Being a novice gardener, with only my childhood memories of Mam’s green fingered wizardry, I found the biggest problem I had, when trying to start my own vegetable garden in Crete, was timing.

As any good comedian will tell you, timing is………………..crucial.

After weeks of care and attention, I’d lovingly snuggle my little seedlings into their prepared bed and proudly admire their brave attempts to keep upright. I’d watch, as over the next few days , they’d dig their little roots into the soft bed and then, disaster. They’d either be too young to cope with a heat wave in Winter or too leggy to weather the winds of Spring.

A quick visit to my local horticultural expert, Kosta’s our neighbour, and I’d find the same species of plant reaching for the skies like a troop of pirouetting ballerinas, far stronger than my own. My timing was out.

Kosta’s little ones had flown the nest four weeks before I’d given my little darlings their first field trip. Inevitably, his were much more prepared.

The climate here in Crete is wonderful, long hot Summers that stretch into October, mild Autumns, short Winters and Spring is here again before you’ve had the chance to dig out your hot water bottle and sow that patch on your old jumper. 

But gardeners be ware, in January we enjoy the Halcyon days, when the north wind ceases and gives way to the warm air from Africa. Resulting in a few weeks of warm, dry, glorious weather that, whilst it cradles and nurtures your bones, will devastate your unattended plants. Halcyon comes form the Greek word for Kingfisher (αλκυονα) and according to legend the kingfisher is responsible for this warm period as she needs to calm the waters to lay her eggs in a floating nest.

In summary, Spring winds will flatten your broad beans and suck the moisture out of delicate leaves, Summer will scorch, Autumn is perfect but for the odd heatwave and Winter is welcome.

So, in the hope that my experience can help others,  I’d like to share with you my planting schedule as I’ve developed it over the past 3 years. It’s not “one size fits all” as every garden is different, but the general rule of timing applies. The table below is basically split into 4 columns, the first is the vegetable, the second tells you what season you’ll be eating it in, the third tells you when to sow it and finally what to plant it with.

I can’t stress enough that this is my personal plan, based on my experience of gardening here in Crete.

To help you fight the battle of the pests, I strongly recommend that you plant plenty of basil and marigolds in your veg patch, plus onions and garlic which  I plant around the edge of each of my planters and then my vegetable in the centre, this works as a kind of barrier or security fence around the vegetables. I’ve also very successfully, grown carrots in a huge plastic half barrel, inter-planted with garlic.

 Good luck.

  when do we when do we put what’s a good    
what ? eat it ? the seeds in ? companion ?    
cabbage   july carrots,potatoes    
cauliflower   july onions,leeks,garlic    
broccoli winter july onions,leeks,garlic    
carrots   september onions,leeks,garlic    
turnips   september onions,leeks,garlic    
onions,leeks   september everything except beans and sage
pot1   september cabbage,marigold,carrot  
broad beans   october anything apart from onions & basil
pak choi   december onions,leeks,garlic    
parsley   january tomato,carrot    
onions,leeks spring december everything except beans  
lettuce   january onions,leeks,garlic,corn  
swiss chard   december onions,leeks,garlic    
pot2   december cabbage,marigold,carrot  
garlic   december everything    
tomato   january marigolds,basil,peppers  
cucumber   february peppers,    
courgette   february parsley,tomato,pepper  
pepper summer january cucumber,    
aubergine   february peppers,beans,lettuce    
beans   march corn,aubergines,cucumbers,peppers
corn   march beans,lettuce,peppers,cucumbers
melon   february corn,radish,nasturtium  
basil   march pepper,tomato    
  autumn we’re still eating all of the above summer veg until sep/oct 
lettuce   september everything especially onions,leeks,garlic,
celery   september everything except parsley and carrot,

Autumn Harvest

oranges-1I remember reading somewhere the definition of Autumn as the season between Summer and Winter, it must be the dullest of definitions for such a glorious season. The Greek word for Autumn is Φθινόπωρο pronounced fthi…no…po…ro, literally translated as the decline of income. The French used to call it Harvest before they and the rest of Europe, adopted the Latin word Autumn a few centuries ago and in America it’s called Fall.
Call it what you will, the Autumn season brings with it various definitions, to different people, in different places, doing different things.
For me personally, back in the UK, it would bring both a sadness of the Summers end and an anticipation of the Autumn fires about to burst through the trees. Mr J and I would often spend a Saturday walking, with Bronwen, through Dog Wood at Westonbirt Arboretum. It was like walking in an oil painting.
Unfortunately for some people, the Autumn is defined as above, the season between Summer and Winter and brings to them the impending doom of another long Winter, followed by the endless complaining of S.A.D sufferers.
Can you get S.A.D for every season or is it exclusively a Winter accessory for the fashion conscious ?
Since living in Crete we’ve noticed that we are much more aware of the seasons, not merely as weather patterns, but more as mother natures menu.
September is the grape harvest, after a long hot Summer the village comes to life with the sound of tractors awoken from their long siesta, loaded with empty crates and steered along an overgrown track to a vineyard, hidden amongst the olive groves. Of the various grapes grown, some are sold for the table and taken to local markets or shops, others are crushed in large concrete baths or simply trod on to produce next years vintage.
October brings the village stills to life, fired up like an old steam engine they boil away for 12 hours a day, exuding the firewater drip by drip, distilling the well know and well feared, Tskoudhia (Raki), from the last of the grape harvest.
November fails to bring the slumber before Winters sleep, instead, the buzz and whirl of the olive pickers poles can be heard across the valley, thrashing through the leaves, steadily rising every day as the villagers slowly migrate to the olive groves. A process that begins in November and continues through Winter and into March, when once again the lanes and groves are silent.
By far the brightest colour of Autumn is that of ripe Oranges, plump and juicy, plucked from a tree whilst out walking they are the best you’ll ever taste. It’s the perfect walkers thirst quencher, so juicy in comparison to the Supermarket bought oranges I remember back in the UK.
And of  course Lemons, a burst of yellow around every corner, in every garden.  They are, along with Olive oil, a staple part of the Cretan diet,  freshly squeezed onto everything, they truly are the taste of Crete.

