Category Archives: Garden Diary

Problems With My Geraniums -Stem Rot

When I bought my geraniums at the beginning of March they were healthy and produced lots of repeat flowers. I religiously dead-headed the plants on a regular basis and fed with MiracleGro to encourage growth.

Healthy Geraniums in March

Healthy Geraniums in March

and

Healthy Geraniums in March

Healthy Geraniums in March

by April the flower stalks had started to rot. I sprayed with a fungal spray but it did not seem to make a difference.

Geranium flower stalks turned brown and started to rot

Geranium flower stalks turned brown and started to rot

then i noticed the main fleshy stems were rotting from the inside. When I cut the geranium stem open it was rotten inside.

Sickly Geraniums

Sickly Geraniums

and

Geranuium rotting inside the stalk

Geranuium rotting inside the stalk

and

Something is also burrowing in the geranium leaves!

Something is also burrowing in the geranium leaves!

Within a couple of months I now have two sickly tubs of geraniums

tub of sickly geraniums

tub of sickly geraniums

After extensive research I now think they have stem rot. I am gutted. I thought geraniums were meant to be easy to grow. Has anyone else experienced this problem with geraniums?

Useful links
How to Save Geraniums with Rot
PDF file
https://learningstore.uwex.edu/Assets/pdfs/A2559.pdf

#geraniums #stemrot

Piglet’s Plot: Problems With My Onions

Onion Blight

Onion Blight

You name it, my fruit and vegetables probably have caught/will catch it. I was a sickly child and my fruit and veg seem to be following in the family tradition. With this in mind I literally love my plants to death, or so I’ve been told.

In December I added rotted horse manure to the plot, so I was anticipating bumper crops of the usual suspects such as onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, peppers and beans to name a few.

The  baby onion plugs bought from the local market and planted in February were looking good and we’d already enjoyed several feeds of Spring onions. I always plant more than required then thin the rows and leave the remaining onions to develop. Well, that was the plan until disaster struck!

Last week I went to talk to my onions, as you do, and was horrified to discover they had developed, according to Mr. Google who dug up no-dig-vegetablegarden.com to help solve the mystery, a virus: Botrytis (I think).  This is a fungus species which affects onions and as there are three different types.

  • Botrytis squamosa (leaf blight)
  • Botrytis cinerea (leaf fleck)
  • Botrytis allii (neck rot)

I decided the problem was leaf blight (Botrytis squamosa) which spreads rapidly or Downy Mildew. (Downy Mildew is fungal and can be treated with a weekly application of organic fungicide)

onion blight

onion blight

I don’t know what caused this other than high humidity.

After deliberating for several hours I decided not to take any chances and dig up the crop and salvage what I could – some for immediate use and dry the smaller onions ready for pickling.

The leaves were disposed of so as to avoid cross-contamination to other plants.

I will not attempt to plant further onions this year but will focus my energy (and water) on the remaining crop of tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, radish, peppers and rocket.

Monster Tomatoes!

I don’t know the name or variety of these tomatoes but they sure are HUGE!!!  (I’ve since been informed they are ‘Rosa’ tomatoes). This year I bought several baby tomato plants from Silves monthly market which is held on the 3rd Monday of each month.

This is an excellent market for vegetable plants, fruit bushes and trees.

Giant Tomatoes

Giant Tomatoes

In my best pidgeon Portuguese I asked the plant seller for ‘Muito grande, tomates’. The lady nodded with a grunt and a smile then presented me with six plants. My purchase based purely on trust and a leap of faith were planted in my recently manured vegetable area. Yes, I splashed the cash and with the encouragement of a dear friend went to the local stables to buy some horse manure.

Monster Tomato!

Monster Tomato!

The first tomato of the crop weighed in at 1 lb 8oz

Although the tomatoes were a little misshapen and would win no EU awards for the ‘perfect tomato’ they tasted absolutely delicious.

 

The tomato weighed 1lb 8 oz!

The taste and texture of the flesh reminded me of beefsteak tomatoes we used to buy in the UK. There were hardly any pips and they were far less watery than normal tomatoes.

I will certainly be saving the seeds for next year’s crop!

These tomato plants the mother of the monster tomatoes!

These tomato plants are the mothers of the monster tomatoes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parasitic Plant?

About six months ago I noticed some strange sort of fungi, as I thought at the time, growing on the branches of the Melaleuca hedge, Olive tree and Bottle Brush bush. I took a sample to our local garden-cum-hardware shop where you can by everything from garden hoses, seeds, garden tools etc. to chemicals to treat various pests and diseases. The guy who served me just gave me a ‘Portuguese shrug’ and told me to feed the plants to encourage growth. I was also given the same advice by someone else.

Parasitic plant growing on olive tree branches

Parasitic plant growing on olive tree branches


I dutifully fed the plants with slow release blue granular fertilizer and thought nothing more about it until we noticed the Melaleuca was losing all its greenery and was completely bald in several places. Not good for a hedge that was supposed to offer privacy.

Mr. Piglet set to and started scraping off the sprouting fungi while I attempted to consult Mr. Google for an answer.I am no further forward as I write this post except I now know they are called a Parasitic Plant.

Parasitic plant growing on branches of olive tree

Parasitic plant growing on branches of olive tree

What I don’t know as yet if there is a product I can buy which will kill it without killing the host plant. Suggestions welcome!

Raised Vegetable Bed – Third Time Lucky!

There is a popular phrase: Third time lucky. And as this is my third attempt to grow vegetables in my ill-fated raised vegetable bed due, to problems with hedge roots, let’s hope it’s true and I am lucky!

Just to backtrack to my previous post, Gardening IS a Labour of Love!, there were various options.

– Do I dig out all the soil (again), concrete the base and then add another couple of tiers of bricks and replenish the soil?
– Cover with black plastic membrane to suppress the weeds and then move all my containers on to the raised bed? The latter would be the easier option but it would restrict the type of fruit and vegetables I would be able to grow?
– Knock the thing down and forget it existed and persuade Mr. Piglet to get some chickens?

Seriously, what would you do?

After Mr. Piglet read on my blog, and realised just how much my ‘patch of paradise’ meant to me, he suggested the first option but without the extra layers of bricks.

Here is a picture diary of progress.

The Rebirth of Piglet’s Plot

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After the price was agreed the ‘muscle’ arrived the following week to start work. Normally, this is the type of project we’d undertake ourselves but we ain’t getting any younger. Besides, we’d already filled the raised bed once with earth, then dug it out, then refilled it AGAIN, so we decided to take the easy route and hire some muscle. And boy did those guys have muscles! Last time we removed all the earth it took us over a week – one man emptied it in one morning!

Once the earth had been cleared and the root encrusted liner removed the land was leveled to include a slope to aid drainage. A layer of brita (small stones) was added to the base of the bed followed by a healthy layer of concrete to block the roots. If that doesn’t work – I’ll give up and grow chickens instead!

I must confess, the workers, who no doubt are only earning the minimum age and living barely above the bread line, must have wondered at my obsessive extravagance as Mr. Piglet joked about my home-grown vegetables probably being the most expensive in the Algarve, if not in Portugal!

After a few days the concrete and the fully hardened off we added some water to double-check the fall and where the drainage holes would be best placed.

Then we waited… and waited… and waited. The topsoil which was due to be delivered failed to materialize and I sighed with relief at the thought: at least the person chasing broken promises was Portuguese and could shout encouraging words of abuse in their own lingo!

A few days later there was a flurry of phone calls and the lorry arrived with the soil and another with more brita. My garden became a hive of activity as muscle ‘one’ knocked out the drainage holes and inserted pipes. Muscle ‘two’ started adding the brita for drainage and the third helped me clean up the old membrane so it could act as a barrier between earth and brita – well that’s the theory.

The soil added and hey presto! Piglet’s Plot is reborn!

Piglet's Plot is reborn and root free

Piglet’s Plot is reborn and root free

No Peaches for Piglet

A couple of years ago I bought a peach tree. I planted the baby tree in a large pot, talked to it daily and it thrived. This year it flowered and the flowers, to my delight, turned to peaches.

Piglet's Homegrown Peaches

Piglet’s Homegrown Peaches

After months of waiting for the peaches to grow and then ripen, I decided today was the day…

However, as I picked the peaches I realised something was wrong. The tiny brown spots, which I assumed were just spots, turned out to be holes the size of pinpricks. Out of the holes ran miniscule brown insects. When I cut into the peaches I could have cried.

Maggots in peaches

Maggots in peaches

The inside of the peaches were brown and a writhing mass of maggots. I now need to consult Mr. Google to see what preventive measures I can take to ensure I don’t experience the same problem next year.

You win some and lose some…

Any suggestions to prevent further infestation next year would be appreciated.

Unwelcome Visitors in My Garden

Yesterday, I was pegging out the washing when I heard a persistent clicking noise coming from the general direction of my vegetable area.
Tick…tick tick… tick… tick tick… tick..
(You get my drift)
The ticking, sounded almost like Morse code. Intrigued and thinking it could be a bird in distress, I went to investigate. The culprits were a baby bird, perched near my fruit bushes, and its mother no doubt shouting directions. Thinking, aw how sweet, I returned to my washing.

Stonechat

Baby Stonechat

It was not melodious bird song it was annoying – just like a dripping tap. The irritating ‘tick tick’ continued but as there were no cats in the vicinity I ignored it as I pottered round the garden weeding and pruning. I don’t know what made me return to my vegetable area but I’m glad I did. Father bird had joined the party and the noise intensified as they helped themselves to my raspberries, strawberries and peaches. I tried to shoo the birds away but they were having none of it. They flew just out of reach, taunting me. I threw some stones at them… yes I know, don’t say a word. Anyone within earshot must have thought I was crazy as I admonished the tiny birds for stealing my fruit. I don’t mind sharing my harvest with our resident blackbird family, but not with these greedy little imposters.

Eventually they took the hint and flew over to my neighbour’s garden.

I found the nets and covered the fruit bushes.

I covered my raspberries and tayberries with nets

I covered my raspberries and tayberries with nets

I completely forgot about the birds until I went to pick some lettuce for my lunch when I discovered mother and baby happily pecking the new shoots from the Groselha bush which I’d been nurturing for a couple of years. I shooed the birds away but father bird was having none of it. He darted about my vegetable patch as if mocking my attempts to dissuade them from their quest. Mother and baby hopped nonchalantly on to my strawberry pots and looked at me with disdain. Mocking me. Taunting me. No matter what I did they refused to fly away. With the exception of wasps and mosquitoes, I’d never known such tenacious and cheeky little critters.

The red mist came down and I grabbed the hose. Have you ever chased birds round the garden with a jet of water while wailing like a demented Banshee? No, neither had I until yesterday. When the red mist cleared I can only say I’m glad our neighbours were away on holiday!

Father bird looked a little less smug as he observed me from the safety of the yucca plant.

Male Stonechat in Portugal

Male Stonechat in Portugal

You’re right Marmy it was a stonechat and not a bullfinch!

Piglet’s Plot in July

It’s now September and here’s me wittering on about my garden activities in July. I’m so far behind with this year’s “Vegetable Diary” I was almost tempted to abandon the idea. However, as I have all the notes and photographic evidence I thought it would still prove useful to other Algarve gardeners and a reminder of my successes and failures for next July.

Raised Vegetable Plot - July13

Raised Vegetable Plot – July13

I harvested the red onions in mid July,  so apart from the Galega cabbage, two white cabbage, a few lettuce and a self-seeded squash plant, which was growing, and is still growing like a triffid, the plot was empty. Rather than replant with peppers and salad I decided to plant these in pots to conserve water – extreme heat makes for thirsty vegetables!  Another point for consideration was the cost of water as it is charged by the cubic meter. Once you exceed a certain level of usage, water is almost as expensive as wine!

