It all started in the 1930s, when Pope Pius XI had a farm cultivated in Castel Gandolfo, the papal vacation estate. Today, 25 of Castel Gandolfo’s 55 hectares are used for farming. All the produce of the farm—from vegetables to milk and eggs—are delivered fresh to the kitchens of the Vatican City every day.
My Pope talks to Alessandro Reali, head of the agricultural services of the Pope’s farm and gardens, for tips on how to grow a garden just like the ones in Castel Gandolfo. Here’s what he has to share:
Know your space
If you don’t have a lot of space, don’t plant vegetables that grow large.
Know the climate
If you’re a first-timer, prioritize aromatic plants like basil and parsley as they are easier to handle in an unpredictable climate.
Always use organic fertilizers—such as manure—over chemical ones. Chemical substances will transfer to the vegetables and could harm whoever eats them. Whereas manure discharges microbacteria, slowly neutralizing fungi and bacteria growing on plants.
Water the soil, not the leaves
The secret to growing good greens for salads? Watering your greens! Make sure to water the soil and not the leaves—otherwise the water lands on the stems and stagnates, rotting the plant.
Look out for the moon
Always check lunar phases before planting new seeds. Vegetables that grow in the soil (potato, carrot, cauliflower, onion) should be planted while the moon is waning. Vegetables that grow above the soil (tomato, bell pepper, eggplant, aromatic herbs) should be planted when the moon is waxing.