Category Archives: Growing Fruit, Veg and Herbs

The challenges faced by a novice gardener in Portugal

Using Sulfato de Magnésio (Epsom Salts) in the Garden

In my quest to use as many natural products in the garden as possible I consulted Google and found this imformative article by Backyard Boss who kindly gave me permission to repost some of the article here.

 

WHAT ARE EPSOM SALTS?

To begin, I should probably explain what Epsom salts are. Epsom salts are actually a mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate- essential nutrients that regulate enzymes and are found naturally in most living things. Originally found in Epsom, England (hence the name), they are mined from the ground and have a variety of different uses ranging from healthy lifestyle choices, help with magnesium deficiencies, crafting projects, and in our case – gardening.

Epsom salts are not salts at all even though they look like it (it doesn’t have any sodium chloride in it’s makeup). Because of this, it can be used as a natural alternative in many agricultural and health practices without ill effects- since too much true salt is actually harmful to plants.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF EPSOM SALTS FOR PLANTS?

Magnesium sulfate is actually a key ingredient for vegetation and is found naturally in soils, although they can eventually be depleted and leach over time. The use of Epsom salts in varied ways can help give a very inexpensive boost to your plants and flowers year round – whether they are grown as indoor plants or out.

Essentially they are a building block of new growth, and is supportive of overall plant health; they can be used in a variety of ways to enhance seed germination, flower production, new growth, and can aide with chlorophyll creation: which is needed for photosynthesis in all green plants.

The article continues with a list the uses and benefits of Epsom Salts
– SEED GERMINATION
– NUTRIENT ABSORPTION
– COUNTER TRANSPLANT SHOCK
– GREENER FOLIAGE
– DETER GARDEN PESTS
– GROW SWEETER FRUIT
– FERTILIZING WITH EPSOM SALTS
– USING AS A FOLIAR SPRAY
– HOW TO USE WITH FLOWERING PLANTS
– HOW TO USE WITH VEGETABLE PLANTS
– HOW TO USE TO HELP ERADICATE WEED PLANTS

Full details please check out GROW BETTER PLANTS WITH THE BENEFITS OF EPSOM SALTS

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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.

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

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:

When is a potato not a potato?

When it’s a choo choo… noooo that’s not a Portuguese sneeze!

Feeling rather adventurous during a recent shopping foray to the local farmers’ market, I stepped outside my cautious ‘foodie’ comfort zone and decided to experiment with some, shall we say…  some of the more weird and wonderful vegetable offerings they had on sale.  As I looked beyond the usual staple veg such as cabbage, onions and potatoes an ugly misshapen green shrek-like pear piqued my curiosity.

(No, my curiosity and adventurous spirit still does not extend to sampling the “unmentionables”!)

On closer inspection of  shrek-pear and still none the wiser the stallholder, no doubt sensing my curiosity and/or ignorance, proceeded to explain  it was called a “cho choo” and a vegetable similar to a potato.

I thought my hearing deceived me: ” choo choo?”  I repeated.

“Sim.” She even said train in English, and then accentuated the word “Choo Choo”, by way of verbal demonstration to make sure I’d understood before she proceeded to instruct me on how to cook them. Interesting, because I would have put shrek in the fruit bowl waiting for it to ripen. ‘It’ certainly looked more fruit like rather than vegetable to me.

I’m sure my body-language still oozed caution so she generously gave me one to try.

ChuChu

Chu Chu or Chayote

Once home I tried to Google the name without success. In for a penny in for a pound, as they say, so that night I cut the beast in half and roasted it in the oven complete with skin; it tasted delicious. Mr. Piglet, however, was having none of it and with jaws clamped firmly shut he flatly refused to taste even the tiniest morsel. Men!

Folks, if you’ve never tried a Chochoo or whatever it’s called in your country, trust me they are delicious.

My next visit to a supermarket revealed the true name “chuchu’ which, after consulting Mr Google, is its Brazilian name and chuchu led me to Wikipedia which offered several names including Chayote.

Next week I will return to the market to buy some “ChuChu” but in the meantime if anyone has some recipe suggestions, please share them below.

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 June

This year I’m keeping a photographic diary of my humble vegetable garden; what’s growing when, where and how well. Yes, I know it’s August and I’m writing about July June, but with recent trips to the UK and France I am way, WAY behind on my blogging activities. I took all the photographs, so at least I could backtrack and post at a later date.

Raised vegetable garden June 2013

Raised vegetable garden June 2013

The white onions planted on the 19/11/2012 are now ready for harvest while the red onions planted in January are not that far behind.

