By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe now enjoying their twenty fifth summer gardening and residing in Spain.
It looks like we might get a long dry summer and as the temperatures rise we often hear people saying things like:
‘We live in what was green rural land, but now it’s like a suburban urbanisation.’
‘Oh isn’t it hot after the air conditioning. I’ve been indoors for three days without going out.’
‘We don’t sit out much in the summer; it’s boring. There is not much to see except the pool and its large terrace and the wooden decking is so hot to walk on’.
‘Oh I wish we hadn’t cut down those trees and replaced them with Australian sails; the shade is not as natural or as deep as it used to be swinging in the hammock between two thick branches of the carob tree.’
‘I spend all my time watering the plants, but the garden is not as colourful as it was in Britain.’
‘Oh I can’t stand another barbecued dinner.’
Luckily there are answers to all such comments to ensure that you achieve what you came to Spain for – a more outdoor life than in Northern Europe.
Firstly, getting used to the Spanish climate needs gradual acclimatisation. Go out into the sun early in the day and go into the shade when it gets too hot and then go back into the sun in the early evening and turn the air conditioning off or set at a higher temperature. We don’t have AC, but keep the house cool in the summer by closing the windows and keeping the ‘persianas’ down and on the hottest days the wooden shutters are closed as well.
Any urban-looking pool can be converted into a natural pool surrounding by oxygenating bog plants and if some of the flowers are exotic. An interesting book ‘Converting your Conventional Pool’ can be obtained via www.ecodesignscape.co.uk
If you plan a long stay in Spain, plant some more trees this coming autumn to hide you from surrounding houses and provide real shade for the family pets, wildlife and plants. There are plenty to choose from in Part Four of our book ‘Your Garden in Spain’. This section also lists hundreds of flowering plants and most importantly indicating their drought resistances. These are the plants that require little or no watering once they are established. Plant more of these to reduce watering needs and summer losses.
There are many interesting types of natural rocks old bricks and terracotta tiles that look more natural and become less hot than timber decking. (See chapter 2.4 of ‘Your Garden in Spain’.)
If you want more interesting foods than barbecued, consider a Mexican oven, Moroccan ‘tagines’ or a solar cooker. The latter are becoming very popular, both in gardens and on apartment terraces. We purchased a solar cooker kit from www.alsol.es three years ago and it is used several times a week for cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner.
To really enjoy Spain, set out to develop a garden that is different from the general run of the mill garden in which one often sees no-one.
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe