by Dick Handscombe, holistic gardener and author living in Spain for over 25 years.

2014 autumn has been a mixed blessing for gardeners. Up in Valencia Province we are still waiting for a decent rainfall, while from what I read this afternoon in the November edition of Costa Cálida Chronicle, the Mazarrón area has had more than enough rain, especially on the Camposol urbanisation.

gardening-DSCF1694The stories related reminded me of a day, about 23rd of November 1996 when we had 63 centimetres of rain in a day, including 24 centimetres in an hour. This was said to be the heaviest for at least 800 years when our local monastery was built. Luckily on that day we suffered no damage. Indeed, having landscaped the early garden so that no rain could flood onto the plot from the surrounding roads on two sides, it could run off the plot and could flood selected low lying areas to raise the water table for later months. Had we not taken similar steps, especially those built with dry river beds buried under parts of the garden and house and with insecure internal terraces and garden boundary walls, we would have suffered rather worse. The power of rain was highlighted by the fact that a deluge cleared a twenty metre wide path down our local mountain for a fall of some three hundred metres. For a year we had a new route up the mountain, but then nature soon recovered and new shrubs and trees filled the gap and the mountainside became an impenetrable jungle again.

gardening-lwf0001In Murcia’s case, the various Camposol gardening groups are to be congratulated on all the work they have and are still putting in to recover the efforts of their invaluable work over several precious years. I was very impressed by the results of their efforts when on Campasol to give a gardening talk earlier this year. When you get round to considering how best to recover and further develop your gardens, do consider the diagram below that summarises our concept of holistic gardening in Spain and reinforces our belief that the prime focus of gardening in Spain is to develop gardens that match your chosen short, medium and longer term lifestyles.
Those that have the following books will find that they include the diagram – ‘Growing Healthy Fruit In Spain’, ‘Growing Healthy Vegetables In Spain’ and ‘Living Well From Our Garden Mediterranean Style’.

Prior to receiving and reading the November edition of the Costa Cálida Chronicle, I took two photographs of our garden to illustrate the wonderful autumn colour even after a 15 month drought. It is amazing what just two very light spring-type showers and heavy autumn morning dews can stimulate.

1 – ‘November view along the garden wide rockery’

2 – ‘View from the kitchen window – the silver on the right is not a giant spider’s web, but an aviary built into an apricot tree’

gardening-DSCF2682Not only is autumn a good time for colour, but with careful pruning and deadheading, the colour-scape can continue through to Christmas and the New Year. Then however, colour full it needs to be cut back in January during the annual winter cutback to stimulate new buds for spring and early summer flowers.
Hopefully, many readers started vegetable growing in the open garden, on raised beds or in containers and that they survived the storms. If not, there is still time to grow some healthy crops of sprouting seeds in the kitchen, glassed terraces or a utility room. This is easy and the benefits are mini-vegetables full of natural vitamins and minerals for use in salads and making Chinese-type spring rolls. gardening-DSCF2689The vitamins and minerals were stored by the amazing forces of nature in the seeds to aid the germination and growth of the sprouts and if left to grow on, seedlings and eventually mature plants. If seeds were allowed to grow to maturity, they would use up this store of nutrients and need to replenish them from nutrients taken in from the soil and air by various botanical processes. Gastronomically, the eating of sprouting seeds is more beneficial than eating the final plant purchased in a plastic bag in terms of content and in many cases taste, attractive appearance and texture.
What types of seeds can be germinated?
a. Seeds for growing in single or multi-tiered perforated sprouting trays or jars or bags:
Actzuki bean, alfalfa, beetroot, broccoli, cress, fenugreek, lentils, mung bean, mustard, onion, oriental stir-fry mixed radish, rocket, wheat.
b. Seeds for growing in trays on damp kitchen towel paper:
Broccoli, cress, chick pea, mustard, pumpkin, sunflower.

A good range of seeds are often stocked by health shops and will be found on the health food shelves of supermarkets and in seed catalogues.

With that a Happy Christmas to all our readers.
© Dick Handscombe