by Dick Handscombe, holistic gardener and author living in Spain for over 25 years.
Phew! At the time of writing in mid-September we have still had no serious rain; just a couple of few minute showers that just wet the surface of an enamelled paella pan.
Most Spaniards cannot recall such a long drought and some reflect on how less serious droughts combined with a couple of freezing winters forced their families to emigrate to France in the 1950’s for a decade or two to find work and food. We still have no forecast rain into the first week of October. Maybe as in 2004, no rain will come until November. In that year it then rained for three weeks and we used it to draft out a new book which was the first edition of ‘Your Garden In Spain’. If it happens again, the rough draft for a book about patios may well get finished for publication!
Through September it has been too hot for eating out in the garden at midday, but this will change in October, rain or no rain and full use of our paella kitchen can be made. During September, paellas were only made for groups of Spaniards who were happy to come over at ten o’clock after work, for a late meal chatting and singing until the early hours.
Naturally the recipes for genuine chicken and rabbit paellas, (plus snails for the Spaniards), plus a vegetarian veggie paella, came from my now popular book ‘Authentic Valencian Paellas’, which is also translated into Spanish.
With the cooler weather, the workable hours are lengthening, so overdue garden tidy ups including the pruning of out of shape trees and shrubs can be completed comfortably. Also important in October is the sowing and planting of plantlets for Christmas; winter and spring vegetables. Basic seeds and plantlets will be found in markets, garden centres and agricultural cooperatives. If you want some special varieties, including increasingly popular mini varieties, go onto the Internet sites of UK seed merchants such as Chiltern Seeds, Sutton Seeds and Thompson and Morgan etc. Within Spain the Internet site of Madre Terra based near Barcelona is worth a visit as all their seeds are ecologically produced.
If you have a semi-shaded area, this can be great for vegetables, both during the cooler and hotter months.
When the rain does come, dig holes for the winter planting of flowering and fruiting trees. After the experiences of recent hot summers, dig the holes a metre square and 50 to 70cms deep. Fill the bottom half with a rich manure soil mix and work in some Terra Cottem gel at the time of planting. Visit their website, (you can do so in English), for full details on the product and its uses. Fill in the planting holes with a rich compost soil mix and mulch with black plastic sheeting for two metres around the trees. This can be covered with compost, stone chippings, almond shells etc. There is a full list of available mulching materials in the booklet ‘How To Use Less Water In The Garden’.
Also, once autumn rains have fallen, October and November will be a good time to plant up new rose bushes or cuttings. Cuttings in Spain are best cut 60 to 70cms long and planted with two thirds of the length buried where you want the eventual plant to be. In this way deep undisturbed root balls will be formed that can withstand long periods of drought.
Finally, start to look out for bulbs for winter and spring flowering and plant them a few centimetres deeper than you did in the UK because of the hotter and drier climate here in Spain.
Happy autumn gardening to all!
By the way all our books are now most easily available from Amazon Books and The Book Depository with the demise of more and more bookshops.
© Dick Handscombe