Red and white onions

Red and white onions

June Harvest

June Harvest

Growing Fruit and Vegetables in Containers

Tayberries - first flower and fruit

Tayberries – first flower and fruit

My experiment to grow tayberry and blackberry bushes in pots seems (fingers crossed) to be successful. They have produced many flowers which are now forming into fruit. (Toes crossed we get to eat them before the birds or insects)

Tayberry bush growing in pot

Blackberry bush growing in pot

Strawberries growing in containers

Strawberries growing in containers

The rhubarb is doing reasonably well. Not brilliant but it’s still clinging to life. Unfortunately, some white fluffy bugs, which I believe are the dreaded mealy bugs have taken up residence. The only thing I’ve found to kill these annoying little critters is diluted hydrogen peroxide 3% volume. However, I do not want to apply this concoction to something I plan to eat!

Rhubarb growing in pot

Rhubarb growing in pot

The groselhos bush I purchased last year at Lidls continues to thrive but as yet has not yielded any fruit. I think it’s a cross between a gooseberry and a raspberry. We will see.

Groselhos

Groselhos

Can you name these fruit bushes?

The following are stem cuttings I took last year from my daughter’s garden. One is a raspberry the other two are either blackcurrant, or blueberry.

Mystery fruit bushes

Mystery fruit bushes

Yay! I finally have two tiny limes. Despite removing all the leaves affected with the citrus vine weevil it has returned. Nothing seems to deter these tenacious little critters!

Lime tree growing in pot

Lime tree growing in pot

The cucumber plugs planted in March have a couple of healthy cucumbers ready for harvesting with more on the way.

Growing cucumbers in pots

Growing cucumbers in pots

In February I bought two aubergine (beringela) plugs. One I planted in the raised vegetable bed and the other in the pot pictured below. Only the plant in the pot survived and it is now bearing fruit!

Aubergine growing in pot

Aubergine growing in pot

The myestery plants courtesy of God, or the birds proved to be squash plants. There seems to be two varieties – well put it this way, the squash are two different shapes. I’ve never been successful growing squash in previous years so I’m naturally delighted by the gift. This variety must be Piglet proof, so I better remember to save some seed for next year!

squash plants growing in pot

squash plants growing in pot


Squash

Squash

What else am I growing?
Galega Cabbage: Thes cabbages are now over 1m (3′) tall. These are brilliant if you are limited for space. You remove the individual leaves as you need them and you are eventually left with what I can only describe as a cabbage tree!
Red cabbages:
Tomatoes: masses of cherry tomatoes. I was given other varieties but they did not survive or grew too leggy to grow in pots.
Yellow and red peppers: Flowers but no fruit
Raspberries: no fruit
3 peach trees: no fruit
Physalis: fruit, but unripe
Orange Tree: this now has two baby oranges which should be ready by Christmas
Fig tree: all the leaves turned yellow and then fell before turning brown. I was told it was either too much water or not enough. Don’t you just love that tidbit of advice?

Insects

My cabbages are plagued with cabbage white butterflies and then hundreds of squishy green caterpillars. I spray the cabbages with a weak solution of washing-up liquid and water, although over time I’ve manned up and now squish the caterpillars with my bare fingers.

Ants! We have five different types of ant. We’ve tried most branded treatments but none seem to work. I was once given a recipe for a homemade concoction which included a powder called borax. Unfortunately, after spending ages sourcing the borax I lost the recipe.

Related Posts

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

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

Piglet’s Plot in March

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.

Vegetable Area 19/03/13

Vegetable Area 19/03/13

Piglet's Vegetable Area 19/03/13

Vegetable Area 19/03/13

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.

Couve Galega (Portuguese Cabbage)

Couve Galega (Portuguese Cabbage)

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.

Favas - Broad Beans

Favas – Broad Beans

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?

Echalotes - Shallots

Echalotes – Shallots

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.

Freezer drawers recycled as clochés

Freezer drawers recycled as clochés

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.

Red Pepper and Cherry Tomato Plugs

Red Pepper and Cherry Tomato Plugs

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.

Aubergines (Beringela)
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.

Aubergine Experiment 19/03/13

Aubergine Experiment 19/03/13

Cucumber (pepino)
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!

Cucumber Experiment 19/03/13

Cucumber Experiment 19/03/13

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.

Green Pepper (Capsicum) Experiment  19/03/13

Green Pepper ( Capsicum) Experiment 19/03/13

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.

Cherry Tomato in Pot

Cherry Tomato in Pot

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 Baby Leaf Salad in Pots - Ensalada Asiatica

Growing Baby Leaf Salad in Pots – Ensalada Asiatica

GROWING FRUIT TREES, AND FRUIT BUSHES IN POTS

Rhubarb
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.

Rhubarb growing in a pot

Rhubarb growing in a pot

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

Growing Fruit Bushes and Trees in Pots

Growing Fruit Bushes and Trees in Pots

Fruit Trees

Lime Tree
The lime tree is producing new leaves but is stll plagued by citrus leaf miner.
Peach Trees
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?

Peach Tree

Peach Tree

Fig Tree
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.

Fig Tree

Fig Tree

Nespera Tree
We have a good crop of nesperas this year. Never ate these in England – what do you make from them?

Nespera Tree

Nespera Tree

Orange Tree
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?

Plan of my Vegetable area

Plan of my Vegetable area

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

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