Tag Archives: growing fruit and vegetables in portugal

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!


Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables in July

You certainly reap what you sow!

I’ve devoted hours tending my vegetable garden this month and I’m now reaping the benefits with an abundant crop of tomatoes, lettuce, radish, carrots, peppers, red cabbage and French green beans. The crops are fed at regular intervals with the MiracleGro kindly donated by a friend. However, I can’t seem to order this online for delivery to Portugal, nor can I seem to source from any of the garden centres or co ops.

Raised vegetable garden 22nd July 2012

Raised vegetable garden 22nd July 2012

The parsley is a bonus – it self-seeded!

The leeks planted at the end of May continue to thrive. However, because they were given to me as seedlings I planted more than needed so I hope they are not all ready for harvesting at the same time. The last batch I grew were left in the ground far to long and were woody and inedible. Mental note: next time, make some leek soup!

Raised vegetable garden 18th July 2012

Raised vegetable garden 18th July 2012

I am still struggling to eat the few remaining cabbages, both red and green. I’d love to freeze them, but our freezer is just too small! When we were away last year we had a power cut which tripped the electric and we lost all the contents of our freezer. “Fine, no problem”, we thought, until we discovered the insurance company refused to pay out for the spoiled food!

Green Beans, variety "Contender"

Green Beans, variety “Contender”

The green beans planted from seed on the 3/6 are now ready for harvesting…lots of beans! We not only eat them as a standard vegetable but are also one of the key ingredients in one of my favourite salads – Piglet’s Portuguese Salad

My first red pepper 22nd July 2012

My first red pepper 22nd July 2012

I transplanted several of the red and orange peppers growing in pots to the raised bed. The pots were unfortunatly not big enough and the plants were suffering. I also repotted the remaining plants to larger pots in order to continue my container gardening experiment.

Plum tomatoes 22nd July 2012

Plum tomatoes 22nd July 2012

The first fruit from the cordon plum tomatoes, planted as plugs at the beginning of May, are now finally turning red. I’m surprised at the length of time they’ve taken to ripen. The little cherry tomatoes, which are growing in pots, produced fruit and ripened quickly, so “cherries” seem a great option to kick-off the salad season.

Aubergine plants

Aubergine plants (Beringela)

The two aubergine plugs purchased from our local agricultural shop and planted on the 16/6 are growing well and are now covered in flowers. Looks like I may have a bumper crop of Aubergines. Thank goodness I only bought two plants!

I now need to grow a few more from seed or buy more plants. The little agricultural shop has now stopped selling plants through the heat of the summer months. I tried buying more lettuce plugs at the beginning of July, but now luck.

My baby lettuce are wilting in the heat and full sun

My baby lettuce are wilting in the heat and full sun

Unable to buy lettuce from our local shop I tried growing some from seed – would they germinate, not on your life! Faced with the prospect of paying inflated prices during the summer for lettuce, I managed to find plugs from a car boot sale. I could not believe my luck when I spotted a whole stall devoted to selling baby veg plants!

I only bought eight (four rosso and four green) However, in hindsight I wish I’d bought more as I’m now left with only one green and two rosso. Despite watering and planting late evening the tender baby lettuce have not fared well in the glare of the hot sun.

Note for next year: Plant baby lettuce in a more shaded place during the summer months.

Insect "burrowing" in leaves of orange tree

Insect “burrowing” in leaves of orange tree

The baby oranges on my solitary orange tree turned black, shrivelled and died. Some of the leaves are now infested with an insect that burrows its way through the leaf layers. I initially removed the affected leaves, but this did not resolve the problem as more appeared. I’m going to try one of the green pest deterrent potions suggested by Sami and Joan. Any idea what this insect is?

Food From Seed
Black Carrots
Joan’s black carrots seeds planted on the 5/6 have exceeded my expectations and are almost ready for harvesting. I’ve never eaten black carrots before so it will be an interesting experience. In fact, I’ve never seen a black carrot!
I continue to plant radish seeds at regular intervals to guarantee an ongoing supply. Rather than plant in regimented rows I now group in squares which works really well and conserves space.
Despite my best efforts I’m unable to persuade my lettuce seeds to germinate and resorted to buying more lettuce plugs from the market…
Green Beans (Contender)
Planted 3/6 and in just six weeks I have a bumper crop of beans.
30/7 Planted several seeds in a large pot as I need to rest an area of soil in the raised garden for a crop of broad beans which I will plant in October.