Red Onions

Red Onions

The red onions, I planted in December, were a great success.  This year I will plant more onions – reds because they are expensive to buy in the shops, and normal onions because we will grow enough for Mr Piglet’s pickled and spring onions.

Growing Fruit and Vegetables in Containers

Growing squash in pots

Growing squash plants in pots

Growing squash plants in pots

The self-seed squash plants continued to thrive and much to my surprised produced a couple of squash.  I fed with liquid fertiliser once every two weeks and kept well watered.

Growing melons in pots

Melon plants can grow in containers

Melon plants can grow in containers!

Growing melons in a large pot (or in this case a plastic paint pot) was purely experimental. They adapted well, and while several flowers failed to fruit at least I had two fairly good specimens to prove it can be done. I fed the plants fortnightly with liquid MiracleGro and kept the plants well watered. I think these were planted as plugs in late May.

Growing Tomatoes in Pots

The cherry tomatoes were once again extremely successful. I did not attempt to stake the plants and instead just let them trail so they were more compact. I fed approximately every two weeks with liquid fertilizer and kept them well watered (not drowned). I tried other varieties such as beef and plum tomatoes but these needed stakes which proved difficult in pots. Next year, I, or should I say Mr Piglet, will create a trellis area so I can grow other varieties.

Cherry tomatoes grow well in pots

Cherry tomatoes grow well in pots

Aubergines growing in pots

I planted two aubergine plants  in February. One in the raised bed and the other in a pot. The latter survived while the former disappeared without trace (zombie snails)
They grow well in pots that’s Aubergines not snails, albeit a little slowly. I fed approximately every two weeks with MiracleGro liquid fertilizer.

Aubergine growing in pot

Aubergine growing in pot

Peppers grow well in pots

The orange pepper plant pictured below was planted as a seedling plug at the end of May. I also grew green peppers planted the end of February, and red peppers planted from April onwards. I staggered the planting dates to avoid a glut of peppers and the dreaded ‘feast then famine’.

Once the first flowers had set I fed approximately every two weeks with MiracleGro liquid fertilizer. I kept the soil moist but not wet.

Orange Peppers growing in pots

Orange Peppers growing in pots

Growing blackberry plants in pots

The blackberry plant continued to bear fruit but for some reason they seemed to take a long time to ripen.

Blackberries

Blackberries

As I know very little about growing blackberries I conducted some research and discovered this brilliant website: www.almanac.com

Fruit Worms
Gray Mold
Viruses

If your plant is suffering from the blackberry disease known as Raspberry Bushy Dwarf virus, the leaves will be have some bright yellow on them, and the leaves of the fruiting vanes may have a bleached look in the summer. The disease known as Blackberry Calico will cause faint yellow sublotches on the leaves of the plant.

I’ve quoted the above from the site, because as sure as God made little apples my blackberry plant is sure to get one of the above.

The website states blackberries need full sun and sandy soil. As luck would have it I can tick both of those boxes. diseases? It is early days but as they say “forewarned is forearmed”.

What else grew in Piglet’s plot during July?

Strawberries, cucumbers and rocket. The orange tree still had two oranges which should be ready  by Christmas. The lime tree had one lime, the fig trees had no leaves and there was a partridge in our nespra tree (just kidding).

Weather
Temperatures ranged from 17C to 30+C

Pests and diseases: Snails and caterpillars.

There was very little white mould despite the high humidity.

Piglet’s Plot in May

This year I’m keeping a photographic diary of my humble vegetable garden; what’s growing when, where and how well.

Raised vegetable area May 2013

Raised vegetable area May 2013

Despite being away for nearly two weeks I’m pleased to say my friends did a sterling job looking after all my fruit and vegetables.
Everything was just as I’d left it(alive), but almost twice the size!

My first onion crop!

My first onion crop!

