FROM SEED TO FEED (OUR FRUIT, VEGETABLE AND FLOWER GARDEN DIARY) 2021
I decided to start a new gardening post (From seed to feed) for 2021. If you have read my 2020 post you will know that although I’m a newbie to gardening I absolutely love spending time in my garden with my hands in the soil. I learn new facts and skills daily which fascinates me. Sitting on my blue bench, listening to the little soothing stream opposite, watching the sheep graze my neighbours land and the sounds of the birds chirping away, this is my tranquil place. A place where I can totally relax and have some valuable head space. When it rains for days on end and I can’t venture outdoors I feel a slow decline in my mental health. I crave the fresh air and sun rays on my body. I really enjoy watching the local wildlife except for snakes, I still scream at snakes (ha ha). Now we have lived here for a full year it’s fascinating to watch the garden grow and it changes so much during different seasons. We live is a house made from schist stone and the wildlife love hiding away in the nooks and crannies. In Spring and Summer time we see so many bees and butterflies, just beautiful. February has so far been very wet indeed, so much so my raised beds have almost turned into swimming pools. All I need now is a poolside bar and a butler in the buff (ha ha).
Here is my new fruit, veg and flower diary which I will update throughout the year.
Pretty in Pink – 27th January 2021
The garden is not a sea of colour during winter but our beautiful Japenese Camillia’s are blooming a vivid pretty pink. This is the first and last time ever that I decide to venture outside to the compost bin wearing ski socks and flip flops. I tripped and stood on this little fella! I don’t think he is sleeping (ha ha).
The 2021 BIG plan
We had huge success last year at growing the following from seed: Tomatoes, chillies, lettuce, cabbages, melons and strawberries. The sunflowers grew huge but then got some kind of rot and all died. Our raised beds and directly ground grown proved more of a success than our container growing which got some form of rot most likely from too much water and not enough proper drainage. Not sure why as I drilled holes in the bottom and put small pebbles at the base. This year we have decided to mostly only grow produce that we regularly eat and which costs us money to buy in a shop on a weekly basis. It’s tempting to grow all sorts of weird and wonderful produce but unless it’s in our regular weekly food plan we have decided not to bother as we only have a modest sized garden and not too much land. We also want to be frugal and as self-sufficient as we can.
The tomatoes and chillies were such a success last year and made wonderful pasta sauce which we can freeze so we definitely are growing these again this year. Hubby has bought some different varieties of chilli seeds this year to include: Chinese 5 colour, Buena mulata, Golden nugget and Habanero lemon. They also sent him some sample seeds named Hot wax! He is chilli obsessed and likes to experiment with different varieties. The Chinese 5 colour look epic! Hubby has recently read that he can increase the germination success rate by soaking the chilli seeds in some chamomile tea. First you drink the tea then make an infusion with the same tea bag. Once the temp has cooled a bit you use the weak tea to soak the seeds overnight and plant out the next day. The advantage of chamomile tea is that it is considered an antiseptic so it eliminates bad bacteria and fungi which will damage the chilli seedling. I’m happy for hubby to try this out but there is no way in hell that I am drinking chamomile tea, it tastes like feet! I will stick to my strong black Portuguese coffee.
I will grow some more Galega Lisa couve (cabbages) just in case our current ones do not survive. Two of the new crops we are planting this year are sweet potatoes and onions. We get through so many onions in our recipes and we also eat a huge amount of sweet potatoes too. I also really want to try and grow Corn on the cob but I’m a little hesitant as I did try to grow them many years ago when I had an allotment at Windmill Hill city farm. I was very young and had no clue what I was doing but they didn’t grow at all. Anyway maybe Corn on the cob will be our wildcard. It can be our substitute crop if something else fails to grow. I like to look at my neighbours land and see what other villagers are growing. If it grows well for them the likelihood is that it will grow well for us. The old lady down the hill grew some spectacular Corn on the cob last year so fingers crossed. Our little herb garden has survived the winter and we may add some more herbs at some point.
I am also going to grow more sunflowers, lavender and marigolds as I have loads of seeds leftover and I had limited success last year. We are not bothering with melons this year as they take up a huge amount of ground space. It was such a joy growing Helen’s melons for the first time in 2020 but this year I want the space to plant another cherry tree and some raspberry canes. With lock down it’s impossible to visit garden centres and nurseries also the markets are closed so everything is on hold for a bit. We have made a few small seed and gardening purchases online.