Related posts
Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables in June
How did I kill my tomato plants?
Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables in April
April: Growing Fruit and Vegetables in Pots
Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables in March
Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables in February
Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables in January
Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables in December

How did I kill my tomato plants?

There’s certainly never a dull moment when you attempt to grow your own fruit and vegetables, especially on Piglet’s plot! One minute they are all fine and the next…

Tomato plants before feed

Tomato plants before feed

Before we returned to France I went to our local plant and hardware shop to buy liquid fertilizer for my fruit and vegetables. After performing various charades my efforts were rewarded with the usual Portuguese shrug from the shop assistant. I finally made him understand “I need food for my vegetables – liquid “food” which I dilute”.  I carefully listed, in Portuguese, all my fruit and vegetables and he assured me an organic fertiliser called BrioSint was the correct product.

The shop assistant wrote down the dosage, one tampa per 10 litres of water, and I was all set.

I diluted the fertilizer as per his instructions and fed all my fruit and veg.  On my next visit to the same shop a few weeks later I double-checked I’d understood his instructions  with the shop assistant who could speak English. “No, I should not be watering the plants I should be spraying the leaves and I would soon have “muito grande lettuce, spinach. peppers, bom tomates etc”.

Mutter, mutter…mutter

I found a new spray bottle, made up the feed and sprayed the leaves as directed. I then went to France for a couple of weeks secure in the knowledge all my fruit and veg were fed and my friends would take care of the watering.

A month later

A month later

When I returned to Portugal the leaves on my tomato plants had turned yellow and were beginning to curl. The tomatoes were also a strange green. Perhaps they’d been over watered I thought? However, on closer inspection I noticed the veins on the tomato plant leaves were almost purple. I returned to the shop clutching the product and sample leaves.

Mutter, mutter…mutter

I struck lucky, the guy who spoke English served me. Yes, it was definitely the correct product and yes I did spray it on the leaves. However, he blamed the demise of my tomatoes on the cold. I accepted this and returned home.

Mutter, mutter…mutter

It was then I spotted a self-seeded tomato plant growing beside my compost heap which had escaped the fertiliser. It was perfectly healthy so the notion of it being too cold, was a red herring in my opinion.

Self-seeded tomato growing by the compost heap

Self-seeded tomato growing by the compost heap

Now on a mission, I returned to the shop with more samples of dying tomato leaves, plus a healthy one to stress my point. Poor guy, you could almost see him groan when he saw me walk into the shop. After an hour queuing in sweltering heat, it was my turn to be served and I related the story, showed him the dying leaves and the a sample leaf from the healthy tomato plant. Exasperated, he shrugged his shoulders.

There's definitely something wrong, but what?

There’s definately something wrong, but what?

He was at a loss as to the problem. When I expressed my doubts as to spraying the leaves, he again confirmed this was correct. He asked if I’d sprayed them in sunlight? Maybe, I don’t know. He never mentioned this before!

The guy in the queue behind me came to my rescue, thought I’d probably over fertilized and advised me to water the plant in future rather than spray the leaves. It’s strange though, because the other plants I’d sprayed such as the peppers and strawberries were fine.

Mutter, mutter …mutter

I returned home to watch and wait. Hopefully with no additional feed the problem would resolve itself. However, it was not to be.

The veins are tinged with purple and blue

The veins are tinged with purple and blue

The edges of the leaves started to turn blue so I decided to destroy all the tomato plants and start again.

Groan, curse…mutter, mutter…mutter!

I related my tale of woe to a friend who felt so sorry for me, he donated several of his tomato plants and seedlings. Bless him!

Did I kill my tomato plants? Any suggestions as to the cause gratefully received!

Update 17/06/12
I think my tomatoes may have had Curly Top Disease which can occur on Coastal Tomatoes and Peppers.

Related Posts:
Growing fruit and vegetables in pots – April 2012

Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables in April

My diary continues…

Despite earlier problems with white cabbage mold Piglet’s plot continues to yield a modest crop of lettuce, carrots, leeks, cabbage, spinach and radish. The brocoli and cauliflower have now finished, and it was rather a challenge to eat them all before they ran to seed! I like them but not THAT much! I would grow them again, but stagger the planting because unlike cabbage and lettuce, once they are ready to be harvested they need to be picked, and they do not freeze well.

Red cabbage, leeks and lettuce

Red cabbage, leeks and lettuce

Carrot, green cabbage and spinach

Carrot, green cabbage and spinach

I only use the outer leaves of the green cabbage and this appears to have extended the harvest season.

