Gardening in Portugal-Spring Update


Spring pots planted up

It’s Spring and I’ve  been feeling a bit desperate. Spring should be the time when everything is busting out all over, but unfortunately there isn’t a great deal of planting to bust out in my garden yet. We have done a lot of work, enough to make us ache all over. I have an additional blog to support new arrivals to The Algarve here which explains what we’ve been up to, making a gravel bed.

So, it was some pleasure that I stumbled upon a wonderful blog, part of which I reblogged in two earlier  posts, describing the process of creating a garden in Lazio, Italy. The writer is a very experienced gardener and designer and gives me inspiration and strength to believe in the  possibilities, even though sometimes it feels very difficult to garden on this windswept hillside with little water. Onwards and Upwards!

So come with me on a little walk around the garden, what there is of it. There HAS been progress, of course there has. It was a building site under two years ago, I remind myself frequently. Here is what it looked like then.

Before there was a Garden

I have tried to see the garden in sections. It’s the only way I can stop myself feeling engulfed. This is not a huge garden, but for us, who have been used to a backyard terraced garden in South london, cheek by jowl with others, it is daunting enough! And I am in my third and final age, so five years is a long time for me. But I can’t go faster than the plants grow.  I have to take a step at a time.

Small triumphs are that we have nearly completed the gravel terraced area on top of the bank, mentioned above.  It has been really hard labour, hauling gravel up the hill. I haven’t been able to plant the whole area because of shortage of funds, but have several grasses, pennisetums and iris sibirica which I am growing from seed and hope to plant in the Autumn, along with lavender cuttings. This side of the terrace  was planted last Autumn. The lavender hedge was grown from cuttings, so I am hopeful that I can replicate it fairly cheaply in other areas of the garden. The clay soil here is good for striking cuttings, if you get it at the right time when it is wet and warm enough, but it can be a bit hit and miss, so I have also done some in pots.


The gravelled area and lavender hedge, grown from cuttings



The side of the gravelled area that was planted a year ago

There is at least bit of Spring going on here. I have planted grasses at the top of the bank, which I have cut back, so it’s somehwat bare. I also buried  some dutch irises I bought at the MGS fair in between other plants . I haven’t a clue what they are all called, either common names or Latin ones, but I must sort this out. I am always muddling up plant labels and forgetting what I’ve planted where.  There are so many different irises, bearded iris, dutch irises, flags etc. I sometimes wonder where they are all growing together, if one sees itself as more superior to the other. I imagine the bearded irises (I think they are Iris germanicus) mocking the slightly more gentile dutch variety.  (Reading this back, I think I have spent too long on my own with the plants!)

In the vegetable garden, my sister sent me some Jerusalem Artichokes from her garden in Wales  (or Fartichokes, as she calls them) I think they should do very well here and indeed they are popping up their little shoots already, bless them. I had them on my allotment in Dulwich and enjoyed growing them and eating them. I even had them in a tiny back garden in Crystal palace, where they were a talking point for the neighbours.


Jerusalem Artichokes

Señor  Faztudo has made me a glory hole. We have created a fenced off and gravelled area below the shed where I can potter and plant to my heart’s content. We are very different, in that he is obsessively tidy and  I am pathologically messy. We usually work it out somehow!


The Glory Hole

I have planted a Lidl’s rose of unnamed variety to grow up the fence, which is supposed to climb and cover everything with pink roses, along with some ivy. It was  one euro 49 cents in a sale.(I can’t afford David Austin at the moment!)  In the meantime, I have some horrible green screening to hide the mess and I have planted some succulents in old cat food tins and hung them from the fence. It’s a kind of temporary joke and a nod to my hippy days and I like it.


Cat food tins recycled as planters for succulents

The camellia below is very pretty, but really a gardening mistake. I wanted something to plant in the flower trough near the front door, but then realised it was full of alkaline soil.  It likes acid soil. So I have put  it into a pot and I water it every day with coffee grinds which are a little acid. It seems happy. It looks good against the pigmented plaster, I think.


In the vegetable garden, we are cropping peas, mangetout and lettuce and Portugese kale. I have planted some courgette seeds in my newly created lasagna bed, but the blackbirds have dug them all up looking for worms, so I will have to plant them again. Some of my small tomato plants have been eaten by cutworms, but I have more plants  to replace them.


Pea plants in my garden

I haven’t got much room for potatoes, so I have planted some in a sack, as an experiment. Watch this space. Once they sprout you just put more soil in and they are supposed to keep putting tubers out.


Potatoes planted in a sack

I have developed a love affair with succulents and cacti  and have been  potting them up in the Glory Hole. I found out recently from a fellow Algarve gardener  they are better grown on in light shade, so I’ll  be moving them to a shadier place when it gets hotter. The scallop shells, which are plentiful on the beach here, make a good shade protector and look pretty, I  think.


A good use of scallop shells

The succulent gravel garden is doing well. This was grown in the place where the builder’s mixed all the concrete to build the house and was really the only choice for a garden here. It’s difficult because the area by the wall is in deep shade, but I am pleased with its progress, albeit slow. I have put the pots as an edging, with a dogs skull I found on a walk. Poor dog. He had healed injuries on his skull which suggested a hard life. I wanted him to rest in peace, as a thing of beauty.


The succulents garden

Other jobs we have completed is to feed all the fruit trees with lovely sheep manure. Unfortunately the sheep manure came with rather a large number of ticks which we have been removing from the cats and even ourselves this week. Ah, the trials of gardening! But I’m sure it will be worth it when we bite into those succulent oranges…in about three or four years time! So that’s the update. Now let’s sit under the olive and have some tea. How is your garden getting on?


Gwynnie dreaming


2 thoughts on “Gardening in Portugal-Spring Update

  1. Thanks you for wanting to share my posts about the spring walk. I’m surprised you find clay a good choice of soil for your cuttings usually something with more drainage is better, sand with perlite and just a little soil usually works best. Most irises will do well in your conditions so you’re chosed well with them. It can work out cheaper to buy in a couple of rhizones because they’ll grow very quickly and you’ll be able to divide flowering plants within a couple of years, bearded irises from seed will take a while! Something worth remembering is thasat it is ALWAYS worth planting in autumn and not spring, you’ll be amazed a how much more quickly the plants will establish, almost always overtaking planting from a previous spring and producing better adapted plants. I can see you winters are much warmer than here, which isn’t a true Mediterranean climate as temperatures drop to minus 10 or 12 most years (not this year!). I tried potatoes in a sack last year but I put far too many in so the result was lots of very small potatoes so you need a maximum of three to the sack. The camelia will need lots of shade and lots of water in late summer when it is making buds for next year. Good luck!


  2. Thanks Christina. I will try that with my cuttings and hope to strike more. The bearded irises are easy to find here, because they have become naturalised, both blue and white ones and can be found everywhere by the waysides. Someone knowledgeable about the area told me that the Moors planted them in graveyards, which is why they are everywhere! Winters are warmer, but can be very wet and in the valleys there is often frost, but not here on our hill. I am glad you told me about the potatoes, I will take some out and put in another sack! All of your tips are so helpful and thanks very much for taking the time to comment, I appreciate it.


Please talk to me. I am struggling here!

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