Loofah (not Netflix Luther but I do adore Idris Elba)
This is a really random plant that I am intrigued by. I read an article last year about growing your own loofah sponge and ever since I have wanted to give it a go. I can use the sponge in the shower and cut it up to use for cleaning. Who am I kidding, I meant hubby can use it to clean (ha ha). I’m not much of a cleaner unless I’m scrubbing roof tiles. I never knew it was a vegetable. They are annual vines with yellow flowers and are distant cousins with squashes, cucumbers and melons. I am beyond excited to try and grow these. I had a conversation recently with my daughter via zoom chat and she didn’t know that you can grow a loofah, I think she thought I had gone mad but I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who never knew about this. I kind of thought it grew like a sponge naturally in the ocean. I feel that I have educated her now about loofah’s so she will soar through university and her psychology degree if there is a module psychoanalysing loofah’s (ha ha).
Seedy Helen (Seed selection and planning) – 3rd February 2021
Not the sordid or disreputable seedy, I’m just sorting my seed selection and planning my crop rotation for this year. Planning our garden together is one of my favourite tasks.
As well as left over packet shop bought seeds we saved loads of seeds from last year so we will re-use these seeds this year. There are so many reasons to start saving seeds. It is an act of mindfulness and protects plant biodiversity. It’s a great way to re-connect with nature and the natural world. Saving seeds is so simple. You basically grow your plants and let them go to seed then you collect some seed and keep the seed dry in an envelope until the following season when you start the cycle again. It’s a fabulous way to grow free food. We also save seeds from market and greengrocers bought fruit and veg. Last year we purchased some packet melon seeds from a shop and we also saved seeds from a fresh melon bought at the local market. The most successful melons we grew came from the seeds that we saved from the market melon. We often wonder if saving seed from a shop purchased fruit or vegetable will grow as it might have had pesticides and toxins sprayed on it or it might have been sprayed with a chemical to stop sprouting production. It can help to buy organic produce which may give you a higher success rate but I have friends who have successfully grown slips from a Lidl store sweet potato.
We started composting last year and we recycle all our left over vegetable and plant matter with the hope of turning our waste into black gold. We ended up buying a compost bin as I had huge difficulty sourcing wooden pallets to make one from. We call the compost bin The Tardis you will know why when you see the photo below. It’s looking pretty epic at the bottom and with a bit more Portuguese heat it will be ready to use this year. There is a handy door flap at the bottom for easy access. Our bunny rabbit produces so much poo as he eats a lot of hay so I am hoping that our compost will be rich and amazing but only time will tell. Who knows I might be known for the crazy British lady who grows gigantic vegetables as currently I’m just known for the mad cow who jogs around the village in all weathers (ha ha). I’m excited about getting Helen’s happy hens as I have heard their poo is excellent for the compost bin. We turned over the raised beds and added the mulching system which is supposed to be beneficial. I am a little obsessed with composting and I love being a soil builder, it feels great. Composting is as easy as you want it to be. Some folk don’t stir or turn over their compost. There are benefits in turning it and not turning it. We turn ours occasionally. You can find me gardening whilst singing Firestarter by the Prodigy but I change the words to “I’m a composter, twisted composter” (ha ha). Here is the Tardis complete with poo stick for stirring!
We arranged to collect some free horse manure from a local stables but unfortunately due to Covid and lock down we were unable to collect it before lock down commenced and now we have rules and restrictions in place where we often can’t leave our municipal at weekends. We are also on lock down so only venturing out once per month for the huge food shop then relying on the food vans who drive through our village selling produce. Last year we purchased the bags of dried horse manure from a local store so I suppose we will do the same this year. I’m not sure the police would count venturing out to shovel shit an essential outing!
Growing our own slips
We never grew potatoes last year but we grew some amazing new potatoes on our allotment in Redland Green, Bristol so decided to grow sweet potatoes this year as they are quite expensive here and we consume a huge quantity each week. I couldn’t find any slips on any websites here so decided to grow my own slips from a sweet potato. Apparently it’s a simple process and there are two main methods. The first method you submerge the lower part of a sweet potato in a jar of water. You can use toothpicks if the potato is too skinny, to hold it up. The potato will start to grow white roots at the bottom and sprouts (slips) at the top. It must be placed in a warm spot. Once a slip is a few inches long it can be pinched off of the sweet potato and rooted in water or planted directly in the ground. The process takes about 6 weeks.