I use the outer leaves first

I use the outer leaves first

My “red” thumb seems to have come into it’s own and my red cabbage are now ready for harvesting. I am looking forward to making red hot chilli slaw (I will post the recipe) and Courve Roxa Com Cominhos – Red Cabbage with Cumin

The red cabbages are now ready to pick

The red cabbages are now ready to pick

Organic Feed
Last month I bought some Sintex Foliar which is an organic product. Now this is a typical example of “Lost in Translation” because it’s a liquid feed I watered the plants and trees so the roots absorbed the nutrients. However, when I spoke to the Portuguese guy in the shop who could speak English, a few weeks later, I discovered that I should be spraying the leaves. You live and learn!

I also discovered I then needed another products BrioSint which you spray on the leaves once the plant/tree is in flower. But do not use on olives trees. Do you feed olive trees?

Olive trees: all have tiny buds so fingers crossed we will have some olives this year and I can make tapenade and also preserve some olives in vinegar or should that be salted water, or even oil?

Anyone know the best way to store olives?

Growing fruit and vegetables in containers
I’m have great success with this project, so I will make a separate post.

To do
Go to the market and buy some broad bean and french bean seedlings.

Related posts:
Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables in March
Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables in February
Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables in January
Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables in December

Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables in March

The monthly diary of growing my own fruit and veg continues…

What grows well (God grant me the serenity to accept dispite my best efforts SOME vegetables will not grow well in my garden)
What to plant and when. (Next year I must leave space for broad and green beans and NOT fill the whole plot with cabbages and leeks).
Quantities (I need to stagger planting times)
How quickly can I harvest.(I’m impatient and short of space)
Crop rotation? (I need some advice please).
Bugs and diseases (If they’ve not already discovered my patch of terra, knowing my luck they soon will!).

So what’s happening on Piglet’s Plot this month?

Vegetable garden March 2012

Vegetable garden March 2012

Well, just as I thought I was on a winning streak and I’d overcome the root invasion problem I discovered white cabbage mold  had attacked a couple of the green cabbages. A quick search on the internet revealed once Sclerotinia rot is in the soil the crops I wanted to grow, will be affected, so not good news. However, a couple of my blogging buddies came to the rescue and suggested covering the soil with black plastic for a couple of months. This would UV treat the soil and hopefully solve the problem. 

Once I have harvested my existing crops I will certainly try this method. Replacing all the soil is not an option and Mr Piglet is not keen on keeping a pig or chickens.

The red cabbages are growing extremely well. The centres are beginning to form and are the size of tennis balls. However, thanks to my cabbage buying frenzy last December I will have far more red cabbages than I can eat in a short space of time. I’ve never pickled red cabbage before any one else tried or do you have other recipe ideas?

Remind me, how many red cabbages can I eat?

Remind me, how many red cabbages can I eat?

Yet more cabbage!

Yet more cabbage!

I have 12 red cabbages and 12 green 9(2 3 have now succumbed to the white cabbage mold.  I know cabbage is good for you, but there is a limit how many cabbages one can eat. At this rate I will have enough cabbage for the next six months at least (if the final few survive that long)

My first lime!

My first lime!

Lime tree
Since feeding my lime tree with Sintex foliar the leaves have turned green again and the tree has several flowers plus one baby lime. For some reason limes are really expensive in the supermarkets so if I can grow my own that will be great!
Lemon Tree
Loads of fruit, buds and flowers and although growing in a pot seems to be doing well. Now has a monthly feed of Sintex foliar and banana skins.
Orange Tree
The winter fruiting orange tree we bought at the market and planted in February is still alive. It initially lost loads of leaves when it was first planted, but fingers firmly crossed it seems to be holding. Feed monthly with Sintex foliar.
Olive Trees
They are still there, but no sign of any olives.
Fig Tree
Still a dead looking twig. I love figs and this is my 3rd or 4th attempt! Fig trees grow wild here without any care or attention,. I wonder what I’m doing wrong.
Nespera Tree
Growing well with lots of new leaves.

Fruit and Vegetables in pots

I’m going to cover these in a separate post.


I am delighted with my crop of carrots and continue to follow the tips offered by Hortophile. Rather than grow the carrots in a line I contained in a small square which certainly makes watering far easier. The carrots have grown exceptionally well so I will be doubling the size of the carrot area.