Beans in a bog roll.


beans in a bog roll


I was recently given 11 shiny runner beans and having such a small amount I did not want to lose any to the dreaded garden pests or indeed one of our free range Bantams, who occasionally break into the garden for lunch. So I decided to give them a fighting chance from the very beginning and sow them into pots.

Having seen someone, somewhere using empty toilet rolls, I saved up enough for my little experiment, filled them half up with compost, gently nestled a bean on top and then filled up the remainder with more compost. To keep them upright I inserted each roll into an old bit of cardboard packaging and then surrounded them with more compost to keep them steady. Not wanting to waste this support I threw in some Arugula (large leaf rocket) seeds for company. A few weeks and lots of watering later the above was achieved.

Looks promising don’t you think ?

They’re going into a prepared area in the garden today, I’ll insert each roll up to the top in the soil, against the bamboo supports I’ve already been using for my string beans this past summer.

bean roots

bean roots

Quince Jelly


  They dined on mince and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand on the edge of the sand
They danced by the light of the moon.

~ “The Owl and the Pussycat,” by Edward Lear



   The recipe


This is exactly how I make quince jelly.

Firstly I wash and chop up enough whole quinces to fill my biggest pan, I don’t bother weighing them as I’m only interested in the amount of juice I have at the end.

I pour in enough water just to cover them in the pan.

I boil them until very soft, 2 hours or so.

I pour the whole lot into a pillowcase, previously sterilized by ironing.

I tie the top of the pillowcase with string and then tie the string to an upturned chair.

I place a large bowl or pan, big enough to catch all the drips, underneath and place a cloth over the whole thing to keep the flies off.

Leave to drip overnight.

Measure the amount of fluid you have in the pan next day and add appx 1lb/454g of white granulated sugar for each 1pt/570ml of juice. Throw in a few lemon scented geranium leaves and the juice of one lemon. Boil until it reaches setting point, I find this by spooning some of the juice onto a cooled plate and looking for the wrinkles on top. Don’t worry if you get the setting point wrong and you find your jelly’s not set the next day, just pop it back into the pan and boil again.

Remove the geranium leaves and spoon off any scum on the top.

Pour the, now beautiful red coloured, liquid into sterilized jars. I sterilize mine by boiling them for 10mins and then once filled with the hot liquid, screw the lids (also boiled with the jars) on tightly. I then turn the jars upside down and leave for about an hour before turning them upright again.

All done, just remember the jelly tastes better if you can leave it for a few weeks.


The tree.


Two years ago Mr J was asked to remove an inconvenient quince tree from a neighbors garden. Feeling sorry for the poor tree we found a space on the edge of our vegetable patch where a hole was dug and the tree, unceremoniously thrown in.

It’s first autumn was a success having produced a decent crop of fruit and now, in it’s second season the weight of fruit on it’s slim branches is threatening to rip it out by the roots.  The three bucketfuls I’ve already picked has eased the strain and produced, to date, ten jars of delicious jelly.


The Fruit


Coincidentally the Greek name for quince is κυδώνι,pronounced kee-THOH-nee (kydoni).It’s botanical name Cydonia originates from the area of Crete in which we live, now known as Chania.

The ancient Greeks associated the quince with fertility and it was offered during weddings as a gift to sweeten the bride’s breath, not that the groom would dare complain to a bride with a 2lb, rock hard fruit in her bag. And so it became known as the fruit of love.

There is nothing erotic or otherwise about it’s appearance, it’s furry, over sized apple, pear like looks don’t conjure up images of steamy passion, but it does smell wonderful.


I’ll start with a word about the title, the Greek word for virtue is Arete (Αρετή) pronounced Ah..re..tee.

During the 3 years preparation period for the move to Crete we decided to name the house Arete as we planned to build two self-catering apartments on the first floor and needed a name for our business venture, so Arete Apartments was born.

Dairy entry 23 May 2005…..

Two more sleeps to go before our adventure begins, our lives change forever and “Virtue” becomes reality.

We’ve been at “Tycoch” , my parents home in South Wales, for the past few days finalising paperwork, repacking the truck in a more organised fashion after the exodus from our old house was more panic than plan.

The excitment increases with every tick on the “To Do” list.

Last sort out tomorrow, depart for the Chunnel on Wednesday………

Diary entry 24 May 2005

One more sleep to go.

The eve of our departure brings with it the last night in a bed, I’m in it already and it’s only 10pm. I hope to make the most of it’s comforts but predict a sleepless night of excitement and slight panic at the scale of our adventure.

Not happy with the 2 weeks annual package holiday and 50 weeks of saving and longing for the next, we’ve gone for the full monty, no going back, burn all bridges, living the dream and are leaving the rat race for what we hope will be a better life, with just a little bit more sun…….

Diary entry 25 May 2005

We left “Tycoch” with mixed emotions at 1pm, to add to our anxiety we discovered that “Lara”, our beloved Landrover, had sprung an oil leak which was increasing at an alarming rate.

It came as no surprise that by the time we’d reached Wiltshire at 3pm the leak was a rapid and so the garage took what time we’d alloted for our final goodbyes to friends and left us with just a few minutes to call in at the old house and it’s new proud owners for a final check before we left the country. All was well and it was lovely to see the place being used as it was meant to be, by a young growing family, full of energy and laughter. We left them with a sense of  satisfaction  having  being able to put life back into the old house.


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