Don’t mention the “F” word!

Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.” Epictetus



My apologies, fellow-gardeners-over-the-fence, because I haven’t blogged about my garden for a month or so now. But I have my excuses. I have been up to my ears in figs, plums, grapes, carobs and the likes. Not to mention visitors, which has been wonderful as they often give me all kinds of ideas for the garden.  In short, I have been busy.

But as you sow, so shall you reap, as they say, and I am beginning to reap. Not only in produce, but also in the pleasure and satisfaction that starting a garden from the very beginning for the first time in my life is bringing me.


A shady corner of the garden, where I have my pots.

We have been harvesting, both my farming neighbours and I. Some of our young trees are beginning to bear fruit. But even if they  weren’t it has been a bumper harvest this year, and as we are getting to know our neighbours, they are bringing their surplus fruit. Buckets of it. First of all it was plums. We ate a lot and it had rather unfortunate digestive side effects (don’t eat hot plums straight off the tree is my advice!) We made a lot of plum crumbles and froze them. Then I dried making prunes by drying them in the sun, but some rare summer showers didn’t make that experiment too successful. I gave a bucket or so to a friend and she made some lovely jam; that was more successful! And then I realised that soft fruit can be preserved very well in vodka, which can be bought quite cheaply in supermarkets here, so I have some very pretty bottles stewing in my kitchen, ready for Christmas.

No sooner had the plums finished and we were begging everyone not to say the “p” word than the “f” word started. Figs coming out of our ears! Donna Mervihosa showed me how to dry them in the sun (you can also do it on a low oven) open two into a flower shape and then put almonds in between each petal and close them together again. They look beautiful and taste divine.  I also learnt that after drying them, pasteurising them in the freezer for 48 hours is a good idea, as it sterilises the fruit. If you do dry them in the sun, make sure the fruit is well covered with netting, so no flies can get in.

Now it’s grapes. I have experimented with raisins by drying in the oven for four hours on a low heat and they taste delicious!  I will certainly do that again next year. We  look forward to the promegranates which will be ready soon. Although I am not a great fan of the fruit itself, last year I managed to get half a glass of jiuce out of each fruit and it was delicious! A neighbour made some grape juice, as well as making the most delicious cordial from her plums. I am tempted to try making country wines, but I havent got to that degree of sophistication yet!

I have also been seed collecting, especially with some of the annuals I have produced such as the Malope Triffida Vulcans and  Zinnias, not to mention the Salvia , which I bought from a supermarket herb collection  and which went onto be a giant pungent smelling and very beautiful plant. I am ready to plant many of the perennials from seed I sowed last Autumn and am just waiting for the first rains, which started today, so that they can get a good start in the ground before next Spring.


I have tried hard not to water very much at all this summer. My more established gravel beds containing succulents and grasses are doing well with very little water. In fact, I have realised that watering in the hot months actually damages the aromatic native plants, once they are established, but it does take a great deal of faith to realise this. The mineral mulch has been excellent in shading the roots and keeping any moisture in and there is a huge difference in how much better a plant without the mulch survive in the summer, compared to those that have been mulched.


Iris Sibirica, and Lavender “Blue Hidcote” grown from seed

I have just started my second lasagna bed and planted my first with this season’s cabbages. We  got a good crop of tomatoes and courgettes from the first lasagna bed this summer, which I was very pleased with. If anything, there was rather too much nitrogen, which meant less flowers on the courgettes than I would have liked, but I put all the year’s collected eggshells under the tomatoes and sprayed them with diluted milk and I had no blight or moulds, which I think is a great result!


Start of lasagna bed using newspapers and “char” crushed from the barbecue and stewed in water and chicken poo!

Last yeat

Last year’s Lasagna bed, newly planted with cabbages and lettuce and irrigated with trickle hose.

So here comes the year’s beginning again, as the first rains fall outside the window. I hope you have had a good gardening year  wherever you are. I think of my fellow gardeners fondly as I work on my jobs in the garden. I hope your harvests have been plentiful too.

The first rains

The first rains and another gardening year begins.


14 thoughts on “Don’t mention the “F” word!

  1. Good to see you back, Jane. And what a wonderful harvest of things you’ve had, put to good use too. I remember drowning in plums, freezing loads (spent a lot of time on the loo!). This year has not been a good crop but the black figs were plentiful and the majority were much enjoyed by the birds.

    Down here we seem to get one fat and one lean year and at times it is a relief to have a lean year.and escape the mayhem in the kitchen with too much fruit.

    We were whale watching at Tarifa today so missed the storm in our home area.


  2. Lovely to hear from a fellow gardener from Southern climes! How did the whale watching go? Did you see any? what sort of whales would they be? I wonder if you could see them here off Sagres.
    We had a storm or two but only a tiny bit of rain sadly, my garden has its tongue out and is rasping lol.


  3. Wow, you’ve been very busy. And it sounds like you’ve had some good results and great harvests too! Yay for that. I’m about to try drying my tomatoes in the oven as they’ll likely mold if i try the sun at this point. I used to dry them all the time but it completely escapes me how i did it. ah well, can’t miss with the oven and some good olive oil. Enjoy your hard work! It’s good to know you’re still around here. 😉


  4. Great harvest, I smiles when I read your introductory quote as figs are unusual in that that don’t produce flowers! I don’t think putting figs in the freezer sterilizes them, it might kill any fungus but not any bacteria. Putting them under brandy is another option to be recommended!


  5. So glad of your article- thanks! Just got back to UK after visiting Algarve, while driving about I was wondering how your garden is coming along? We stayed on an orange plantation, and seriously couldn’t get through the abundance of them and the grapes that were like pink jewels – yum! Looking forward to more of your postings, I am hopefully retaining all of your tips for when I get my own garden on the go in the next year or so… ( hoping to settle in the Tavira area inland a bit, selling house in UK first though…)
    Thanks again, all the best… 🙂


  6. We did see whales – a school of pilot whales with heads like balloons, and in the distant a great column of water, followed by a huge tail rising and falling: it was said to be a sperm whale which normally leaves the area for colder climes in July – but they are still around. There were several schools of dolphins too. They have orcas and fin whales in the area too but we saw none of those. A good day though.


  7. Hi Jane just caught up with your Blog via BE site…you have a lovely writing style and gentle humour…congrats on a very informative and most of all enjoyable blog…
    We moved here to the outskirts of Lagos in a villa overlooking the sea..Having previously gardened for over 30 yrs in Brabant,Netherlands,before that Southport UK.
    Having had a huge lush country garden backing onto forest in NL..I had to re-learn all the things I had forgotten about owning a seaside one…albeit a ready made one inherited from previous owner..who did the usual thing…came twice a year and left it to the not too tender mercies of a contract Gardener…ie.raise to the ground twice a year..and cut anything ‘hedgy’ into ridiculous ‘shapes’ lol…I also inherited said gardener..with very strong views about plants…Its been a difficult 3yrs to persuade him that I know a tiny bit about the world of gardening…(Father was a great gardener/plantsman/ allotment owner.and show judge…I learned to prick out seedlings as a 5yrs old.) and to train him to stop scything my Agapanthus leaves down as soon as the flower heads have gone to seed..or ‘horror’ cut my beautiful ornamental grasses down to 5inch stubbs…in JULY…aaagh…Telling him that I had met and talked to Piet Oudolf..the guru of all things ‘grassy’..who told me how to deal with them himself….made zero difference.

    Just want to say as a p.s….My mind seems to be similar to yours in that I talk to my plants..(inherited from father) and as I write and paint as well..I love to think of the past and why we are in certain places..and see all sorts of connections..real or imagined…I see for instance that you have a Welsh background…My Grandfather and mother were Welsh..(Celts.) A race who apparently have predominately Middle Eastern blood group markers!! (The Irish have predominately Iberian BGM)..Just read the most amazing book about the very strong possibility that this area we live in was the mythical Atlantis!!.peopled by a tribe called the Conill (Konil) who were responsible for building the standing stones all the way along the sea board to Wales and up into the Lake District etc…a thousand yrs before StoneHenge..It’s believed those people…were the Celts….Gives me the shivers…as I also believe we pass on not only DNA…but memory as well…Atlantis was described as ‘Paradise on Earth’ before it was destroyed in the world’s worst Earthquake and Tsunami.. full of lush gardens, tinkling water, birds and animals…even Elephants…Maybe your ‘DNA memory is trying to do your bit to put it back…a thought to muse on…Good luck with your lovely blog..Jenny x


  8. Hi Jenny, so sorry not to have replied to your lovely comment sooner! Especially as you have so many interesting things to say. Thanks for your kind comments. I am really writing this blog as a diary for myself, but in the process thought I may as well make it public, so that I could learn from others and they could learn from my mistakes and trials and tribulations. This is my first large garden, although i have been a keen gardener for many years. I hope you are feeling better and are back out and about in the garden now. I too, am fascinated by the history of the Algarve. So many peoples have come and gone, apart from the Konil, the Turdetanos, the Phoenecians, the Carthiginians, the Romans, the Visgoths (not in that order particulalry lol) and each one bringing their agriculture and farming methods with them. I learnt that Olive Oil was used by the Romans for light originally. And a lot of trade taking place with Africa and other parts of the world. I have been chuckling over the image of elephants here, I once came across some elephants walking across a square on a frosty morning in a small town in Northern France. I have no idea what they were doing there, but I have never fogotten it. Please drop in on the blog from time to time and help me out with ideas and stuff. Thanks for the encouragement!


  9. How wonderful! I really didn’t realise you could see them so close to here. I must look out for them. We see flamingoes on the Ria Formosa and I find that a wonder too!


  10. Thanks so much for your kind comments and sorry for the delay in replying. Good luck with your house sale and re-settling here. We haven’t regretted it for a second so far.


  11. I probably mislead people, it wasn’t all my harvest, it’s just that it’s all around me and everyone gives everyone lese any surplus. In fact it is probably possible to get back some figs you gave to someone a week earlier, via several more people, lol. Although I have some mature trees, many are still very small and only just starting to produce. Thanks for your comment re the figs. You are quite right, they don’t flower! Why is that? Are the figs the flowers? I think it is important to know the facts when preserving things and I am sure that dunking them in brandy would be an excellent way.


  12. Hi, L’Adelaide. Lovely to hear from you again and sorry for the rather tardy reply. How is the garden going. Is the Autumn settling in there? Hope to be posting more now the busy Summer peiod is over. xx


  13. Hi Mara, Sorry not to have replied earlier. How great were the apricots this year? I sun-dried some given to me by a neighbour, and they were delicious. I have a small apricot tree, but it isn’t really bearing yet. I think apricots are great here, because they come to fruit before the medfly is really about. All the best x


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