Unfortunately, I planted the leeks randomly between the cabbages and broccoli. Next year I will plant in a square the same as the carrots. Hortophile mentioned they are thirsty veg and I need to water well. A friend looked at the leeks yesterday and said I’d also not planted them deep enough.

First carrots, and leek!

First carrots, and leek!

Harvest of broccoli, radish, lettuce and green cabbage

Harvest of broccoli, radish, lettuce and green cabbage

My broccoli have grown well, but unfortunately the heads began to run to seed very quickly. Next year I must stagger the planting so they are not all ready at the same time.

My first cauliflower

My first cauliflower

Notes for reference

Leeks, cauliflower, brocoli, carrots planted beginning of December – harvested from mid March onwards.

Red and green cabbage – harvested and shredded young outside leaves from mid January to make Calde de Verde soup . We now have this once a week!
NB Don’t plant 24 cabbage seedlings at the same time. Stagger planting along with broccoli and caulifower

Spinach, rosso and green lettuce – harvested leaves from mid January.
Radish – planted at three-week intervals between slow-growing crops. Excellent results.

Strawberries continue to fruit, however I will need to increase the quantity of plants if they are ever going to yield more than one bowl full at a time.

Physalis continue to yield fruit and I’ve grown several plants from seed to bring on this year. However, due to the invasive nature of this plant I will continue to grow in pots!

Related posts:
Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables in February
Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables in January
Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables in December

Can you help?

My leeks are more leaf than leek. The edible white part (technical name, unknown) is only couple of inches long – any tips to improve productivity?

What veg rotates well with carrots and leeks?

I also need some recipes to use all the red cabbage I’m growing – suggestions please!

Growing Fruit and Vegetables in Portugal: May

The diary of my challenge to grow my own fruit and vegetables in Portugal continues. Seasons,  soil conditions and climate are totally different from the UK,  so gardening here is one big experiment.
I am not a knowledgeable gardener, nor do I have a “green thumb”, but my enthusiasm makes up for what I lack in these areas.
Unfortunately, I am unable to grow enough fruit and vegetables to be 
self-sufficient as my humble plot is really small. The “return on investment” in terms of time, effort and cost is zilch, but I enjoy the challenge and the convenience of organic fresh salad, veg and fruits just a few steps away! 
My Raised Vegetable Garden 14/05/11
My Raised Vegetable Garden 14/05/11
How quickly everything has grown since last month!
Squash plants 150511

Squash plants 150511

I’ve never grown Squash before but as a friend in Northern Portugal sent me some seeds I thought I would try.

Although my squash plants are still very small they are just beginning to produce flowers. Seeds planted 7/03/11
I think I’ve planted them to close together – they looked so tiny when they were first planted!
Although a different variety I hope they grow as well as the ones I spotted on “Enjoy Creating’s” blog : http://enjoyingcreating.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/round-squash-my-favorite-garden-veggies-to-grow/  Squash plants in flowers 22/05/11
First cucumber 15/05/11
First cucumber 15/05/11

Cucumbers grown from seeds planted 10/2/11

Unfortunately, the white mold that appeared on the leaves of the Zucchini plants caused many of the Zucchinis to rot. I am unsure as to the cause of the problem – perhaps humidity or overcrowding?
Any suggestions please?
Zucchini Jungle 15/05/11

Zucchini Jungle 15/05/11

 I braved the mosquitos and removed most of the leaves to improve air circulation. Not sure if this will help but it certainly cleared some space as you can see below.

Zucchini leaves removed

Zucchini leaves removed to encourage air circulation

Zucchinis rescued from jungle
Zucchinis rescued from jungle
 I rescued the above Zucchinis and used them in my Zucchini and Tomato Chutney I made on Saturday. I used the same recipe as last year… hmmm delicious! 
Garlic grown in pots
Garlic grown in pots – is it ready?
I planted cloves of garlic last December. I am not sure if its ready to pull but the leaves are starting to go brown and leaves in the other pot of garlic are have rust spots.

Prolific strawberry plants
Prolific strawberry plants

I rescued this crate and it is now home to some strawberry plants. I use netting from potato sacks to protect the strawberries from birds.

What else am I growing?

Sorrel, spring onion, spinach, chilli peppers, peppers, tomatoes and rhubarb. No show for the carrots I planted – I will try again in the autumn.

I am looking for some ideas on how to get rid of slugs, snails, blackfly and ants without using chemicals any suggestions folks?