Category Archives: Growing fruit and vegetables in Pots

Growing Strawberries in January

Growing strawberries in the Algarve -  Jan 2018

Growing strawberries in the Algarve – Jan 2018

In the Western Algarve growing strawberries in January is relatively easy. Dare I say we do not have ground frost and temperatures can reach a high of 18c during the day and from between 2C to 12C at night.

Growing strawberries in containers Jan 2018

Growing strawberries in containers Jan 2018

I have found the best method of growing strawberries during the winter months is in containers which I move to a sunny location. I then cover with a a plastic cloche to not only retain the heat but also deter greedy blackbirds.

strawberries undercover -Jan 2018

strawberries undercover -Jan 2018

As an experiment I also moved some strawberry plants to my raised vegetable bed and have a selection of plants which are not covered – the plants are okay but they are not as advanced as the plants pictured below which are covered.

Strawberries in raised bed - Jan 2018

Strawberries in raised bed – Jan 2018

Soil for both container and raised bed is a mix of manure, home and commercial compost. I also feed with fruit feed once the plants start to flower.

Related Posts:

Strawberry Quest
What does growing strawberries and recycling have in common?


Growing Cucumbers in Pots is SO Easy!

Imagine eating your own home-grown organic cucumbers. Hmmmm… delicious!

Why not challenge yourself to grow cucumbers in pots or indeed any container which has adequate drainage. Even if you only have a small garden or sunny balcony give it a try and let me know how you get on.

I usually buy about six seedling plugs from the market or a local garden centre in March . They are really cheap  (about 25cents each) and less frustrating/wasteful than growing from seed. If the seedlings are not available in your area then packets of seeds can be purchase in garden centres, DIY shops and even supermarkets.

Growing from seed means you lose about two weeks as they take time to germinate and I’m far too impatient for that. But sometimes needs must and we go with the flow.

Cucumber seedling plugs

Cucumber seedling plugs

I then plant into small containers such as yogurt or small flower pots using multi-purpose compost.

Baby cucumber plants

Baby cucumber plants

Old plastic water bottles are up-cycled as plant cloches to protect young plants from cold winds and inclement weather until they are more hardy.

Mini cloches - Old plastic water bottles are up-cycled as plant cloches to protect the young plants from cold winds and inclement weather until they are more hardy.

Mini cloches – Old plastic water bottles are up-cycled as plant cloches to protect the young plants from cold winds and inclement weather until they are more hardy.

The reason I always buy more plants than I need is because some of the seedlings will probably be enjoyed by my pet snail ‘Sid’ and his family, and the runt of the seedlings usually die due to cold weather or just bad luck.

So out of six small plants I end up with three healthy specimens.

When the plants are a little more robust I then plant in one large container in good quality compost and some rotted manure (when available). I initially protect the plants by making plant collars from plastic water bottles

plastic collars to protect plants

plastic collars to protect plants

Once the first flowers appear I feed with liquid tomato feed available from garden centres, supermarkets or DIY stores which seem to sell everything bar toilet rolls. It seems to work well and as yet I’ve not found a more general purpose vegetable feed other than manure tea which if you are living in a confined space is probably not a good idea.

About ten weeks later your first cucumbers are ready to pick. Usually several at once!

Cucumbers grow well in pots

Cucumbers grow well in pots

I will plant my next batch of seedlings in June so these will take me through to October/November – depending on the weather.

Growing Tips:

– Feed every couple of weeks.
– Water daily
– If you let the the cucumbers grow too big the seeds become tough and bitter. I usually pick when the cucumbers are about 6 inches long.

My first crop of cucumbers - May 27th.  2017

My first crop of cucumbers – May 27th. 2017

When I have a glut of cucumbers I now pickle in vinegar with onion. They are delicious!

Pickled Cucumbers

5 Cucumbers
1 Kg onions, peeled and halved
80 grams sea salt
500 ml vinegar
350 grams granulated sugar
4 or 2 tsp mustard seeds (I only use 2 tsp)
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
Slice the cucumber and onions thinly, layer them in a bowl, sprinkle salt. Weigh them down with a plate and leave overnight.
Drain off the liquid, rinse well and drain in a colander.
Combine vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, cloves and turmeric in a pan and bring slowly to boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar, add cucumbers and onions and boil for 1 minute.
Transfer the cucumber and onions to a jar and reduce the liquid for 15 minutes, then divide between the jars to the top.
This will keep for several months.


