni (melons) which need a lot of sun to get nice and sweet. The downside is that in the hot months ‘la terra diventa molto secca’ (the ground gets very dry) and it’s necessary to annaffiare (to water) regularly, either with il tubo dell’aqua (the hose, around here they call it ‘la gomma’, literally ‘the rubber’) or with the annaffiatoio (watering can).

But all of that happens a bit later in the year, first of all comes the hard work with la vanga (the spade), il forcone (the fork), la zappa (the mattock, a sort of cross between a hoe and a pick), and il rastrello (the rake). We use la vanga to vangare (dig) la terra (the soil), and while we are digging we diserbare (weed), le erbacce (the weeds) that we pull out going onto our compost heap where they eventually break down into terriccio (compost). Whilst digging the terreno it’s also a good idea to concimare (fertilise) with a good lettame (manure), preferably lettame di stallatico (stable manure from horses or cows). Another attrezzo da giardinaggio (gardening tool) which we find very useful is la carriola (the wheelbarrow) which helps us to shift terra, lettame, and sassi (rocks).

When il terreno is ready, and the time is appropriate we use la zappa to fare i solchi (make the furrows) in which we seminare (sow) the semi (seeds), patate, cipole etc. The locals here tend to say ‘mettere giu’ instead of ‘sow’. e.g. ‘ho messo giu’ due patate’ (I’ve planted a few potatoes).

Now it’s a matter of maintenance: c’e’ da sradicare l’erbaccia (you have to root out the weeds), proteggere le piantine dagli uccelli e le lumache (protect the young plants from birds and slugs), e annaffiare. Luckly we don’t have much of a problem with slugs and snails because the muri a secco (dry stone walls) of our orto are full of lucertole (lizards), frustone (the whip snake, a bit like a big grass snake), and orbettini (slow worms) which tend to eat them before they can eat our plants! The main pest that we have, particularly on the fave (broad beans), are gli afidi, or as they call them round here i pidocchi (the aphids, pidocchi actually means lice).

After all the hard work we hope, of course, to have un buon raccolto (a good harvest), and we get a huge amount of pleasure, and satisfaction from sitting down to a ‘home grown’ meal. I have to admit that many vegetables don’t even get as far as the plate, who can resist a sweet crunchy carota  (carrot) freshly pulled and rinsed, or una manciata di piselli freschi (a handful of fresh peas) straight from the pod!

While we are on the subject of gardening I can’t resist ending this blog by giving you one of the most unpronounceable words in the Italian language: aiuola (flower bed). I’m afraid you’ll have to find an Italian, and ask them to say the word aiuola (probably about 25 times) in order to learn the pronunciation.

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  1. tomasso debenedictis:

    Sto Blog ‘e piu magnifico!!! Mi piace molto. Grazie tante!!

  2. Dante Davighi:

    Excellent. I find it very enlightening, amusing and helpful in content and language. Keep it up.

  3. Melissa:

    Non c’e’ un’espressione: “saltare i solchi”, che vuol dire prevalere difficolta’? o sbaglio?

  4. Bryan:

    Hello, I just stumbled across your blog while studying Christian Bök’s book of poetry Eunoia. Eunoia is the shortest word in the English language to contain all five vowels. Is the answer to your clue from “Aiuole”? From what I can tell, it means flower beds. Thank you!

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