A single sprouting sweet potato can provide you with at least 15 slips. Those 15 slips create 15 plants, which will give you around 30lbs or 60 individual sweet potatoes. You will need a sweet potato that hasn’t been treated to stop sprouting. Once you have established your own crop of sweet potatoes you can use your own sweet potatoes for producing slips year after year. If you are buying a sweet potato from a shop to produce slips make sure it hasn’t been exposed to cold damage – dark discoloured spots may appear on the outer skin a few days after you have bought it. I failed dramatically with my first attempt. I’m not 100% what went wrong as I talked to Pedro the potato daily. I named him, I spoke to him, I sang to him but NOTHING! I think it was just too cold in our lounge. It basically just rotted and got one huge soggy mess – you learn by your mistakes! I often find gardening is trial and error.
The second method is to place the whole sweet potato lengthwise in a tin of soil mixed with compost so the soil covers half of the potato. You can place on a seedling heating mat or in a warm place. The soil must stay moist and should produce roots and slips in a couple of weeks. Sweet potatoes love heat and are one of the last things to plant in your garden. I was thinking of buying a seedling heating mat online then low and behold hubby said that he had ordered a seedling heating mat for his chillies, great minds think alike. Our delivery of potting compost arrived so we have trialled this second method and we will now just have to wait and see what happens if anything. I actually tried out 2 sweet potatoes this time. I’ve named them Pablo and Pandora. I have no idea if naming your potatoes increases the chance of germination but I’m not taking any risks (ha ha). They are sitting patiently on the office window sill with a heat mat under their butts. I hope they like hubby’s zoom meetings with all those enthusiastic Americans!
Look what happened within 2 weeks!
4 week progress:
I have now pinched off the slips and they are growing roots in jars of water.
Less is more (unless it’s cake!)
Last year we made the mistake of sowing too many seeds and planting them all. For example I planted 24 cabbage seeds, all grew and I planted out all 24. No one needs 24 huge tall Portuguese cabbages (ha ha). I just assumed that not all the seeds would grow and that we would loose some to slugs, snails and other critters/animals. We grow 100% totally organic with no pesticides so it’s a given that some will be a casualty of the slug war. This year we will sow less seeds.
We have a huge fig tree which produced so many figs last year. We also share two orange trees, a lemon tree and cape gooseberries with our neighbour. We also have a small lemon tree in our garden. We have a new cherry tree and we plan to buy another for cross pollination. We have a row of strawberry plants and I plan to buy some raspberry canes. We took cuttings from our neighbours cape gooseberries but they didn’t survive the frost. I wish I had a bigger garden with more flat land as I would love more fruit trees. It’s always been a dream of mine to step outside and pick organic fruit from my very own orange and lemon tree and now I can. Lately there has been more oranges on the ground than on the tree, it’s been very windy (ha ha). I would also love a nut tree especially an almond tree but we just don’t have the space. The oranges and lemons made fantastic lemon curd and orange marmalade.
Simple living is about progress not perfection
This phrase is now become my all time favourite motto. My motto used to be “If you want something done do it yourself” not meant as a rude comment but meant as a motto to oneself, if you want a job done properly it’s probably best you do it yourself then it will be done to your specific standards and properly. Not everything has to be perfect and this especially counts for gardening. I love the Portuguese ethos to gardening. A Portuguese garden might look a bit messy and scruffy to an untrained eye but the Portuguese know what they are doing. They rotate crops at a high speed and some of my village folk (I was going to say village people but I thought it might start you singing – ha ha) anyway my village folk grow the biggest, fine looking produce I have ever seen. It might be a bit wonky but it tastes delicious. I have never really been a massive huge fan of oranges. I just couldn’t be bothered with the faff of peeling an orange in the U.K to find it has lots of pips and tastes sour but the oranges here, OMG! My neighbours orange tree is superb. The oranges have virtually no pips and are so sweet in January. She is not going to have any left by the time I have finished with it. I am reading up more on companion planting which is great for pest control, pollination, providing habitat for beneficial insects, maximising the use of space and increasing crop productivity.
You can freeze such a huge variety of foods. This is something I was unaware of until I moved here. We froze so many figs last year and then used them straight from the freezer in smoothies. Hubby wanted to buy a chest freezer just for figs as we only have a small combined fridge/freezer but I wouldn’t let him. I have actually changed my mind and I think it’s a great idea to buy a chest freezer so we can freeze fresh produce and use throughout the year.
