Monday, December 04, 2023

March is a busy time down in the veg patch.

If you want to make the most of the Portuguese spring before the summer heat, now’s the time for sowing seeds, and transplanting the seedlings.na_horta_march You want as much as possible in the ground by April, any later and many plants won’t be big enough to cope with the sun.

That said there can still be frosts in the higher regions. We still get cold temperatures at night in central Portugal so be careful with tender plants. But it’s definitely time to don those wellies and get cracking!

  • Make some cloches – or, if you have room, make a polytunnel! It makes a very big difference. Rolls of plastic are very cheap here in Portugal, it cost about 4 euros to cover ours! Small cloches made from wooden frames and plastic sheeting are easy – they’re great for covering seed trays and later small plants, protecting them from cold nights and things that nibble. Keep an eye open for discarded window frames, propped up against the wall or placed over an old crate, they make great little greenhouses.

  • Start sowing. If you’ve ordered seeds from abroad experiment with the dates, you’ll be surprised. If you can grow ‘under cover’ (see above) then you can easily sow a month earlier. The melon seed packet I have says the temperature needs to be 20C day and night – which of course doesn’t happen, but there are already signs of germination. There are plenty of places to buy seed packets here of course, but I’ve yet to come across any organic ones.

  • Plant seed potatoes. Mid March is a good time to get your potatoes in the ground.

  • Start some organic fertilizer. Collect those lovely spring stinging nettles (wearing gloves of course!) and put them in a large bucket. Cover na horta march seedlingswith water and wait – it’ll turn into a rather nasty, smelly sludge but once it’s past that stage and all the nettles have broken down you’ve got some great fertilizer to add to your watering can for the months ahead.

  • Visit the local markets for plug plants. They’re amazingly cheap and save you heaps of time and effort. There’s not a great variety of things, and they won’t be organic, but they’re certainly an option. Check out the strawberries that are for sale now.

  • Start a compost heap. Bash together four pallets and fill with your kitchen vegetable waste (remembering not to add any cooked food). 

  • Get the Gardener’s World newsletter emailed to you. It’s free and although for the UK is full of great advice.


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