Get fit, get healthy and get eating!

news: Get fit, get healthy and get eating!

SO YOU want to lose weight, eat a healthier diet and begin some regular exercise. Look out of the window – that big green blob covered in oxalis daisies could be your route to achieving those three ambitions.‘

‘Growing your own’ will give you regular purposeful exercise, enable you to control the ‘nasties’ that go into your food, while improving its flavour and nutritional value. Once you begin harvesting your own vegetables, you will not be content to simply boil them up and dish them out. For each tenderly loved crop to be fully appreciated, you will become more creative in the kitchen and eating will become a joy once again. That green blob outside has the potential to be the making of the new you!

Still on the personal development theme, the wonder of vegetable gardening is the opportunity it gives us to learn from one year to the next and the hopes and expectations it allows us to cultivate. A simple mistake can be catastrophic for one year, but is certain not to be repeated the next. Gardening teaches us as we go along and, as we improve, become more informed and more proficient, our plans and aspirations increase accordingly. Unlike many other hobbies and pastimes, we can control just how much of our time it takes up. We can have a small vegetable patch providing a few extra summer salad ingredients or cultivate enough land to feed ourselves and others for the whole year – the choice is ours.

If you are new to vegetable growing, my advice is to begin small – just a few square metres of soil. Work hard at this piece of land, weeding, enriching, and sowing. Ensure you do a perfect job which will hopefully lead to a rewarding harvest. Only when you are certain that you can maintain this area effectively should you think about expanding into pastures new. This approach will lead to success and avoid the pitfall of taking on too much, doing nothing successfully and eventually wishing you’d never thought of it in the first place.

February is a good month to sit down with pen and paper to begin planning the culinary year ahead. Factors to consider are:

1. What you and your family

enjoy eating.

2. Can it grow here?

3. Do you have the time, land and

water the crop demands?

4. Will a home produced crop ‘stand out’ above shop bought?

If a vegetable gets a ‘yes’ in all four categories – put it on your list. The supermarkets and agricultural stores/co-operatives already have their seeds in stock for this summer, so you can begin hunting down the varieties you desire. A number of seed companies are online now and deliver to Portugal. These companies are good for rare varieties of seed, but, for reliability and value for money, I find the Portuguese seed companies difficult to beat. Most Portuguese seed companies now include some limited instructions about when to plant, which are extremely useful, particularly with unfamiliar varieties.

Last month a sowing guide for January to June was published. On the rigth is the other half of the horticultural calendar taking us through to December. Remember the list is not exhaustive and is based almost entirely on personal experience. Use it to help you, but allow your own experience and intuition to guide you too.

Next month we will make preparations for spring sowing and take a detailed look at some vegetables that can be planted in March.

Sowing guide for July to December


Sowing: French beans, carrots, cucumbers, pumpkins, potatoes. To get an early start you could also plant some cauliflowers and cabbages ready for transplanting six weeks later.

Other tasks: Prepare beds for brassica transplants – lime first, wait a month then manure or fertilise.


Sowing: French beans, cabbages, cauliflowers, pumpkins, potatoes, mange-tout peas for a November crop.

Other tasks: Transplant cabbage and cauliflower seedlings if they have five true leaves.


Sowing: As long as it is still sunny and not too wet, many crops can still be sown – French beans, cabbages, carrots, lettuces, Chinese cabbage and the last planting of potatoes. It should now be cool enough to begin winter radishes and turnips as well as small radishes.

Other tasks: Prepare beds for planting broad beans and peas that are going to over winter.


Sowing: Broad beans and peas, lettuces (not if it is very wet), radishes, winter radish and carrots to over winter.

Other tasks: Transplant cabbage seedlings if they have five true leaves.


Sowing: Broad beans and peas.

Other tasks: Transplant cabbage seedlings if they have five true leaves.


Sowing: If you are desperate to sow seeds, you can still put in broad beans and peas. Lettuces will germinate and grow quickly under a makeshift cod frame.