Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables in December

Physalis, they are still bearing fruit in December
Physalis, they are still bearing fruit in December

Over the next year I will be keeping a monthly diary of all the fruit and vegetables I grow in my garden. This idea was prompted by fellow blogger Hurtled to 60 and now beyond
I’ve made various garden posts over the last year, but as there is very little information regarding what to grow when in our corner of Portugal I thought I’d create my own planting diary and be more organised in my approach.


Due to lack of space in my urban garden I grow several fruit and vegetables in containers. Some more successfully than others! In December I’m growing: radish, lettuce, strawberries, Physalis, rhubarb and chili peppers.

Physalis (Cape Gooseberry)

Earlier this year I was given three small Physalis plants. I planted them in a large pot and after a couple of months they bore fruit; they were delicious!

Physalis still bearing fruit in December

In late October I dried one of the fruits and planted the seeds as an experiment. I was really surprised when they germinated especially as in my mind it was so late in the season. On the 13th December I transplanted the seedlings to larger pots.  I’ve placed these in full sun in a semi-sheltered position.

From my experience Physalis are a great plant to grow in pots either with a support or allow to trail along the ground. They need full sun and a sandy soil.

Physalis seedlings grown from fruit
Physalis seedlings grown from fruit

Researching the net I’ve just discovered “Unripe fruits are poisonous”

Chili Peppers

It’s great to see my chili plants are still flowering and bearing fruit in December! The chilies are grown in pots, in full sun on my terrace so they are in a sheltered position.

Chilli Peppers are still growing in December
Chilli Peppers are still growing in December

I planted several of the chili seeds end of October and I’ve now planted the seedlings in large pots.

Chili pepper seedlings
Chili pepper seedlings


I love lettuce, but only the young leaves. During the summer, rather than buy lettuce from the supermarkets,  I now grow lettuce “pots” . The pots are crammed with various lettuce varieties and I pick the leaves while they are still young. This particular pot is an experiment as I’ve never tried growing lettuce during the winter months before.  I’ve placed the pot it in a sheltered position and in full sun.

Growing lettuce in containers
Growing lettuce in containers


I grow all my strawberries in pots or recycled containers. Much to my surprise they have produced sweet strawberries all through the summer and are still bearing fruit in December! I’ve just eaten the three strawberries you can see in the picture and they were delicious.

Portuguese strawberries in December!
Portuguese strawberries in December!

I decided as my efforts to grow strawberries proved so successful I would expand my strawberry “empire” by collecting and repotting all the strawberry runners. This was until a friend pointed out that strawberry plants are so cheap to buy it was not worth the effort! I bought some baby strawberry plants from a local garden shop for only €3 per bundle. Each bundle contained 20 plants. these were available from November.

He was right of course, but there is something satisfying in getting plants for FREE!

Strawberry plants November
Strawberry plants November

I then scavenged some containers

New strawberry plants in recycled container
New strawberry plants in recycled container
Strawberries growing ina recycled container
Strawberries growing in a recycled container

Lemon Tree

Because we live so close to the sea the garden centres advised citrus fruit would not fruit due to the salt air. I’m not the type to give in easily, so  contrary to advice we bought a lemon tree and planted in a very large pot. It now sits in pride of place on our terrace. I like this picture because it captures the various stages of the lemon’s growth.

Lemon, flowers and tiny fruit - December 2011
Lemon, flowers and tiny fruit - December 2011


Mr. Piglet’s hard work (motivated by yours truly) to completely dig out all the earth, line the raised bed with a root barrier,  and then refill was completed just in time to plant the winter vegetables. I’d never tried to grow winter veg in Portugal before so was amazed by the choice on offer. Lettuce was the biggest surprise. In the UK I’d certainly never consider lettuce as a winter crop! But then again, gardening is so different here in the Algarve.

I usually grow all my vegetables from seed, but this year I cheated and bought seedlings from the local market. At ten cents  each they were a bargain  because the quanitities I need are so small it actually works out cheaper than buying seeds. Seeds of course can be rather hit and miss as I either end up with dozens of unwanted plants or nothing!

Leeks, red cabbage, rosso and green lettuce seedlings
Leeks, red cabbage, rosso and green lettuce. Planted beginning of December
I cheated and bought the seedlings
Cauliflower, brocoli, cabbage, spinach, carrots. Planted beginning of December

Related post: I’m being invaded…

If anyone has ANY suggestions or advice  please PLEASE leave in the comments section below. I’m looking for some natural slug and snail remedies as Sammy the snail and all his relatives are showing a very keen interest in all the juicy seedlings.  Oh and a cat deterrent as the local cat(s)  have started digging…


55 thoughts on “Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables in December

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  1. I would LOVE a longer growing season as you have–but why am I complaining? ALready my growing season is longer in Britain that what I grew up with in Minnesota!!

    My only recommendation regarding slugs is chickens–they love them! But cats? Ugh, I don’t know. We have our own and they use litter trays so don’t go outside and I think their presence is a deterrent to other cats, but now always. I still find little messages from the other cats from time to time.


  2. What a lovely post. No signs of winter here in Ontario yet, it’s like a long sustained autumn. But too cold to grow anything except leeks and onions, so I am quite jealous of your lettuce and strawberry plants. If you can find a cheap source of copper wire lay it around the edges of your garden, the copper shocks the snails and slugs because they are wet, they won’t cross it. I found a lot of old electrical wire at the dump and stripped it with a paring knife. No more slugs.


  3. I hadn’t realised you could grow so much in the winter here. Fresh home grown strawberries at Chrismas time sounds lovely.
    Coffee grounds or egg shells to deter the slugs. Or you could encourage more birds into the garden who will eat the slugs for you.


