Tag Archives: gardening

Creative Ideas: Upcycling Plastic Crates to a Garden Cloche

Upcycling vs. Recycling

For some reason I’d always assumed (ass-U-me) that anything we ‘reused’, rather than throw in the garbage, was  recycling; apparently not. Upcycling is reusing an item, such as the plastic crate pictured below, and creatively using it for something else. While recycling is taking items made of plastic, metal, paper etc. to the recycling areas. The items are reprocessed and manufactured either into the same, or new product.

Upcycling is being creative by using what we have. Recycling reduces waste (otherwise dumped in landfill sites), and  reprocessed.

Upcyclng Plastic Crates

We often see this type of plastic crate dumped in or beside the garbage bins. (We don’t have the luxury of house-to-house refuge collection we use communal facilites.) So using my creative spirit I collect discarded items, such as these humble crates, and put them to use in my garden.

The weather has been very cold at night with temperatures as low as 1C. We’ve also had heavy rain showers for weeks so I decided my baby vegetable plants needed protection from the elements.

With this in mind I decided to make some mini garden cloches.


1. Two plastic crates
2. Clear plastic sheets (I reused a large plastic bag which protected my new mattress when it was delivered)
3. 4 sticks. I used bamboo canes.
4. String

Plastic crate

Plastic crate

The plastic crates used for this project have an insert in each corner. You can of course utilize other types of crates and just be creative  how you attach the supports.

Plastic crate - corner holes

Plastic crate – corner holes

Cut 4 sticks the same size and insert. This will form the base of the cloche.

Cut four sticks of equal size to insert in holes

Cut four sticks of equal size to insert in holes

Cover top of crate with plastic sheet

Cover top of crate with plastic sheet

Cover the top of the crate with plastic and secure with string. I allowed extra plastic on one side of the crate for extra protection if needed.

Cover crate with clear plastic

Cover crate with clear plastic

Align the sticks with corner recesses in top plastic crate and voilá! One upcycled garden cloche.

connect the two plastic crates with sticks

connect the two plastic crates with sticks

Pull down the extra plastic flap as and when needed

Mini cloche from recycled plastic crates and heavy duty plastic bag

Mini cloche from recycled plastic crates and heavy duty plastic bag


Base of cloche

Base of cloche

The yellow peppers were too tender to be planted in the vegetable garden so thank goodness for the mini greenhouse.

Almost there!

Almost there!

At night I pull down the plastic flap for extra protection.

Voila! Piglet's Clothe made from plastic crates, heavy duty plastic bag and four pieces of cane.

Voila! Piglet’s mini greenhouse made from plastic crates, a heavy duty plastic bag and four pieces of cane.

My garden cloche may not be ‘twee’ but it works perfectly well.

Related Post: Recycling water in the home
Reference re upcycling: EJ Environment Journal


Order or Out of Order?

My passion for gardening has now extended to include collecting succulents and cacti so every time I visit a garden centre my first port of call is the succulent and cacti bays. So far choice has been limited as most garden centres and shops sell nigh on the same plants. If anyone knows any specialist centres along the Algarve or Alentejo please let me know.

You can imagine my surprise when I spotted these!

Mix and Match Cacti

Mix and Match Cacti

Apparently they are grafted cacti. I am not sure … to me they look grotesque. I never bought one.

What do you think?

Stretching the imagination into the realms of weird horror I wonder if in years to come they will be be grafting a woman’s head onto a man’s body. Or even a dog’s head onto a cat or a dog’s head onto a man!

This post was prompted by the photo challenge prompt Order not by excess vinho.

Why Are My Kumquat Leaves Yellow?

After making some Kumquat marmalade which was absolutely delicious, I decided to grow my own Kumquat tree.



Kumquats are expensive here in Portugal so planting my own tree seemed the logical step says she, who kills most things including fig trees which are meant to be indestructible.

Fingers firmly crossed I planted a healthy tree in April 2016.