So who is going to take up the challenge?

Strawberry Quest

 August Strawberries in Portugal

August Strawberries in Portugal

I’ve been meaning to set myself this challenge for some time so after reading the theme for this week’s photo challenge is  ‘Quest’.

and according to Merriam

Simple Definition of quest
: a journey made in search of something
: a long and difficult effort to find or do something

I think a ‘quest’ to pick strawberries for nine months out of twelve for the next year is ‘long and difficult. So this will be my quest.

Growing Strawberries containers

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!












What does recycling and growing strawberries have in common?

With a little creativity it’s amazing what containers you can use to grow strawberries.

I love Strawberries

I love Strawberries

Deep plastic crates prove excellent containers for growing strawberries, lettuce or rocket. Line the crates with black plastic and make holes in the base area to allow for drainage. Add stones, then good quality compost and voilá!

Because the containers are not that deep I do keep the soil moist and once the strawberry plants start to flower I usually water with a liquid feed about ever two weeks. So far so good and I have an abundance of sweet strawberries through the spring and summer months.

I usually buy the strawberry plants from local markets, or if I am being really ‘thrifty’ I repot the strawberry runners from mature plants.

Strawberries also grow well in crates

Strawberries also grow well in crates

Recently, a family of blackbirds discovered my stache of delicious strawberries and were eating them before I had my share. I don’t mind sharing, but they were just plain greedy!

I tried various tactics to deter the birds until I hit on the idea of using …

How to protect your strawberries from the birds

How to protect your strawberries from the birds

Yep you’ve guessed, upturned crates as covers. They not only provided a rigid protective guard they also filtered the strong summer sun which in turn helped with moisture retention.

Happy days!

Do you grow strawberries in unusual containers? Any success, hints or tips?

An Organic Solution for Tomato Blight and Mildew

I am absolutely convinced that gardening in my patch of Portugal is beyond a challenge, or labour of love. Case in point: I’d no sooner tidied the patch and planted up all the vegetable plugs I’d bought from the market when I noticed brown spots on the leaves. Sigh …

Tomato Blight

Tomato Blight

There is NEVER a dull moment!

Searching the net to confirm it was indeed the dreaded blight I discovered various organic treatments; the base ingredient of which was baking soda. What the hell is Portuguese for Baking Soda, I asked myself? Okay, apparently it’s Bicarbonato de Sódio. So tomorrow I’ll be on a mission to buy some!

Yes, you can buy it. It’s located in the ‘baking’ aisle of major supermarkets such as Intermarche and Continent.

Further research also revealed that regularly spraying the plants with the following concoction also helps prevent mildew on squash, courgettes, aubergines and cucumbers etc. Fingers crossed.

Recipe (US)
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 US gallon of water
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil (optional)

All the recipes are pretty standard in ingredients but not measures. I discovered (by accident) that UK gallons are different from US. How on earth did I get to xx years old and not realize there was a difference? Ho hum…

1UK gal= 4.546090L
1US gal= 3.78541

So why Bicarbonate of Soda? Apparently, when you spray the leaves with the baking soda solution it lowers the PH on the leaves which in turn helps to prevent the leaf blight spores from growing.

Application: Apply using a sprayer.
When to spray: Early morning or late evening.
What to spray: Leaves (including underside) stems and base /earth round each plant
How often: Daily – weekly. I think this depends on the location and level of humidity. I’ll spray daily and see how it goes.

I found this video and website helpful.

Website: therustedgarden.blogspot

This evening I sprayed the plants just before sunset so the solution does not burn the leaves in the heat of the sun. Hopefully … we will see what tomorrow brings and if further leaves become infected over the next week.

Have you tried using this method? If not, watch this space.

Gardening IS a Labour of Love!

Growing fruit and vegetables was my labour of love and a hobby which gave me a great sense of fulfillment. Although my efforts in the vegetable garden were never destined to make us self-sufficient, the pleasure of eating something I’d grown from seed or plug was rewarding.

Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and spinach on 26th February

Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and spinach on 26th February 2012

Like a sentry I stood guard against the slugs and snails and other predators such as rabbits and birds; each eager to sample the tender green shoots. I watered and fed the young plants with the love of a mother tending a young family. I sheltered them from the harsh salt winds and shaded them from the midday sun until, like young adults, they were strong enough to fend for themselves.