Seeds, sunshine and serotonin
I like to start my seeds off in small pots in my sun room around February-March time depending on the weather. This year I plan to start a majority of them off in March as we have had a lot of rain, wind and cold weather during February. I wouldn’t want to wake up one morning and find them blown into the next village. I use an old table so I don’t have to bend over and hurt my back. The sun room gives the seedlings a bit of protection. I absolutely adore planting my seeds with hubby. I think it’s because it’s the start of the process and the end is when it’s on your plate. Home grown organic fruit and veg tastes delicious. I love reconnecting with each other over soil with dirt under my nails. Gardening is such a great whole body workout. I also love produce trading with my few neighbours. Gardening is my passion and I love it so much. Putting our electronics down for an afternoon on a weekend and the feeling of essential vitamin D on my skin, just wonderful.
Dehydrating (everything in sight ha ha) – 3rd March 2021
Today I tried out dehydrating for the first time in my life. Hubby bought me an epic dehydrator for Christmas. I decided to give it a go and dehydrate orange and lemon slices as well as Japanese Camellia petals. Our wedding anniversary is next month and seeing as we can’t get away for a romantic hotel stay I thought it would be nice to make some rose petals for our bed and recreate our last hotel stay. Dehydrating is so much fun. It’s great to dehydrate seasonal fruit and veg e.g. citrus fruits, apples, bananas, figs, tomatoes, chillies and even flowers. I’m totally obsessed with my new dehydrator and I’m dehydrating everything in sight, run and hide (ha ha).
Sowing seeds – 9th March 2021
Today I had the best time sowing my seeds in the sun room. Spring is my absolute favourite season. Beautiful blue skies, warmer weather, longer days, cool breeze, fresh buds, blooms and blossom (nature’s confetti). The vivid colours, sweet scents, bumblebees, butterflies, frogs and bird song. All these things reflect my inner happiness. Spring brings me energy and enthusiasm and excitement for our future harvest.
Today I sowed the following seeds: tomato, chilli, cabbage, onion, lettuce, sweetcorn, luffa, marigold, lavender and a few melon. I could not find the sunflower seeds, I think I may have used them all up last year so maybe I will buy some more. The sweet potato slips are growing well. I will take good care of my seeds and talk to them daily, they are like my children but less expensive and don’t answer back ha ha. The village folk think I’m crazy, they ain’t wrong! I love gardening, feeling the sun rays on my make-up free face and the bees in my messy bed hair. I find it so tranquil and therapeutic. It’s just such a simple joy growing my own organic fruit and veg and it’s a great way to zap my anxiety.
Spring gardening – March 2021
We planted a few more flower seeds: Sunflowers and Ancolia. The weather is improving and we have had quite a few sunny days so hopefully our seeds will germinate soon. Tiny figs are appearing on our huge fig tree and three cornered garlic is sprouting from our schist walls. I am spending most afternoons in our garden with the local wildlife.
End of March update
Some seeds have started to germinate (hooray) and everything is bursting into life. I love Spring so much.
The neglected cup
This cup has sat on the wall in-between my property and my neighbours for over a year now. At first I left it as I thought it might belong to our neighbour and that they would retrieve it one day. Our neighbours do not live in the house permanently and we have only seen then a couple of times in 2020. It fills with rain water and insects then dries up in the sun. It’s still sat in the same spot. I think it’s about time I removed it but it’s kind of a little monument now and a piece of art work. I often wonder what the story is behind the mug and how it got abandoned.
Easter Monday update – 4th April 2021
Quite a few of our seeds have germinated now and the success so far has been the sweetcorn which is quite funny as it was kind of a wildcard. I’m gutted none of the luffa seeds have germinated yet but I’m not writing them off just yet. During our March monthly Lidl food shop hubby wanted to buy a mini seed propagator but I said it wasn’t worth it as it was so small and we have tons of seed trays and pots in our shed. Our sun room also acts as a greenhouse. Fast forward to the end of March and I send hubby to Lidl for our April monthly food shop whilst I visit the hairdressers and suddenly a mini seed propagator appears in our office window sill. Hubby saw his opportunity and took it (ha ha). It came complete with some pepper and herb seeds as well as a soil block.
