This year I plan to photograph and record what’s growing in my humble vegetable garden on the 19th of each month. This will give me a better idea of what’s growing when, and how well. Hopefully, it will act as a record for next year and I can learn from my successes and failures.
The Portuguese cabbages (Couve Galega) which I use to make Caldo Verde Soup are now over 2′ tall. I love the way they grow skywards – a great space-saving crop for a small plot.
My favas (broad beans) planted from seed on the 24/10/2012 are now over 2’6″ tall. In fact I’ve pinched the tops out of some of them so their energy goes into the beans and not into leaves, stalks and even more flowers. There are loads of pods and we will be eating our first feed of beans this coming week.
Echalotes (shallots) – I had not planned on growing shallots until a chance meeting at the supermarket with an old gardening buddy changed my mind. Clutching a bag of shallots (they are not readily available here) he asked me if I grew them. When he discovered I’d never even tried, he selected a bag from the shelf and explained you grew shallots the same way as garlic ie you plant one clove and it multiplies. I nodded enthusiastically thinking errr but I’ve never been successful growing garlic. His wife, bored with the shallot and garlic discussion dragged him away to continue shopping.
Clutching the bag of shallots I was about to return them to the shelf when he reappeared. Apparently I had to soak them overnight before planting.
I bought the shallots, which he assured me had not been “treated”, returned home and duly left them soaking in a tray of water until the following day. Mr. Piglet perplexed that I was soaking the bulbs, told me they would rot. I relayed the instructions I’d been given to which Mr. Piglet retorted. “If he’d had told you to stick your head in gas oven…blah blah blah…” (I ceased listening) but then thought, maybe he had a point and wished I’d only soaked half of them. Does you soak onion or clove bulbs before planting?
Do you like my recycled freezer draws? I rescued these to reuse as clochés. They are now protecting my french beans planted on the 13/03/13.
We went to the market on Monday and I bought four more cherry tomato plants and two red pepper plants. The stall holder has long ceased trying to sell me a dozen of anything and just smiles at my requests. Perhaps I will bake him a cake for his kindness.
VEGETABLE EXPERIMENT POT OR PLOT?
This year due to limited growing space I decided to try something new and see which plants adapt well to growing in containers. Although I grew some veg in containers last year, with varying degrees of success, the plan this year is that when I plant for example peppers, cucumbers or aubergines in my raised garden, I will plant a sample one in a pot at the same time. This will enable me to make a direct comparison.
Studying the photographs from February the Aubergines have hardly grown in a month. However, the aubergine in the pot does look slightly healthier and even has a solitary bud.
The cucumbers are a non-starter. The baby plugs in the pot were unfortunately eaten by slugs while we were away in France while the one in the ground and clinging to life by its fingernails looks like it is at death’s door. On a positive note, several seedlings (parentage unknown) have appeared in the pot as if by magic; they are either melons, cucumbers or the dreaded zucchini!
Green Peppers (Capsicums)
The green peppers are also not faring well regardless of location. One was eaten by slugs and the remaining two, pictured below, are turning yellow. I’m not sure if this is because the compost was to strong for seedlings? Maybe but it was certainly not lack of nutrients.
GROWING VEGETABLES IN POTS AND RECYCLED CONTAINERS
Cherry Tomatoes (tomate cereja)
I bought this cherry tomato plant from the market as a more established plant in February. I actually asked the guy for a tomate cerveja (beer) rather than a tomate cereja (cherry). Easily confused, there’s only one letter difference! At least my mistake made him laugh and he corrected me! Considering the cold nights, gales and lashings of rain it has survived well. The Plum tomato planted at the same time fell victim to blight as did all the other seedlings a friend gave me. All had to be quickly disposed of before it spread.
Baby Leaf Salad
I only planted the baby leaf salad seeds on the 13/03, watered and then covered with clear plastic to assist germination. When I lifted the plastic sheet to take a photograph just six days later I was astounded to find the seeds had already germinated. That or I’m growing a healthy crop of weeds! The container is a recycled the washing-up bowl with a crack in the bottom. Useless a bowl but a perfect container for growing salad.
GROWING FRUIT TREES, AND FRUIT BUSHES IN POTS
Last month there was no sign of life and I thought my rhubarb had finally died. But no, I added my home-made rhubarb forcer (a flower pot which Mr. Piglet burnt a hole in the bottom) and another pot inserted inside the large hole to cut out the light. And we have the first shoots of rhubarb.
Growing Fruit Bushes in Pots
Last year Mr. Piglet made me a frame from some recycled posts and wire for my tayberry and blackberry plants. I now keep all my fruit bushes and little fruit trees in this area, which is well protected from the winds and in full sun. I now have a lime tree, two peach trees, five raspberry canes, a groselha (think this is a redcurrant bush), physalis and of course several containers full of strawberries
The lime tree is producing new leaves but is stll plagued by citrus leaf miner.
My two baby peach trees which I am growing in pots continue to do well. Next month we will be making a graft from the original tree to encourage them to fruit.
Trees in the Garden
Peach Tree (árvore pêssego)
We went to the market last Monday and I could not resist buying this darling little peach tree. I asked the stall-holder, in my best Portuguese, if the tree would have fruit next year. He looked at me in surprise, pointed to the blossom and indicated I would have fruit this year! I’m a little dubious, but then blossom does turn to fruit. I then asked him if I could plant it in a pot (vaso) and he vigorously nodded his head in agreement. However, I have the feeling if I’d asked him if I could plant it in the toilet or on the moon he would probably have said yes!
He kept telling me the variety was Muito Bom (very good) so as it was only €6 bought it. My other peach trees are a long way from bearing fruit as they were grown from a stone – so what did I have to lose?
Last year I planted this fig tree in a large pot. However, after research on Google revealed its aggressive root system did not lend itself to planting in containers I transplanted directly in the ground. Shortly afterwards it lost all its leaves so I figured it was dead. However just before we went to France, at the end of February, I noticed much to my surprise there were a few tiny figs and new leaf shoots. I was overjoyed until looking out of the window I noticed a pair of green finches pecking away at my little tree! I immediately decorated the tree with strips of silver paper and bottle tops hanging from string.
We have a good crop of nesperas this year. Never ate these in England – what do you make from them?
The orange tree is JUST producing an abundance of tiny new leaves. Hopefully it will blossom and have fruit this year!
Vegetable plants for sale at the markets in March
Aubergines, green AND red peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, squash, melon cabbages, lettuce, onions (they look like chives), broccoli, cauliflower, runner beans, spinach, strawberry plants, fruit trees and bushes.
WHAT’S GROWING WHERE?
Weather in March
The weather has been very similar to February except we awoke one morning to discover a rare event – frost on the car! Fortunately it was not a ground frost and none of my plants were affected! We’ve also had more rain than sun (or so it seems). Temperatures at night range from 3C (except the one day we had frost) to 15C, and during the day from 12C to 20C