The onions planted at the end of November are now ready. I’m not sure if I should lift them now, or wait until the green stems die down. Anyone grow onions?

French Beans

French Beans

The Contender French beans, planted from seed on the 13th of March, finally yielded a small feed of beans.

Red Cabbage
I am, dare I say, winning the battle against the snails, and I still have four red cabbage, albeit quite small.
Galega
The stalks on these cabbages are at at least 3′ tall now. Amazing. I have loads of fresh cabbage leaves on cut-and-cum again.
The English spinach I planted last month are not thriving at all. I doubt I will try this variety again.

Growing Fruit and Vegetables in Containers

This year has been the the most successful yet for growing fruit and vegetables in containers. I think the secret is definitely adding a little rotted manure with the soil, and feeding the plants regularly with MiracleGro.

Strawberries

Strawberries growing in pot

Strawberries growing in pot

I now have seven containers of strawberry plants and a regular supply of delicious monster strawberries.

Last month I posted

Mystery Plant

Mystery Plant

The cucumber plants in this pot fell victim to a snail raid at the dead of night. Then about a week later, three seedlings appeared from nowhere. I called them a gift from God, because was I cursing those wretched snails. I don’t know what these are – maybe melons?

Container Grown Squash

Container grown Squash

Well, the melons turned out to be squash and are growing like weeds! There are several small squash which hopefully I will not fall victim to the dreaded blossom end rot.

Growing rhubarb in pots

Growing rhubarb in pots

I returned from France to find my Rhubarb had doubled in size!

Growing tomatoes in Pots

Growing tomatoes in Pots

The cherry tomato, planted in February, is now beginning to yield fruit. Still green, but at least it’s a start!

GGrowing aubergines in Pots

Growing aubergines in Pots

The aubergine planted in February is thriving well. It’s twin, planted at the same time but in the raised vegetable area has hardly grown by comparison. (I forgot to photograph)

Fruit Trees and Bushes in Pots

Tayberry growing in pot

Tayberry growing in pot

I’m really pleased the tayberry bush has adapted to living in a pot. There are lots of flowers; hope these equal lots of fruit!

What else am I growing in pots?
Yellow and red peppers
Cucumber
Blackberries
Raspberries
Groshelhos (Not sure what these are yet) look like a red gooseberry on the card
3  peach trees
Lime tree
Physalis
Blueberry
And a partridge in a pear tree…

FRUIT TREES

Fig Trees

Fig Trees

I now have a black and a green fig tree. The larger of the two is the green fig and was purchased in March from the local market. Both seem to be doing well. If they can survive the summer they will probably live.

Orange Tree
The orange tree is doing well and the blossom has now been replaced by tiny oranges.
Nespra Tree (Medlar)
Much to my surprise this was still yielding fruit when we returned from France. Which reminds me I’ve not posted my Nespra and Onion chutney recipe yet.

Weather

Cold and wet interspersed with sunny days. Temperatures ranged from 7C at night to 20C plus during the day.

Piglet’s Plot in April

This year I’m keeping a photographic diary of my humble vegetable garden. In theory, if I take photographs on the 19th of each month they will offer a direct comparison as to what’s growing when, where and how well. The purpose of the exercise is to provide a record for next year so I can learn from my successes and, hopefully my not too many failures.

Piglet's Plot  19th April

Piglet’s Plot 19th April

Weeks of nigh on continuous rain has resulted in my broad beans developing rust. Apparently rust is an airborne fungal infection.

Useful tip from The Greening of Gavin

You can spray the fungus with a 1 part milk to 10 parts water mix which also works on powdery mildew on any of the cucurbit family (zucchini, cucumber, pumpkin, squash).

I hope he does not mind me quoting his words, but I thought the tip was worth sharing. Unfortunately, I ignored the signs and lost my remaining crop. A valuable lesson learned for next year!

Rust Attacked my Broad Beans

Rust Attacked my Broad Beans

Thankfully, I did manage to harvest several kilos of favas (broad beans) before I removed the infected crop. Check out my delicious Salada da Favas.

