Tj Lees

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since May 29, 2016
Puglia, Italy (USDA zone 9)
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Recent posts by Tj Lees

I can talk about my own experience on the subject of prunings;

Here in South of Italy it's also the usual practice to burn the olive prunings. Throughout Spring you'll see people burning big bonfires of prunings on their land. It hurts me to see such wastage.

It's been difficult to find another solution for our land though, as the family wants everything to look "neat", which means no dumping prunings in a big pile somewhere on the land. Neither is there any municipal garden waste disposal service, where it would at least be composed or something. So till now, our practice has been to save the thicker wood for firewood, and to burn most of the rest.

What I have also done is make bundles of prunings by cutting them into pieces of similar length, laying them in a pile, and tying them together. Be warned, this is a labourous process, but the resulting bundles are good for piling up and storing neatly on the land. I have also used the bundles as a windbreak to protect young plants while they're getting established or to mark the boundaries of a vegetable or plant bed.

Last year we bought a small woodchipper to try and turn the prunings into mulch for the garden, but soon realized that it could only process very little at a time  and that it wasn't heavy duty enough for our needs (we have 50+ trees).

Fortunately, I got to know a local guy with a powerful wood chipper (cost €1700 he said) which he rents out. That thing can handle branches up to 2/3cm diameter, which is perfect, as we could want to save anything as thick as that for firewood anyway.

I am very happy with this solution, as with that many prunings you get a lot of woodchips! Perfect for mulching the young plants and trees we've planted and returning nutrients to the land!
9 months ago
There was a French guy called Jean Pain who successfully channelled compost heat into his garden. Apparently a Canadian guy was able to use this technique to successfully grow tomatoes in Winter with outside temperatures of -35°.
link to article (in French)
2 years ago
Hopefully these pictures help explain what I mean.
2 years ago

John Elliott wrote:

Tj Lees wrote:
John, Yes indeed those are my neighbour's trulli. What exactly would like you like to know about them? Im sure could write a lot about trulli



Are they connected? How much interior space does he have? I got the idea that a trullo was kind of cramped inside, not much more than 20 sq.m of floor space. It would be really cool if you could post a floor plan for how he has it set up.


Ok this is gonna get off topic. I tried to draw a sketch to help explain, I hope it's understandable.
Trulli do indeed not have much space inside. Traditionally, each trullo would be one room and while there are single trulli, they were often build interconnecting for a whole family. Modern renovated trulli preserve the cone roofs but usually expand the interior walls by making it more square inside.
2 years ago
This is an inspiring thread Kostas thank you!! As soon I first read it I was motivated to start saving seeds from local fruit trees so I can plant them plant in autumn. I've got loquat, cherry, apricot, peach and nectarine seeds so far, and will have more once more fruit come into season. I will also try planting date palm and albizia. We have around half an acre of bare land here that could definitely benefit from this technique.
The climate here is wet and humid in winter and hot and dry in summer. I've seen plenty of wild fruit trees sprout and grow all on their own on abandonned properties around here. Almonds, figs and pears seem to be the most common ones to appear on abandonned lots, but walnut and wild plums can commonly be found too.
I think you'd do very well with fig trees Kostos if you can get ahold of cuttings. All you have to do is remove all the leaves and stick them in the ground during the rainy season at the end of Autumn or beginning of Winter. By Spring the cuttings will have started to grow.

I have a question though, do you bother cracking the almond/apricot/etc nuts to get the kernel or do you just plant the whole thing?
2 years ago
Thanks for the answers guys!
I've been thinking maybe the trees near the house don't get enough water over the dry summer because since the renovation they are surrounded by paving stones. I would have thought such old trees have very deep roots though...
I'll see how they're fairing by autumn, I might have to burn the leaves.

John, Yes indeed those are my neighbour's trulli. What exactly would like you like to know about them? Im sure could write a lot about trulli
2 years ago
Thanks for the advice guys. Might be a bit tricky to split the plants as what I've got here is more of a prickly pear mess of a bush. Maybe I'll just try and remove them all for an autumn harvest, there'll be so many other fruit ripening in summer anyway.

James would you say now is a good time to remove the fruit, or should I wait a week like you? And I'm curious, do they tell the same anecdotal story about the neighboursnover on Sicily itself?
2 years ago
Hi guys could someone please advise me here.
I recently moved to this family property which previously was just being used as a holiday home. We have four old pear trees here, two at the back of the property and two near the house. The two that are far away are healthy and produce delicious fruit come autumn time. The two near the house however have been sick for years. Every year since we got the property (4 years ago) the trees grow leaves and bloom in Spring, but then the leaves start turning yellow and black. Come summertime the leaves and fruit start dropping off, and by autumn the tree is almost bear.
I've been asking around and reading up on it, but I can't seem to figure out whether this is pear blight or fabraea leaf spot and I'm unsure how best to treat it.
I would like to avoid any pesticides if at all possible. Most guides say that to treat a pear tree for either of those diseases organically I have to remove and burn all the infected leaves (those on the tree as well as those on the ground, as the bacteria can remain dormant). This is unrealistic for me because the infected leaves have been composting into the earth round the pear trees for years.

I'd be grateful for any ideas on how I might save these poor pear trees. Could grafting a more disease-resistant variety onto it help?
In the end maybe they'll serve best as firewood. Seems a pity for such old, well established trees however.
Thank you
2 years ago
Hi everyone. I've been enjoying this thread, so decided to contribute.

Here in South Italy the Opuntia ficus-India has long been naturalized. I recently heard a story from an old man here, in goes something like this:
Once upon a time in Sicily there man who didn't get along his neighbour and they fought and disputed with each other all the time. So one day in Spring when his neighbour wasn't around, the man decided to get revenge and ruin his neighbour's prickly pear crop. He sneaked into his neighbour's property and removed all the fruit from the blooming cactii. Come summertime, the neighbour's prickly pear didn't produce any fruit and he was most displeased. He got the last laugh however because come at the end of autumn he got a late crop of fruit and these were sweeter, larger and had less spines and seeds.

The normal fruiting will be from July-September. By removing the young flowering fruit in Spring however, you'll get a late harvest from October-December, extending the growing season by 3 months!
This process is called scozzolatura, see
for a short video.

Anyone else fimiliar with the process? I've never tried it myself. Now is the time to do it however, as the plants have just started to bloom. Not sure whether I have to remove all the fruit from each cactus plant or whether I can just remove half so I can get an early and late crop from the same plant. Any ideas?
2 years ago