Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Twist and Shoot

I know, it doesn't look much does it. But you're looking at five new vines and a new fig tree in that bucket.

If there's one thing one has to do while living here it's listen when the locals offer advice; well, at least in matters horticultural.

We visited our old friend down south this morning, Kyrios Gilmas rustled us up an Elleniko each and the conversation came around eventually to what one does at this time of year. That's after, of course, he'd filled us in on how his family are doing. His wife has all sorts of health issues, primarily with her legs. Basically they don't want to carry around so much weight any more and the Doc says that they can't operate on her knees, which are giving out under the strain, unless she loses some weight. She needs, apparently, to get down to around 90kg!! That's still more than I weigh. he told us with a twinkle in his eye and a chuckle that, "when I go to bed with her, if I turn my head toward her it's like looking at a 'vouna'ki!' [little mountain!], I can't see over it!"

"If she turns over," he continued, "I don't have any bedclothes left at all." We found ourselves thinking how glad he was that he spends the majority of his time down south on his little homestead all on his lonesome. 

Anyway, as stated above, we got around to what we should be getting on with at this time of the year in the garden. "Yes," he told me when I asked him, "it's time to be pruning your vines back quite hard." Plus, "now's the time to plant the cuttings you've taken." Of course, I'm a bit unsure about how exactly to go about taking the best cuttings, but I needn't have worried, "You want some to put in?" he asked. Before we could both nod in ascent, he was showing us a bucket full of cuttings, all sitting in water and awaiting their new homes. He explained just how succulent and large the grapes would be from this particular variety, thus assuring that we'd be wanting to acquire a few were he to be offering, which, of course, he was.

Gently lifting a dripping example from his bucket, he showed me how far into the soil to push the stem and then explained, once again in that conspiratorial way of his that I love, "you have to do this Yianni, before you push it in." Whilst he was saying this he was grabbing the lower end of the stem of the cutting, down at the part that would end up under the soil, and giving it a vigorous twist, much in the way in which you'd wring out a dishcloth. I heard an audible crack as the bark ruptured. "You do this, Yianni, then push it into the soil. This enables the shoots that will become roots to grow out from the stem all the more quickly."

A few years back, when Mihalis from Kalathos had given us the vines that now grow in the garden, he hadn't told us about this. So I was enthralled. "Now," he said, as he carefully selected a few examples for us to take home, along with one cutting of a variety of fig that he said produces figs for a longer season that the normal ones, "You MUSTN"T forget to twist before planting. You won't will you Yianni?"

"I won't," I replied and I didn't. The photo above shows the shoots as they rested in the bucket on our terrace after we'd arrived home. They stayed there while we had lunch, then I was out there this afternoon constructing a climbing frame of rigid wire and re-bars for them to grow up, before I twisted away as instructed to enable the new shoots to get started. 

Here's hoping that a little "twist and shoot" produces the desired results.

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