Tag Archives: growing vegetables

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.

Materials

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

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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

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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

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.

Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables – December

Better late than never!

I don’t know whether the excitement of our imminent trip to the UK for several weeks was sapping my enthusiasm, or just the December blues due to the long dark evenings, but I really had to dig deep (pardon the pun) to motivate myself to work in the garden. I’m not usually given to bouts of lethargy so perhaps the virus I picked up in France still made me feel sluggish. However, we can only reap what we sow and I kept plodding along.

Favas (Broad beans)

Favas (Broad beans)

The Favas seeds planted on the 24th October have grown well and the plants are now in flower. Hopefully we will be eating the beans by the end of February

Broccoli - Brócoloss

Broccoli – Brócoloss

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Cauliflower - Couve-flor

Cauliflower – Couve-flor

The Broccoli and Cauliflower plugs planted the end of September are growing are also growing well and have already yielded enough for several meals. I’ve finally worked out if I only buy three plugs of each at a time this is more than enough. This, in theory, gives me four plants for me and two for the slugs!

Red Cabbage

Red Cabbage

The four tiny red cabbage plugs I planted at the end of November are growing really quickly. Last year I planted far too many red cabbages and several were wasted as even my friends were red-cabbaged out! Perhaps four is still pushing it, but the snails are bound to enjoy at least one.

Red Onions

Red Onions

This year I planted 20 baby red onions, as an experiment, because they are expensive to buy in the shops. The guy at the market tried desperately to persuade  me to buy a 100! I mean, what would I do with 100 onions? He even offered me a discount of 50 cents as an incentive.

Growing Fruit and Vegetables in Containers

Strawberries growing in pots in December

Strawberries growing in containers – December

I’ve discovered one of the keys to successful strawberry growing in containers is to regularly remove the dead leaves so they do not rot into the soil.  Strawberries are the one thing that seem to grow well providing I can keep the mealybugs at bay. Removing the dead leaves and letting the air circulate seems to help. They are still selling bunches of strawberry plants so I’m going to buy some more.

Growing Sweet potatoes in pots

Growing Sweet potatoes in pots

I planted two pots of sweet potatoes (batata doce) on the 18th September, but I have the horrible feeling they are not growing.

Potato Blight

Potato Blight

The potatoes I’m growing in bags all got potato blight. The potatoes although small were fine, but unfortunately all the pots of potatoes had to be destroyed. I will not attempt to grow potatoes again as I had exactly the same problem last year when the blight spread to my tomatoes.

Blackberry and Tayberry plants growing in pots

Blackberry and Tayberry plants growing in pots

Mr Piglet kindly built me a frame for my blackberry and tayberry plants. It’s nothing fancy as we utilized posts and wire we already had, but it will do the job. Because of the proximity of the hedge and its aggressive root system I’m growing most of my fruit bushes in large containers.

Peach trees in pots
The two peach trees growing in pots are still alive, even though they look dead.
Lime tree
Citrus leaf weevil is still attacking the leaves despite various applications of olive oil and soap solution.
Groselhos
I’m not entirely sure exactly what this fruit bush is, but my guess is that it is a cross between a gooseberry and a redcurrant.
Blueberry
The blueberry cuttings I made in France are still holding onto life by their fingernails…
Rhubarb in pots
My Rhubarb plant – well there is nothing much to say except it looks dead. It’s put up a valiant fight for survival over the years, but I think I must concede defeat. We will see.

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raspberry canes
I bought three sticks from the market in Sao Teotonio and planted these directly in the ground. At just one euro each it was worth taking a chance.

Related posts
Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables – November
Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables – October
Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables – September
Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables in July
Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables in Containers – July
Portugal: Growing Fruit and Vegetables in Pots – June
Problem Cucumbers – Is it Anthracnose, Downy Mildew or…?
Garden Diary: Container Gardening – Cochonilhas or Mealybugs?
How did I kill my tomato plants?
Global Warming and Zucchini
Growing fruit and vegetable in December