It’s been scorching hot the last couple of days, a bit too hot for gardening. Our lovely neighbour gave us some seeds from some kind of vegetable squash so I planted a few of the seeds and she also gave us loads of what I can only assume are different varieties of lettuces. They look a little dead and very wilted but we planted them out in containers and one of our raised beds. They have had a good soaking but to honest I’m not very hopeful. The lilies have started to flower which look pretty and our cherry tree which we purchased from the local market has started to flourish but only on one side. I think the other side is dead but seeing as it looked like a large twig giving me the V sign when I bought it I think it’s showing promise and it only cost a few euros. I have had a lovely long Easter weekend with hubby and the high light of my day was watching ants carrying little pieces of chocolate I have dropped and stashing them down the cracks of the crazy paving (ha ha).
7th April 2021 – Strawberries
Today we picked our first Casa Valhal strawberries grown from seed. They are teeny weeny but hubby reminded me that it’s not the size that matters (ha ha). The strawberries we purchase from the fruit and veg van are huge!!!!!!! The comparison is hilarious.
13th April 2021
After all the sunshine we now have some rain. The lettuces that our neighbour gave us are very thankful and seemed to have perked up a little with the rain. Half of the cherry tree was dead so we took advice and cut it back and staked it. I planted out some of the sweet potatoes and corn and have recycled water and coke bottles to use as mini green houses to protect the young plants. The strawberries are getting bigger and Milo loves them. I read that strawberries can be small if they don’t have enough earth/growing space and that it can help if you cut off all the flowers and strawberries in the first year it bares fruit. Unfortunately I didn’t know this last year when they first fruited but I have cut off the tiny strawberries and flowers and they are growing back bigger so fingers crossed we may get some adequate sized fruit. if not it’s a great ground coverage for the area and Milo loves the tiny strawberries and they are also fine in smoothies. The figs are getting really big too. I’m pottering around the garden in the rain taking photos as I love the way the lilies look with rain drops on them, like a work of art and there are so many bees on the orange blossoms.
14th April 2021 – The Loofah have germinated!
Today is one of my rest days from exercise so after my Portuguese language course I decided to re-pot up some of my seedlings as they are out growing the seed trays. I also thinned out a lot of the lettuces. I know a lot of people sow straight into the ground here or sow seeds in large pots to prevent the hassle of disturbing seedlings but we prefer to sow seeds in seed trays with the tiny compartments. Our soil has loads of tiny stones and if we sow tiny seedlings straight into the ground we often lose them to critters or the soil and stones fall on them when it rains so they need to be a certain size to survive. Quite a few of our seeds have germinated now. The only seedlings we have planted out in the garden so far are some corn and sweet potatoes, also the lettuces from our neighbour.
I am super excited to say that a couple of the Loofah seeds have now germinated. I love growing from seed, especially saved seeds and I wait patiently for each seed to push through the compost, it’s a waiting game but so much fun. I can’t believe how some seeds take 6 weeks to germinate yet others only a couple of weeks or less. I am amazed that the seeds that our neighbour gave us have already started to germinate. They are a variety of squash and we know what the vegetable looks like as our neighbour cracked it open in front of us and literally gave us handfuls of sticky seeds. So at least we have a mental picture of the produce we are growing. It could possibly be a butternut squash which tastes epic in soup.
I love the fact that all these pots apart from a couple of the seed trays are recycled. We found tons of plant pots in our shed which is great as I hate buying plastic. I have started saving toilet roll inner tubes again as they work really well for lettuces. I have ran out of space on the old table and little trolley (both of these items again recycled as left in our house when we bought it). I have put a few pots along the wall of the sun room to catch the Portuguese sun and heat.
27th April 2021
On the weekend we planted out the cherry tomato seedlings into one of the raised beds and some squash directly into the ground. The squash are growing rapidly which is great news. Some critter has been eating my corn which I’m gutted about but hopefully some will survive. That’s the risk when you grow 100% organic. I have been putting half plastic coke and water bottles on them overnight to try and protect them. Everyone is enjoying the lettuce and I ate my first home cooked meal with a side salad of our home grown lettuce which is very satisfying. The strawberries are getting even bigger and Milo loves them. Size doesn’t matter to Milo as he is a mini lop after all! Last year I planted a dozen lavender seeds and only 3 germinated. 2 of the plants died so now I have one remaining Lavender plant in a container and it’s just started to flower. This year I planted a dozen Lavender seeds and zero germinated, you win some you lose some that’s the Russian roulette of gardening. I potted a few sunflowers but again some critter has ate one which is fine as I have a few. I might have to send hubby on snail patrol, make him go outside at midnight with his phone torch and gather up all the snails, put them in a box and release them in a field in the next village!