Fast forward four months and the kumquat leaves are yellow but apart from that the tree seems healthy with no leaf fall. At first, I thought it was under-watering, no. Then over-watering, negative.

My kumquat tree has yellow leaves

My kumquat tree has yellow leaves – August 2016

I trawled the internet and the problem appears to be a nutrient deficiency

According to Best Plants

Yellow and dull looking leaves often means the plant is lacking the necessary nutrients magnesium or sulfur. Apply Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate), adding it to fertilizer placed in the soil once per month. For more direct approach, 1 tablespoon can be mixed with a gallon of water and sprayed directly onto the leaves. Be patient as different plants respond faster than others to applications.

This is an excellent website with lots of useful tips.

I then studied various other sites and yellowing of leaves could mean the roots are too wet or too dry, low temperatures, or lack of feeding. I can rule out low temperatures because some days the temperatures have been in the high twenties to mid thirties. Too much water/not enough? It receives no more than my strawberry tubs because it is on the same watering system.

Further investigation reveals it is probably Chlorosis which is used to describe the symptoms of uniform yellowing of leaves.

Kumquat Tree - Chlorosis, uniform yellowing of leaves

Kumquat Tree – Chlorosis, uniform yellowing of leaves

Green chlorophyll requires iron and manganese. Lack of these nutrients result in the yellowing between the leaf veins

So what’s the cure?

According to the Garden of Eaden blog (I won’t include a link to their website as I was bombarded with annoying popups) chlorosis is treated by

spraying leaves with soluble iron foliar feeds every 2 – 4 weeks or by lowering the soil pH.

Or by applying nutrients to the soil surface. Suggested: soluble, acidic plant fertilizers such as Miracid or Sequestration as a weekly liquid feed. As I have neither of the above in store cupboard I am going to try Epsom salts. It’s got to worth a try, yes?

Dosage: Dissolve 2 teaspoons of Epsom Salts to 1 litre of water and apply every fourteen days.

The experiment started today. I sprayed the leaves and watered the plant with the remainder.

All suggestions,tips and advice welcome!

Why does my Aloe Arborescens have black leaves?

Is there a cure?

About a year ago I noticed my Aloe Arborescens were covered in dappled black marks, and after a few months the leaves turned black, shriveled and died.

 Aloe Arborescen - black marks on leaves

Aloe Arborescens – black marks on leaves

There is an old adage: Don’t put off till tomorrow what you should do today.

Unfortunately, I never acted immediately and when I did seek advice I was told it was a virus and there was basically nothing I could do to  cure it. I was then advised to remove all the affected leaves so only the new growth remained. I tried, but after spending many back-breaking hours pulling off the dead leaves I decided the plant was too far gone and we cut it back to ground level.

Apparently Aloe’s are rarely affected by pests although the root and dry rot can be a problem. I was about to give up on my mission to discover the cause of the black marks when someone suggested it could be a fungus due to humidity. Ah ha! After an extensive search of the web looking for clues I discovered:

Insects such as aphids and snout beetles sometimes attack aloes, and they occasionally fall prey to fungal diseases, such as rust, especially if they are growing close together. Spray the plants with a systemic insecticide to stop the sucking insects in their tracks.
Make sure that the poison runs into the growth points between the leaves as well. A fungicide with a copper base can help to control diseases such as rust, which are a nuisance in humid climates.

Credit: An article published on The Gardener

I am on a mission to find a fungicide with a copper base to save my one remaining Aloe Arborescen growing in another part of the garden. Can anyone recommend a product which I can buy here in Portugal or from the net?

Aloe Arborescen with black marks on leaves

Aloe Arborescen with black marks on leaves

All the plants pictured above have since been cut down to ground level in the hope they will regrow and I will get a second chance.

Fingers crossed!

Does anyone have any other suggestions or advice, please?

Other useful websites:

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

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.

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.


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!

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 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.



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



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?


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