Favas (Broad Beans)

Favas (Broad Beans)

The onions, planted in mid November continue to thrive.

Onions

Onions

Much to the delight of the snails and slugs the french bean seeds, planted on the 13th March, are peeping through the soil . In desperation I did scatter some organic slug pellets. (Piglet hangs her head in shame). However, an army of ants removed them in the dead of night.

French Beans

French Beans

This year I only planted four red cabbages. Last year I planted twelve which was far too many.

Red Cabbage

Red Cabbage

Fruit Trees

Nespra (loquat) tree

Our nespra (loquat) tree is now 6 years old and this is the first year we’ve had an abundance of fruit. In fact, I’ve even made some nespra and onion chutney.  Researching loquats on Wiki I discovered they are high in Pectin. I think I will freeze some and then add to my strawberry jam.

The loquat has a high sugar, acid, and pectin content. It is eaten as a fresh fruit and mixes well with other fruits in fresh fruit salads or fruit cups. The fruits are also commonly used to make jam, jelly, and chutney, and are often served poached in light syrup. Firm, slightly immature fruits are best for making pies or tarts.

Nespra Tree

Nespra Tree

Orange Tree

Last year we had blossom, then tiny oranges however, they withered and died for no apparent reason.

Finally some blossom on my orange tree

Finally some blossom on my orange tree

This year fingers are firmly crossed the oranges will set and we will be eating our own home-grown oranges by Christmas.

Fruit trees growing in containerS

I now have three peach trees growing in pots which were all looking healthy until two developed a strange disfiguration to the leaves.

Problem with peach tree

Problem with peach tree

growing Fruit and Vegetables  in containers

Green peppers

This is the sole surviving green pepper from the plugs I planted back in February. It’s a tenacious little soul…

The pot is a recycled plastic paint container.

Red Pepper

Red Pepper

Strawberries

My strawberry plants just started to yield a bumper crop and we went away for two weeks. Sigh… Still there were still plenty when we returned. They are so sweet and far more flavoursom than the forced strawberries we used to uy in the supermarkets.

Strawberries growing in a container

Strawberries growing in a container

raspberry bushes

I’ve never grown raspberries before, not even in the UK so not quite sure the best way to care for them. I have three growing in pots and another three in the ground.  All are doing well, so fingers crossed.

My first raspberry flowers

My first rasberry flowers

Baby Leaf Salad

I only planted these on the 13th March! Have you noticed the container in which they are planted? This is definitely pushing the meaning of “salad bowl” to the limits.

Growing Baby Leaf Salad in a Container

Growing Baby Leaf Salad in a Container

Cucumbers in pots

I inherited these baby cucumber plugs from a friend who mistakenly bought them for zucchini.  The plastic collars (made from water bottles) will hopefully deter the snails. However, the snails and slugs in our garden all possess Olympic gold medals, so I doubt it

Baby Cucumber Plants

Baby Cucumber Plants

Aubergine plant growing in pot

I bought two aubergine plugs back in February. One I planted in a pot, the other in the ground. My intention was to make a direct comparison, month by month. Unfortunately, I forgot to take the other photo. If I had a brain I’d be dangerous.

Aubergine

Aubergine

Mystery plant

This pot was originally home to cucumber plants which fell victim one night to snails on a recki mission.  Then about a week later, three seedlings appeared from nowhere. I called them a gift from God, because was I cursing those wretched snails. I don’t know what these are – maybe melons?

Mystery Plant

Mystery Plant

***********

Notes
20/3 Harvested first crop of broad beans planted from seed on the 24/10
1/4 I bought another fig tree (green fig)
1/4 planted 12 perpetual spinach and 4 cucumbers

Weather in April
Cold and wet!

Related posts
Recipe: Salada da Favas
Piglet’s Plot in February
Category Archives: Growing fruit and vegetables in Pots
Category Archives: Growing Fruit, Veg and Herbs