4th May 2021 – Lush lettuce & Compost galore!
The lettuce is thriving and ready to eat. I have offered lettuce on Facebook to friends and locals as I have way too much and hubby isn’t a huge fan. There is only so much lettuce Milo and I can eat. Milo is our bunny, just in case you thought I had got a toy boy or additional lover. I’m struggling with one man and his mess so I can’t cope with another bloke around the house (ha ha). The compost is coming along nicely thanks to all the recent sunny weather.
18th May 2021 – Live, laugh, love, lettuce!
We decided to dig up all the lettuces from the raised bed so we could plant out the Chillies. Milo was elated! The critters that ate some of my corn came back to finish the job! Why can’t they they just eat one, why take a nibble of every bloody plant! I was very excited to be growing corn from seed for the first time in my life. Now I’m a bit sad. I had plans to recreate Nando’s al fresco in our garden. I’m now using empty water bottles and jam jars to protect some of my other seedlings, wish me luck.
Criaverde garden centre
I love Criaverde near Viseu, it has a wide range of flowers, plants and beautifully designed. We bought 2 yellow Jasmine, wonder how long it will take for me to kill them. I really wanted to buy a garden gnome but resisted because they are like cats. You can’t just have one before you know it you have 17 and have morphed into a crazy gnome lady (ha ha).
The wild upper garden
We have a small area (slight gradient) in our upper garden behind our workshop/shed. It houses our compost bin so we need to walk across it often. Currently it’s full of weeds which hubby strims when it gets too high. Various different weeds as in photos. Although the weeds are great for the bees/butterflies and we just had epic fun playing with the sticky dart things throwing them at each other (ha ha), I would love for this area to be transformed and was thinking of wild flowers but I saw a recent post about how it’s not an easy job as you have to sow the seeds in the ground and dig out all the weeds first which I don’t mind doing. I was thinking maybe another ground covering like clover would work well or chamomile but read that you can’t walk on it for a while but we need to for compost bin. My last thought was planting some bulbs in autumn time and then next spring there may be pretty flowers amongst the weeds but might be difficult to strim without murdering the flowers. I think we will always get some weeds as neighbours garden above is overgrown and they don’t live there so some weeds self seed down on our patch. I did find this solo poppy which made my day and some of the weeds are now flowering so maybe I should just leave the weeds. Can’t decide, I would love a mini meadow but can’t see this being done anytime soon.
24th May 2021 – The radiant raspberry
Beavering away on the roof as usual and hubby bought me the best surprise. Our very first radiant raspberry. This is the first time we have ever grown raspberries. There is only one ripe and another shortly to follow so he offered it to me but I shared and gave him half because I’m an epic wife! That was the tastiest half of a raspberry I have ever tasted. It’s so satisfying growing my own fruit and veg, simple pleasures in life are so rewarding. I must say I’m easily pleased. All I need to thrive is good food, sunshine, treats, a special cuddle and a daily run. Gosh I sound like a dog ha ha.
29th May 2021 – Nando’s al fresco!
My corn that was nibbled to near no point of return is surviving and looking a lot perkier. I think it was the pep talk I gave them about being strong individual corns and fighting for life and freedom. I also gave them all names which obviously helped (ha ha). The Overachiever award goes to Corn Constance who is in the lead for tallest corn (she’s gone above and beyond) and I have to give a special shout out and recognition to Corn Chardonnay and give her The Exceptional feedback award for her honesty in stating she didn’t like being so close to the wall and overshadowed from the sun (ha ha). I think I’m losing the plot bit but having a lot of fun along the way. I can visualise me recreating al fresco Nando’s with my beautiful corn. I can also visualise it all being chomped by the critters but only time will tell. Fingers crossed for the other fruit and veggies. I mulched the area with straw which worked very well last year to hold in moisture and prevent weeding.
Our first amerelo (yellow) flower on our jasmine! Sooooooooo pretty.
Tomatoes and sweet potatoes
Our tomatoes in our raised bed are growing rapidly and the sweet potatoes have also perked up so who knows what will happen.
30th May 2021 – Strawberries and weeds
This weed is in my neighbours garden. It is huge and very pretty, I’m not actually sure if it’s a flower or a weed, I really should try my plant identifying app. Anyway, I think it’s pretty whether it’s a weed or flower. Our strawberries are not getting any bigger. Guess which one is mine grown with dedication and love from seed and guess which is purchased from the fruit and veg van? Size matters when it comes to strawberries otherwise I need to eat 68 (ha ha).
23rd June 2021 – Quick garden update
Our edible garden is thriving. Check out my CORN!!!!!!!! A while ago I decided to follow what my Portuguese neighbours do so I planted a Sunflower in the middle of each raised bed. It works really well as it attracts the aphids so they stay off of my plants. The Sunflowers are huge and also provide a bit of shade for the plants too in the hot weather. I also planted a few Marigolds too which deter pests. My tomato plants are kind of a gigantic bush now. I did try and cut off lower leaves to a degree but I’m happy for them to we a bit wild as long as we get lots of tomatoes to eat and freeze to make pasta sauce then all is fine. Our Chillies are a bit behind this year and a couple have been dug up by animals but the rest are making steady progress. I am most excited about our Corn and Loofah. The Loofah now has vines and my Corn is officially taller than me!
8th July 2021 – Our first 2021 tomatoes and chillies!
I am delighted to announce that we have tasted our first chillies and tomatoes of 2021! Absolutely delicious. Some critter/animal is digging up our chillies at the roots so hubby set up a camera and to our surprise found a black bird. I thought it would be a cat for sure. The birds love to forage for worms and grubs and I don’t actually mind sharing some of my delights with them but they just keep digging up the chillies at the root and destroying them. I never guessed it would be a bird but this kind of makes sense now as we haven’t had much slug or snail damage recently so maybe the birds are helping. I have read that black birds dislike owls and the colour white but I’m not stealing a white owl and I can’t be bothered with netting or mesh so we will just let nature take it’s course. The corn are still looking epic and I found our first melon growing in one of the container (tubs). We relocated the loofah so they will hopefully trail up the trellis and wall. I’m not sure if it’s just my filthy mind but the loofah look like tiny penises (ha ha). I will leave you with that nice thought!
19th July 2021 – Purple veg
We returned from our 5 day holiday and all our plants are looking a little sad as I couldn’t find anyone to water them whilst we were away. Surprisingly enough all have perked up and most will hopefully survive. We got our first purple chilli and the squash is massive!
25th July 2021 – The gigantic marrow and the tallest Sunflowers
So I have decided that the Squash is more likely a Marrow. It’s huge so we decided to pick it today and are going to roast it in the oven with vegetarian chilli and cheese inside. Our Sunflowers have eventually produced flowers and are so tall. I love the fact that we all had a photo opportunity with our marrow like it was a new born baby (ha ha). All this from seed, epic.
From garden to plate! The marrow made 2 beautiful dinners for the 3 of us: Stuffed marrow with vegetarian chilli and cheese. Bunny Milo was not impressed with the marrow but we all absolutely loved it and I managed to save tons of seed.
4th August 2021 – Garden furniture
Not quite seed to feed but today our new garden furniture (sofa) got delivered so now we have an epic seating area where I can kick off my gardening shoes and put my feet up whilst admiring the fantastic views, pure heaven!
14th August 2021 – A day tending to the neglected garden
Today hubby and I spent the whole day gardening. Due to Teanna’s recent visit our beautiful garden has been neglected for a full 8 weeks. I had so much fun in the sun tending to my pride and joy. Everything is coming along nicely and i can’t believe that some of my corn actually pollinated. I am super excited at the size of the loofah too.
19th August 2021 Figs galore, Sunflower heads and more
Yesterday our first couple of figs ripened and they were whoppers too and delicious!
We also had so much fun with our Sunflower heads saving seed for next year. So much more satisfying than popping bubble wrap and more environmentally friendly too.
Our neighbour gave us a weird vegetable/fruit which looks a lot like my ass on a good day (ha ha). We established it was a Chayote (Chu Chu) I know it sounds like something I would call my lady parts (ha ha). It was heading for a vegetable chilli but ended up in my soup, it’s actually a fruit and pretty tasty.
Today we found more ripe figs, bring on the figs. Look at this big Bertha 127 grams!
5th September 2021 Sweet Potatoes
First time in my life growing organic sweet potatoes from my own slips. We are absolutely shocked that they grew so well in our rocky soil. Can you see my excitement? (ha ha). We got some whoppers and also some tiny ones but my favourite is the potato shaped like the letter S = SUCCESS! Now for the curing process. Here are some sweet potatoes with a view. Apologies we are covered in muck and soil. Apparently I do actually scrub up half decent when I can be bothered (ha ha).
We have so many Figs now we have filled up a whole chest freezer! I made some epic jam and the rest is being used in our daily fruit protein smoothies. We have a crazy amount of figs so I’m not quite sure why I sent hubby up an unstable ladder high into the Portuguese sky to collect more figs, maybe it’s just the frugal in me that hates waste. It’s gonna go either 2 ways. 1. A shed load more figs or 2. DEATH by fig picking, it’s currently 50/50 (ha ha).
Tomato, garlic & chilli pasta sauce
10kg of tomatoes = 21 jars of organic homemade tomato, garlic and chilli pasta sauce ready for the freezer. Grown from seed with LOVE and tastes so much better than shop bought. Simple recipe: tomatoes, garlic, chillies then just add onions and spices and Bob’s your uncle, in my case he actually is (ha ha).
The Luffa’s are coming along and getting huge!
Hubby said “The freezer is full of figs” I thought he was joking but NO the new huge chest freezer is full to the brim of figs all prepped and ready for my daily protein fig smoothie. I’ve also made fig jam and hydrated a batch of figs. I now have to sort through the other freezer with drawers to make space for all the frigging I mean fabulous Figs. With the freezer full, My only dilemma now is “Where am I gonna put the dead body?” (ha ha).
We are container growing loofah/luffa/sponge gourd for the first time this year. This one is small but remember folk it’s not the size of the loofah that matters it’s what you do with it (ha ha). We have some bigger ones growing and you can eat the young loofah in salads. So many people assume they grow under the sea like the natural sponge. I too thought this until I relocated to Portugal and started gardening. I’m growing mine solely for the loofah sponge for cleaning my house and exfoliating my ageing body so I look 21 again rather than nearly 50 (ha ha). It was so satisfying peeling the loofah, video worthy! Check out my CasaValhal Facebook & Instagram for the video. We also have saved tons of seed. Save seed = Save planet! What is great is I can share the joy and post some seeds to fellow Facebook friends.
It’s October and we are still harvesting tons of chillies. I am having way to much fun gardening in the Portuguese sunshine and talking to my chilli and pepper plants. We decided to dehydrate our chillies and make chilli flakes for homemade recipes. I even found a cute glass jar in Casa home store.
Bell peppers and Chillies galore
We grew Bell Peppers for the first time ever! We are still enjoying loads of Chillies too and it’s the end of October. Hubby made a spectacular dinner of Organic vegan chilli stuffed bell peppers with rice. It was so delicious. We are not vegans but enjoy eating vegan and vegetarian meals. It was very delicious and so satisfying to grow our own food to eat.
Foraging forest fun and some tree hugging
So this is technically not food from our garden but it’s free food from foraging in our local forests. I adore sweet chestnuts roasted on our old log fire. They remind me of Christmas and taste so delicious. My motto is forage enough for personal consumption then leave the rest for other people and the wildlife to enjoy. I stumbled across some wild saffron, how beautiful! Here we are on a couple of our foraging adventures. I LOVE nature XXX
The last of the Chillies
Variety is the spice of life! November 2021.
Citrus Season – Making a mess (I mean Christmas decorations) December 2021
We have a huge Orange tree which produces a shed load of oranges from December – March. I will be making delicious orange marmalade next week as I have nearly ran out of my homemade fig jam. What to do with surplus oranges? Make Christmas decorations. I’m trying to be frugal as well as saving the planet by not buying any plastic Christmas tat this year. I’m reusing all my decorations from last year, a lot are handmade by yours truly from foraged stuff I found in my garden and kitchen. I sliced and dehydrated a few oranges from our tree for table decorations. Not only do they look pretty but the aroma of Orange, Cinnamon and Rosemary is delightful. I’m covered head to toe in glitter which means hubby will also be covered in glitter by the end of the day (ha ha). I especially love it when the glitter sticks to his beard and won’t wash out for days. He just needs some beard baubles. My top tip for making red berries is to paint chick peas with red paint. The dried variety not canned (ha ha). It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas in the Casa Valhal homestead.