by Clodagh and Dick, holistic gardeners and authors living in Spain for 25 years
Looking back over the last year, the thing that stands out is the very long spring to autumn dry spell with no rain until the last days of September and then moderate or heavy rains during October and November depending where one lives.
With that rain, many plants responded amazingly with new growth and flowers, so that those who did not get pre-Christmas early frosts had exceptionally colourful year-end gardens and there is more than normal growth to be pruned back during the winter cutback.
Unfortunately, much of that growth is young and not hardened off by the summer sun, so if you are in a frost pocket, do cover the less hardy plants with fleece and move plants in pots under cover. We line a large gazebo with a large circle of plastic to house 50 or so succulents etc from December until Easter, but most plants and trees can be given their major annual cut back now to ensure that they are of a good size and shape before they bud up for spring and summer flowering.
If you are new to Spain, Chapter 6.9 of our book ‘Your Garden in Spain’ describes what needs to be done in some detail.
Taking account of the challenges of last summer, and indeed most summers in Spain, we have published a booklet to supplement our other books. The title is ‘Making Waterless Gardens a Practical Reality Worldwide’ and it is published as an Amazon Kindle E-book priced at 2.60€ on Amazon Spain and £1.86 on Amazon UK. We have only a few hard copies which we make available at the end of talks to gardening and social clubs. The book focuses on what can be done to create better gardens with half the use of water and ways of collecting storing and distributing rainfall effectively. It includes several hundred practical ideas.
A new year thought for readers – after the experiences of last summer, no-one can claim to be a Mediterranean gardener unless they nurse their gardens through the changing climatic conditions of a twelve month period and walk the garden every few days to check which plants need a little water rather than drip-watering plants regardless of real needs. The real needs for Spanish gardens are plants with deep roots that can search naturally for lower moisture and nutrients.
With the prices of vegetables and fruit rising each year and the continuing difficulty in most areas to obtain ecologically grown vegetables and fruit, it makes sense to plant up extra fruit trees and prepare containers, raised beds and/or a veggie plot ready for spring planting and then replanting next autumn for autumn, Christmas, winter and early spring crops. For beginners, it makes much sense to plant plantlets rather than sowing seeds for many varieties. If you ask around, you should be able to discover where Spaniards buy their plantlets from and when.
Once Three Kings’ celebrations are past, get going to work off the inevitable extra kilo or two. By the way, wandering around Spain giving talks or manning question and answer stands at various events, we note than many more local councils are sponsoring municipal allotments and expats with too much land are turning areas into allotments for those with less land or poor soil. We congratulate all that have taken such initiatives. If there are areas of allotments on the various urbanisations such as Camposol, can someone please let us know via firstname.lastname@example.org
Two other jobs for January are the pruning and training of grape vines and the pruning of olive trees; both jobs Dick enjoys, as one sees immediate benefit in the neat architecturally shaped vines and trees. If not already done, why not grow your grapes and olives ecologically this year? For both, sprays of Neem oil and Propolis, natural insecticides and fungicides, can be used, plus spring and summer dustings of vines with ecological natural yellow sulphur powder. If you can’t trace Neem or Propolis locally, they can be obtained by mail order from www.trabe.net – the website can be explored in English. Grape vines are very undemanding and excess bunches of grapes can be dried to produce the raisins and sultanas for the Christmas cake, puddings and mince meat as we do.
Talking of websites, can readers please help us? Shortly before Christmas the domain name of our site was hijacked. The only economic solution has been to change our domain name to www.gardenspain.com. As readers with computer experience will know, it takes time to let people know of a new site and build up its reputation. Even though the content of the old site has been reloaded, search engines such as Google have to find the site and retrieve all the information and articles pages in order that they can be accessed by topic based searches. Can you please therefore help us out by just doing a search for www.gardenspain.com. Many thanks.
Clodagh and Dick Handscombe