Wednesday, April 24, 2019
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Things to do in December and January in your Vegetable garden in central Portugal.

There might not be much snow in Central Portugal but freezing temperatures there certainly can be on higher ground. However, clear blue skies and golden hues can make this one of the nicest times of year to be out in the veg patch, when its not raining.

  • One of the main concerns is the frost over the winter period. Water bottles cut in half can be put over any seedlings you may have growing now and even the most basic plastic wrapped frames protect half-hardy plants. Citrus trees are very vulnerable – three or four wooden poles covered with bubblewrap will certainly help the smaller ones. Bubblewrap is also great for wrapping round terracotta pots if these can’t be moved to a sheltered spot. Protect delicate cauliflower heads by covering them with their leaves.

  • Winter is a great time to do some physical exercise! If you want more beds for next year dig the ground over now (removing perennial weeds) and then cover with cardboard or layers of paper. (A great way of dealing with Christmas packaging!) Wet these thoroughly if there’s no rain on the horizon and, if possible, cover with grass cuttings. Come February / March all the cardboard and grass will have almost disappeared and they’ll be ready for sowing.

  • We are attempting the ‘no-dig’ way – letting the worms do the work for us. Any empty beds are covered with compost preventing weeds from growing and which slowly works its way down improving texture and nutrients.

  • Just because all the leaves may have fallen off your straggly vines doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good time to prune. Keep an eye out for what the locals are up to as it varies in different areas; ours are not cut until early spring.

  • Remember the wild life! Don’t start too many bonfires; keep a pile of any logs or cut-off branches to one side for hibernating hedgehogs etc. Toads love a large pile of leaves. And don’t rake up and dispose of the fallen olives, the birds love those!

  • This time of year is always one of reflection. Think about starting a gardening diary - it’s a great way to record dates, successes and failures. Don’t be put off though with a bad year for one crop, have another go and compare the outcome – you may be pleasantly surprised. With crop rotation in mind, and if you’ve quite a few beds like us, a plan of what’s been growing where is a good idea.

  • Finally, sit down with a seed catalogue (and your plan!) and dream about next year’s veg patch. Happy growing for the year ahead!

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This page is written by Jackie McAvoy, read her blog The Story of Casa Azul.