Category Archives: Garden Stuff

Ongoing development of garden

Greenhouse Construction

This is the result of a recent project – building a galvanised steel and polycarbonate sheet greenhouse. Originally intended for a xmas present for ‘Her Outdoors’ it took much longer to build than expected, mainly due to an injury sustained while playing walking football. Dangerous game!

Ask a question or leave a comment to let me know what you think of the greenhouse. Links to some of the materials bought from Leroy Merlin are provided below.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS

  • Hammer drill
  • Angle grinder
  • Metal hole punch
  • Riveter
  • Assorted hand tools
  • Driver

MATERIALS

High Flying Views

We’ve had the pleasure of a visit from Glenn, son of Sundance for a few days, complete with his new DJI Mavic quadcopter. Good flying conditions in the UK are a rare occasion, particularly in the winter months, but here in Portugal we are much more fortunate.

The week provided some excellent opportunities; the Vilamoura Regatta and the Loule Carnaval the most notable. However, such public events are subject to restrictions on flying drones and indeed there are plans to bring in more regulations to control this emerging industry.

Drone Rules and restrictions in PORTUGAL

  • Flight above 120 meters height
  • Within controlled airspace
  • Night flight (Sunset +25min till Sunrise -25min)
  • Beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flight
  • Drone weight +25Kg
  • Over crowds (+12 persons).

No footage of the regatta or Carnival, but you can see some aerial footage of our garden…

 

 

 

 

Hot Composting

We’ve tried a number of times to make our own compost. Unfortunately the usual method of dumping all the garden waste, fruit and vegetable peelings into a pile and waiting is not very effective in the Portuguese climate. Even when Her Outdoors had me peeing on it every morning (urine as fertiliser!).

Her Outdoors therefore decided to do some research and discovered ‘hot composting’. Watch the video to see how we finally managed to produce high quality compost in 18 days.

 

Sunshine in the rain

With no significant rain from early May to November, Portugal has had it’s worst drought in over 20 years. Her Outdoors tried pleading, praying and dancing to break the dry spell. See her reaction as the heavens opened.

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UNWELCOME VISITOR (pt. 2)

I thought Her Outdoors would be happy to see one of her friends, or what I thought was one of her friends. Since we moved here to Portugal we haven’t seen many of them. We have so many places for them to stay now that I thought they’d both be happy. I was wrong. I was in trouble.

It came about as I was re-laying a path. The path runs from the side of the house, down past the pool, into the lower meadow.  When we have a downpour (Her Outdoors is praying for one at the moment) the water runs off the roof onto the hard landscaped area and onto the path. When I say downpour I mean POUR and DOWN. It flows at a rapid rate. It gushes. It overshoots. It washes things away, hence the need to re-lay the path.

So I was down at the bottom of the path, next to the meadow which is next to the road. I’d just lifted a flagstone when I spotted the ‘friend’. I was excited. The first such friend I’d seen in a long time. “Hello my little beauty” I said, “Her Outdoors will be so happy to see you”. With that I scooped the friend up and carried her, whooping with joy to regale Her Outdoors with her presence. That was me whooping with joy, not the friend. The friend was wriggling, but mute.

I reached Her Outdoors and presented her friend to her. She shrieked. Her Outdoors that is. The friend is mute, remember. “Take it away” she said, “I don’t want to see it!”

“Why not” I hesitatingly asked, still holding the friend that was wriggling uncomfortably by now. “I thought you’d be happy to have this visitor in your garden. Aren’t they good for the soil?”

“Worms are, but that’s a bloody snake!”

LATER…

After some research…It turns out that we were both wrong, it was an Iberian worm lizard. Although I was partially right…

Iberian Worm Lizard photo by Jorozko

If you are an internet worm (as opposed to a bookworm) you can find out more on this interesting blog – https://allyouneedisbiology.wordpress.com

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From Cottage Garden to Algarve Adventure


After visiting the Algarve in 2013, Sundance and I loved it so much, that after extensive research, we decided to buy a holiday home. We now treat it more as our main home, spending more and more time here. If you have visited Portugal you may have noticed that ornamental gardening isn’t prevalent in the Algarve outside of the popular tourist spots. The reason is that in a country where starvation is still a living memory, to use water on flowers is almost tantamount to a crime. Any efforts to grow flowers are seen as a luxury and they are usually grown along walls with the use of washing up water or slops in an almost clandestine fashion.