      1. Hello Pip, I have had an idea regarding the cat problem. Lion Poo!!!!. You can buy it in some UK garden centres. Cats are supposed to be terrified of it – or should I say what left it! You could try Lagos Zoo and see if they have any to spare.


        1. Hi Clara,
          Yes, I’ve heard of this one before. I did mention it to Mr Piglet. He just raised one eyebrow in disbelief….

          Close your eyes and imagine the scenario. I arrive at Lagos zoo, go to reception and ask in my best Portuguese for some Lion pooh. LOL 🙂
          I’d love to have the courage to go and ask though, to see what their reaction was 🙂 I will let you know!


  4. PIP, your garden is growing so well…I have heard that moth balls are a good deternat for critter in the garden. Just do not put the moth balls near the actual growing veggies, just around the perimeter. I have also heard cayenne pepper also works. Good luck with those cats!


    1. Hi Rose,
      This is not the traditional gooseberry we used to have in the UK, they were also new to me. I’ve just picked some of my chili’s to take to France 🙂
      HAve a great time back home and in New MExico. Hopefully you will share some photos on your blog 🙂


  5. Oh !! PiP, sure wish I had your talent for gardening and tending to its needs..I am going to have to start taking some notes from you….I love the strawberries, and the lemons…which are my favorite..The photos were great…beautiful garden PiP……!


  6. I am pea-green with envy. Oh would that I could garden in the winter. You are an awesome gardener. So many tasty things growing at once. Your photos are beautiful. It’s so satisfying seeing the plants of our labor producing and thriving. I love your Lemon tree story. You should put it in your local newspaper, so others may grow their own fruit too. I look forward to hearing more of your gardening adventures and seeing your awesome photos. 🙂


    1. Hi EC, and I was pea green with envy when I saw your wonderful zucchini and squash last summer. Plus all the wonderful recipes you posted. I can’t remember how cold it gets there in winter? could you grow anything in your glass house?


      1. So, I reckon we’re even now. 😉
        Would this make us 2 peas in a pod? lol

        If a person had a temperature controlled greenhouse or glass house, you could grow all year round here in the southern USA…
        But our tempertures get down way below freezing in the hardest parts of winter, so growing anything outside is is no-go. 😦


  7. Loved this post about your gardening adventures PiP! Everything seems to be coming up rosy at your place – all your hard work is coming to fruition.
    Good luck with your lemon tree, it’s looking very healthy so far!


    1. Hi Barb,
      Awww thanks 🙂 I feel since we dug out the raised veg bed and put the liner in it was reborn…we will see.

      The lemon tree is doing well but the lower leaves are going yellow and falling at the moment. Not sure if it’s too much water or not enough LOL
      Love your santa’s hat BTW


  8. What a delight to read your post and see the pictures! I will continue to enjoy your garden updates. I love your willingness to experiment, so thanks for the inspiration. I am just beginning to create some veggie garden areas at my new place. I am hoping to plant a few things this winter, and am looking forward to springtime when I hope to get a good bit sown.


    1. Hi Ellen,
      I am a CApricorn so I was born stubborn. If at first I don’t succeed try and try again! However, I dont think I will be bothering with courgettes (Zucchini) next year. Even I have to admit defeat.

      I look forward to reading about your garden as it evolves and follow your vegetable diary. 🙂


  9. I’d give my left arm for fresh strawberries right now…I buy them occasionally at the supermarket but they’re never very sweet! Beer does work for slugs…but it’s such a waste of beer! I’d rather plant extra and sit guard over the garden, beer in hand! 🙂


    1. Hi H,
      I seem to remember you were growing tomatoes inside last winter – or was I dreaming? What about a large strawberry pot?

      The one thing that is still cheap in Portugal is the beer. About 80cents for a bottle, maybe less. Was is sit gaurd?


  10. I only recently heard of the physalis, they look beautiful. I wish my vegetable garden was as productive as yours. When I went to Portugal, the summer heat came out in force and roasted most of the veggies. Of course the fact that my son was instructed to water the veggies daily, but didn´t…didn´t help at all! The remaining ones have now been moved to the shade. I have now also got 3 strawberries almost ready to be picked. I use coffee grounds for the snails, just scatter loads of it around the plants I want to protect. It seems to keep snails at bay.


    1. It’s diffiuclt leaving someone else in charge of your garden especially if they are not keen gardeners. If this winter veg experiment goes well I may limit my summer veg as water is just to expensive here to keep watering.
      Coffee grounds? my goodness my coffee comes from the jar!!

      Hope you strawberries durvive and are as sweet as the Portuguese strawberries 🙂


  11. Try beer for slugs. Put some beer in a plastic mug and bury in the garden up to the top of the cup. They fall in, drink beer and drown in a happy blissful state. Works every time. Best thing for cats is a pepper dust which keeps them away. In the UK you could buy at garden centres but no idea about Portugal. Maybe normal pepper would work?


  12. Love the look of the Physalis, PiP, but haven’t grown or tasted it. I’d love to grow it (in Alaska?) because you make it look so papery and appealing—little lanterns.

    Last year, wasn’t it, you had far too many snails or critters in your garden, as I recall. Or was it only this past summer? Time’s fun when you’re having flies, as my spouse likes to say. Good luck!


    1. Hi Jan,
      The Physalis are surprisingly photogenic! They are like laterns and the fruit is very nutricious 🙂
      Yes, we have loads of bugs and critters in our garden. Winter is not too bad, but Sami the Snail and his relatives seem as active as ever, even during the winter months.

      It’s the comments I’ve tried to leave on other WP blogs I’ve been having problems with. I thought Akismet sorted it, but no luck 😦


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