White mold and other diseases often threatened the crop and I frantically searched the internet looking for an organic solution rather than using fungicides. Unfortunately, the limited options available and lack of success resulted in many organic pipe-dream failures. My main concern in using chemicals was the devastating effect on the bees and other wildlife.

I watched as bees pollinated the flowers of cucumbers, courgettes and tomatoes with the promise of a feast of home grown fruit and vegetables in the weeks to come.

Different varieties of lettuce grew in containers as were spring onions, radish, peppers, melons and chives; all basking in the sun just waiting to grace my next salad bowl.

The taste of fresh produce served straight from plot to plate within minutes and so different to that of irradiated foods which have been boxed, transported halfway round the world, and then dumped on the supermarket shelves.

My vegetable garden was like stepping through Alice’s mirror to my own wonderland where I felt at peace with myself and at one with nature.

So what happened?

My neglected raised vegetable area

My neglected raised vegetable area


Readers who have been following my blog for some time may remember my previous post about the root problem caused by the close proximity of the melaleuca hedge. A problem I thought I had resolved by lining the base of the raised bed with a membrane. All was fine for a year, and then I noticed the plants were no longer thriving. When I dug into the soil it was no more than a nest of roots, so you can imagine my language was a little more than sky blue!

Defeated by Mother Nature I abandoned my wonderland and retreated back through the mirror. I felt disillusioned, and even my tenacious spirit could not rally my enthusiasm as the fruit bushes and strawberries growing in containers were left untended and unloved…

As the winter turned to spring and the milder weather tempted me once more to revisit my vegetable area I was once again drawn to the family of plants under my care.

The cabbages and lettuce I had planted last October had barely grown in four months and the onions were even less enthusiastic about their living conditions.

Cabbage and lettuce planted last October have hardly grown

Cabbage and lettuce planted last October have hardly grown

The peach tree, which had been the source of such joy last summer when it yielded so many peaches followed by disappointment when I found they were infested with fruit flies, still seemed to be alive. Only time will tell if the lack of water during the winter drought will have an adverse effect.

The lemon tree which was bought as a lime tree four years ago, had one lemon and a multitude of tiny white flowers – well that was a result. The leaves yellow but still clinging to life and giving its all.

As I continued to examine the plants in the various containers I felt heartened that they had all survived. I surveyed the variety of large empty pots and crates and once again felt excited at the prospect of growing a salad crop. Now was the time for action and a visit to the market was required.

So what next?

Sigh… I don’t know.

– 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 whole thing down and forget it existed and persuade Mr. Piglet to get some chickens?

Seriously, what would you do?

The cost of the first option could be prohibitive but on the other hand this is my hobby and it gives me great pleasure. It would involve employing some muscle to undertake the project and muscle costs money!

The second option would look and feel and like a bodge job.

The third option – well that’s a joke in case he reads this blog post.

I went to the market on Monday and bought lots of plant plugs and strawberry plants.

As for what happens next – watch this space!

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.

Growing Cucumbers in Pots

Growing cucumbers in a Pot

Growing cucumbers in a Pot

One of my many ‘container’ gardening successes is growing cucumbers in pots. Rather than plant seeds and wait weeks for them to germinate I buy the seedling plugs from local markets.
The only downside is that there are no “fancy” varieties to choose from, or perhaps I should view that as an upside because the plants they sell are hardy and more suited to the climate of the local area. If the veteran Portuguese gardeners are buying them for their hortas, then the varieties are good enough for me.

Growing cucumbers in pots

Growing cucumbers in pots

When to plant: Cucumber plants are available in the Algarve from January onwards although this year I never planted any until March and then not again until May.

Containers: I use a 12x12inch plant pots planting three plants per pot.

Soil: I use a good quality general purpose compost which I mix with sandy soil. Three parts compost to one part soil.

Feed: Once the flowers have formed I feed weekly with MiracleGro or liquid manure which I make from soaking Alpaca or horse manure.

Watering: Water daily and don’t let the soil dry out. I made that mistake and the baby cucumbers withered and died.

Related posts:

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.



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

Fruit Worms
Gray Mold

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).

Temperatures ranged from 17C to 30+C

Pests and diseases: Snails and caterpillars.

There was very little white mould despite the high humidity.