gardeningby Clodagh and Dick Handscombe, practical gardeners and authors living in Spain for 25 years

Gardening remains a major retirement activity in Spain, although our surveys in suggest that more women than men actively garden on a regular basis. This is a pity as this hobby offers interesting mental and physical activity in touch with nature. A garden designed, developed and nurtured over ten or twenty years is probably one of the most complex and challenging projects one can undertake in one’s life, but we do it because the results are very visibly satisfying and self-fulfilling.

Gardening can be practiced even into one’s nineties, for active gardens can be reduced in size and enviable mini-gardens can be created on apartment terraces and balconies as described in ‘Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style’. (The official price of this book is currently reduced to only 5€.)

Some of the other reasons retirement gardening is popular are as follows.

  • gardening-potsIt can be practiced in gardens and allotments, in patios and courtyards, and on apartment terraces balconies and window sills. Yes, even on window sills where we have seen interesting succulent collections, mini-strawberry beds and trays of cut and cut-again salad leaf collections. On an even smaller scale try drain pipe gardening!
  • Having a garden to potter around in can help the transition from paid work to retirement as it has different and interesting demands season by season.
  • Gardens provided opportunities for brain and brawn. It provides for both partners to combine their relative strengths and weaknesses.
  • Men folk, if you are not keen on gardening, at least help your spouse/partner to change plantings to the more drought and frost resistant varieties including wild naturalised varieties proposed by the branches of the Mediterranean Gardening Society.
  • Moving to the south of Europe allows one to enjoy gardening and gardens on many more days of the year than in the UK and other northerly countries and also allows one to experiment with a new range of flowering plants, fruits, herbs and vegetables.
  • With just a few hours a week it is perfectly possible to become very self sufficient in ecologically grown herbs vegetables and fruit.
  • If one becomes infirm, it is possible to work sitting down by gardening in tall containers and on specially constructed growing tables. The latter are great for building up interesting collections of small plants and small growing salad varieties.
  • gardening-window-herbsWorking in the garden, especially in the winter sun, helps build up and maintain ones natural vitamin D production.
  • Egg laying hens can be very friendly and interesting pets if purchased young and regularly handled can add to your garden.
  • For those that still like competing, competitions for the best flower arrangement, groups of roses, fruit or vegetables, most interesting newly propagated dry garden plant, best plant photograph etc at monthly garden clubs can be very motivating. It is a pity that all gardening clubs don’t recognise the interest and self-fulfilment that such activities can stimulate. Dick enjoyed doing the judging at a recent meeting of a gardening club when he gave a talk on ‘Making Waterless Gardens’. This is now a growing priority worldwide. Our Amazon Kindle book with that title has even been purchased via Amazon Japan.

If you are to continue gardening to a ripe age, do ensure that the garden is safe. Reduce the chance of slips, trips, sprains, cuts and spiking. Economically designed tools such as the Fiskars’ range are, in our experience, well worth the extra cost.

Also ensure that terrace and garden walls are safe, that trees are not getting top heavy and liable to falls, the snapping of branches in high winds, that low branches cannot cause head injuries and that garden electric circuits are safe etc.

gardening-retirement-bookSo happy gardening in your retirement. Incidentally this month’s article has been extracted from Dick’s new Amazon Kindle book ‘Your Practical Guide to HAVING A GREAT RETIREMENT’.

If you would like us to come to your club or charity for a talk, contact us at We do have a few paper copies of this book to sell.

(c) Clodagh and Dick Handscombe February 2013