Transformations – seasonal & manual!

June, July and August are very dry months especially in the Algarve, accompanied with the threat of devastating fires. In times of drought and hot temperatures, conserving water is a major consideration and therefore I’m learning all about gardening with less water.

With water conservation in mind, our lawn was dug up, irrigation removed and rocks taken from one area to be used in another. We inherited an ornamental garden with palm and cypress trees, cobbled courtyards and countless statues along with a sizable uncultivated area. Like many property owners it wasn’t all to our taste and a great deal (of some areas) was covered with invasive overgrowth. Our first jobs were to tackle the awful vine cover, along with a lot of overgrown weeds and prune the huge trees on our border. Pruning the trees was very rewarding, as it opened up the most wonderful views from the house, down through the hills to the sea, some 10km away (apologies to UK readers for the use of km – it’s a Euro thing!).

Taking a ’xeriscape’ approach (gardening without irrigation) took a bit more of a leap of faith. In September, on our return from our UK visit, many plants seemed withered and sad beyond hope, but with the first rains it was astonishing to see most revive quickly and an almost luminous green appear overnight. Those that didn’t survive, I rationalised, weren’t meant to be. Plants need the right setting to thrive and I decided sticking to mainly indigenous plants, which tend to be drought resistant, would be a sensible way to go. One day, hopefully, the end result will be something along the lines of a Mediterranean garden which keeps beauty and colour but with low maintenance and low water usage. The main characteristic of this style of garden is the focus on hardscaping: patios, courtyards, gazebos, paths and areas covered with stones.

Goodbye lawn, hello fire pit

This has largely been Sundance’s forte and he’s slaved away in many a midday sun to get raised beds built, fire-pit finished, petanque piste perfect, steps appearing here and there, meandering paths and terraces. Colourful stones, pebbles, rocks and trellis were used along with bits from a dilapidated cart and old knarled tree trunks.

There are many “pockets” of garden with dramatic differences. Some areas have such a thin coating of soil that we’ve been able to expose rock, whereas soils under trees tend to have rich, dark, crumbly soil. Other areas have the red clay soil that dries like a brick for half the year. We’ve tried to utilize these differences along with varied conditions of light and level. The softscape comes from the choice of plants, shrubs and trees. It was great to inherit some well-established trees: almond, carob, loquat and olive where no watering is needed and fruits abound in season. An added bonus is fabulous almond blossoms in January and our three pomegranate trees have been stunning throughout the year with red flowers, lovely young red leaves in spring followed by very attractive fruits and yellowing leaves in winter. We also have citrus trees, which have the most fabulous juicy fruit and the blossom scent is exquisite. These have needed more water and care, but we’ve been well rewarded. An interesting feature is that you can find blossom, tiny green fruit and mature oranges all on the same tree at the same time. As for lemons, there is a steady supply all year round and even surplus for the occasional visitor from our home village of Barton to smuggle back into the UK to pep up their G&T’s!

ALGARVE  LEARNING POINTS

  • Oleanders – large, colourful, grow in poor soil.
  • Passion Flowers and heavily scented Jasmine can climb anything.
  • Local grasses are hardy, drought resistant and are stunning.
  • Huge variety of cacti, euphorbia and succulents which require no watering and blooms are dramatically colourful, if short lived.
  • Rosemary, lavender, thyme and artemis bushes, hibiscus and lantana flow effortlessly adding colour and scents.
  • Portuguese varieties of rose bushes need little water.
  • Bougainvillea come in many colours and are stunningly beautiful, but petals need sweeping just about every day of the year!
  • Herbs thrive too and there is nothing quite like picking fresh produce from the garden for your cooking.
  • Pots filled with evergreen plants or herbs – easy to water by hand – provide interest.
  • Have an anti-mosquito plant or two – lavender, lemon geranium near the outdoor dining area – keep pests at bay and also have heavenly scents.
  • Invasive plant species – usually non-indigenous, damaging and hard to get rid of!

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A Rock & A Hard Place

Until now I’ve associated succulent plants with the spindly, sad specimens my mother had on her window sill. They appeared lifeless lacking the excitment and colour of other plants. But when I inherited this garden in Portugal, I discovered, they didn’t need to be indoor plants with all the limitations of a British home; far from being boring, these plants are the ones that have captured my imagination most.

aeonium-in-rock-cu
Rocky the Aeonium

An Aeonium growing out of a rock, enormous blue and varigated agaves that give drama to the rocky part of our garden that has less than 2 inches of soil, the subtle colours of echeverias which seem to show permanent flower rosettes until the flower starts to really flower with the prettiest of blooms. There is a wondrous variety of colour, texture, size and form. They can be spiky, fuzzy, often multi-coloured. They can be pudgy and round or leafy and delicate. They can be enormous and architectural and intimidating or tiny and intricate and itybity . They can be so cute or can be aggressive and poisonous and violent.

varigated-agaves1
Start of tidying up Variegated Agaves bed

The last two summers in Portugal have been long and hot and we haven’t been here to water so most of the established garden has had to survive without water and on the whole it has especially, I note, the succulents. They look a bit sad when we arrive back from our summer holidays but after the first rains everything seems to revive miraculously.

succulent-bed
Newly acquired succulents

The more succulents I meet the more I gawk in wonder. A word of caution though, don’t just plough into Agaves, Their sap is a nasty irritant. Just ask ‘Mr Sundance’. That was one rash move too many for him!

Search for San Pedro

Trichocereus pachanoi… doesn’t that just roll off the tongue…. is it the name of a dinosaur; an Italian dish perhaps? To me, with my burgeoning passion for succulents, it is the San Pedro cactus, which grows like a candelabra tree and no spikes. Inspired either by the romance of those iconic giant cacti featured in the westerns I watched as a child, or more likely by the enthusiasm of Lyn Kimberley of Desert Plants of Avalon growing her weird and wacky cacti in the Emerald Isle I decided now was my opportunity and San Pedro was the one! My new found passion for succulents was taking off.

euphorbia-ingens
A Growing Passion
Lyn had grown one from seed in Ireland and was now getting a spectacular display of huge white, scented flowers, albeit 15 years later. Surely it would thrive in our Quinta garden in Portugal, whose climate is much more akin to Peru where it originated.  Now I’m patient, but not that patient. I didn’t want to wait 15 years, so headed down to our local garden centre. There they had a few largish columnar Cacti with lethal spikes, but no San Pedro.
Ever on the look out for inspiration from neighbouring gardens, however, I had noticed a rather huge and lovely specimen a few houses along from there. On closer inspection I saw a branch had broken off and was caught in the upper branches. Much to the embarrassment of Alan I called to ask if I could have it. The front door looked rather grand as if it wasn’t used so I went round to the side and shouted ‘Ola!’ in the open kitchen door. A little old lady appeared looking suspiciously at me, or it could have been me that looked suspicious… I’d practiced what I was going to say in Portuguese and while I was speaking suddenly a huge grin appeared on her face. Was it a smile at my attempt at speaking Portuguese or, as I prefer to think, was  it her delight in finding someone who really appreciated her garden?
Her husband was called and along with ladder and broom handle, not only got that piece down but also broke off another piece especially for me. They were the size of leg body parts and just as heavy! Result… or so I thought! When I got them home, I found it was not in fact a cactus at all but Euphorbia ingens! I’ve dried them out and planted them in a sandy soil mix hoping they will ‘take’.
Now, where did I see that Echeveria Pulidonis….

Palm Tree Pruning

We have a number of palm trees around the garden, but the one right in front of the house was unsightly, made a mess on the paths when it shed it’s fruit and was quite noisy in windy conditions. ‘Her Outdoors’ decided to call in the professionals as trimming palms can be quite dangerous as there have been several fatalities over the years. Also, my life insurance cover had lapsed, but she did say I that I will be allowed to trim the Dwarf Palms. I shot the pruning process and then produced a promo video for CCServicos.net.