By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe, Spain’s best known expatriate gardeners and authors.
October is here and it is timely to think about preparing an area to plant a few vegetables in the ground, raised beds or containers, for in Spain one can take advantage of two springs; the autumn and spring.
The advantages of growing your own vegetables are numerous and include the following:
- You can grow the types of vegetable that you most like.
- You can experiment with the growing of old heritage and heirloom varieties that are no longer grown commercially.
- By crop rotation, one can harvest a wide diversity of vegetables 365 days a year.
- You can harvest just sufficient for a meal or each day and not have to wade through the contents of a partially used and aging large pre-packed bag or tray.
- You can reduce the weight of shopping carried back from the shops or to and from the car.
- You can feed unexpected guests easily and well.
- By using natural fertilizers, insect control methods and fungicides you will have no need to resort to manufactured inorganic chemical solutions. Both the garden and garden shed become less smelly and healthier places to work in.
- Include herbs within the vegetable plot and you have culinary and medicinal herbs that are more potent when fresh than when dried.
- Involve the family in growing the vegetables, even establish a children’s garden, and you may find it easier to persuade everyone to eat more salads and vegetables.
- You can save money.
Making a start is not difficult and a large area is not necessary as explained below.
Start to grow vegetables in large pots, an old bath, grow bags, a growing table, or a small raised bed. All are possible on an apartment terrace, in a patio garden as well as a corner of a larger garden. Purchase plantlets to save the bother of sowing from seeds. Potatoes can also be grown in large pots.
Develop a traditional vegetable patch. Start or expand a compost heap to produce an annual supply of humus and beneficial micro-organism-rich compost for enriching the soil. Garden weeds, shredded prunings and green kitchen waste can all be usefully recycled. Keeping a couple of hens and rabbits that love to eat many waste leaves from the vegetable garden are also a good source of organic manures, especially if you feed them natural rather than processed foods and of course you will have a home source of organic meat and eggs.
Work in well rotted compost into the soil on the basis of up to 1:2 of the original soil if you have a poor soil. Add well rotted manure according to the needs of particular groups of vegetables as illustrated below.
NEED FOR COMPOSTED
MANURE TO BE
ADDED TO SOIL BEFORE
TYPICAL VEGETABLES IN
|HIGH||Potatoes, tomatoes, courgettes, beans, peas.|
|MODERATE||Globe artichokes, beetroots, garlic.|
|LOW||Carrots, parsnips, radishes.|
- Leaf vegetables like a moderately rich soil, but also do best when given fortnightly nitrogen feeds. Nettle leaves steeped in water for a few weeks is one of the best naturally available and free.
- Once plants are growing, use natural methods for deterring and controlling pests.
- Where possible irrigate with non-chlorinated water. Install a water butt to collect rain water if you do not have access to agricultural water or a spring.
During the past ten years an increasing number of UK and Dutch style allotments have been set up, some by town halls, some by struggling garden centres wanting to diversify, and some privately by persons with more land than they want to maintain themselves. Maybe there are new opportunities for this in Murcia, including in the Mazarrón urbanisations.
What Can Be Grown In Spain?
Almost anything and more than one sees in most greengrocers. All can be grown from seed, but in many cases it is more convenient for beginners and those with only a small growing area to purchase young plantlets ready for planting out. They also enable you to plant an instant vegetable garden, and restock it as earlier plantings are eaten. In this way terrace, patio pots, grow-bags and small raised beds can be made very productive. There is no reason why you should not be growing your own home grown freshly harvested ecological vegetables by Christmas Day.
As you see, growing your own vegetables can be very worthwhile and fun. Why not have a go? Our book ‘Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’ tells you how to do so step-by-step and most importantly ecologically. If you buy a copy via our website you will receive a complimentary copy of ‘Living well from our Mediterranean Garden’.
This is a ground breaking book well received since its self publication last year, with the objective to spread an important message and break even on costs.
Looking ahead, Dick expects to launch his new booklet titled ‘Making Waterless Gardens a Practical Reality Worldwide’ at the Homes Gardens and Outdoor Living Show at the Palacios de Congresos in Estepona on Friday 9th and Saturday 10th November. He will be on stand 77 for the two days waiting to meet anyone travelling that way to solve their gardening problems and will give a number of talks during the day at the show. If you are planning something similar in Murcia in 2013 Dick will probably be willing to help.
Happy and successful veggie growing.
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe