by Dick Handscombe
Well for many the rain-free weather continues along the Costas and in the connecting network of inland valleys from Malaga to Castellon, while further north in Cataluña the valley of the River Ebro has had regular storms and the river still runs at flood levels.

Further north, hot humid July weather was broken in Soria with a metre of hail stones with snow ploughs out to clear the roads and cars were damaged by Basque country beaches by tennis ball sized hail stones!

Our garden is coping well with mainly deep rooted plants and an after midnight dew covers plants, the earth and cars in the area. What is not absorbed by the soil or taken in by leaves is evaporated within half an hour of the sun rising. Late risers have never seen this, or the daybreak misty clouds that also just evaporate and don’t turn into rain drops.

With many bore holes now drying out, springs having done so last month, many friends with dried up inland lawns are reconsidering their garden designs and potential newcomers are realising from the photos of properties for sale and visits to selected ones, that many have no summer shade and that the only respite from hot summer suns is to retreat into the air-conditioned houses. This is a great pity, indeed a disaster, for the opportunities of enjoying looking at colourful gardens when reading, taking siestas, playing cards or la rana (the frog)- a great garden game from the Basque country – or whilst dining in the deep shade of trees or gazebos is lost. If we walk round my area, protected by a straw hat, the older houses, largely occupied by holiday making Spaniards, retained most existing trees, even pine trees and planted other trees for shade when the house was built. From these gardens come chatter and laughter most of the day except for siesta time after late lunches. Nearby, newer expat gardens are often without even a token tree, all covered terraces face south when one on the north or east side of the house would be invaluable and there are no large gazebos. Silence pervades these areas except for the hum of air-conditioning units!

Apologies for these ramblings, but so many fellow expats miss out on the opportunity for outside living in Spain. Friends staying this week have enjoyed starting the day with early morning walks from 7am until 10am when the sun has risen and is becoming hot and they have stayed out in the garden until 11pm or midnight before retreating indoors for the night. In between, the only indoor occupation has been fetching another round of cold drinks, washing up and catching up writing the occasional gardening article.

gardening-bookBy the way, we have been enjoying fresh salad and cooked vegetables daily and this year’s small scale experiment is a real success. Much of the drive on the north side of the house ,which is in shade for half the day, is now covered with the trailing growth of courgettes, melons and squash growing out of black builder’s buckets and islands of lettuces, tomatoes and peppers grow through the lower growing ground cover plants. My objective is to ensure that every square metre of the garden is productive in terms of beauty, growing food or making useable shade. How does your own garden score?

Some towns and villages have started rationing the use of water and banning the topping up of swimming pools. Being short of income, some councils and water companies are raising the price of water and there are amazing differences between prices from region to region in Spain. This could well extend, even to the drastic steps now made law in parts of California, where a state objective for a 20% reduction in water usage failed, as a one to five percent increase continued in many areas. Culprit gardeners now face fines for water wastage of up to 500 dollars a day! Here, any increases in construction activity or an extension of piped agricultural water could lead to more frequent water shortages in Mediterranean Spain, so plan now to reduce your needs, but at the same time have a more delightful garden.

May I take the liberty of again mentioning that my new book ‘How To Use Less Water In Your Garden’ is now available from Amazon Books.

© Dick Handscombe