gardeningby Clodagh and Dick Handscombe, Spain’s best known gardeners and gardening authors.

The middle of August and another CCC copy deadline. Question is what to write about. Problem solved by reading through the last couple of editions and identifying a few problems facing those with gardens or apartment terraces.

Establishing Drought Resistant Oleander Plants.

It was sad to read that many of the oleanders planted by the much to be thanked Camposol volunteer gardening groups had died. Well they are not the first group of newcomers to Spain to experience this. The first thing is to recognise that oleanders are very drought-resistant once established with deep roots, which might take three or four years when temperatures of 40+ degrees centigrade are experienced. Secondly, metre long cuttings planted with two thirds of the cutting below soil level will probably establish themselves quicker than rooted cuttings purchased in pots that are only fifteen to twenty centimetres deep. Thirdly, even after three years the plants will only be drought-resistant if you wean them of water by gradually ceasing to water. This process stimulates even deeper roots. Fourthly, young oleander plants, not mature ones, are vulnerable to hot summer and cold winter winds. In exposed positions a winter wind break is beneficial for a few years.

Talks in Murcia

It is some time since we gave a talk in Murcia, but we have the need to pass through in the first two weeks of November. If any gardening group, including the Camposol groups, or social group would like a talk in return for an overnight stay with a member and advice on their garden please contact us asap on

Summer shade

gardening-3It is mid August. It is hot and was over 30 degrees when we went for a walk at 6.30 this morning. Five hours later, Dick is sitting under a climbing plant-covered gazebo surrounded by an interesting collection of flowering plants in containers and he is reasonably comfortable writing this column on our portable computer. It’s so much more interesting and comfortable than sitting under a modern shade sail, so try to construct plant-covered gazebos and plant more trees this autumn to spring once you have had autumn rains to soften the soil and raise the water table under your garden.

Shade is important for many plants as well as people, pets and wildlife.

Fruit Trees

In respect of shade, do recognise that fruit trees can be a good source of shade as well as providing ecological fully ripe fruit.

When one checks the ripeness of fruit in some supermarkets and on the breakfast buffet of some hotels, it is no wonder that many people, especially children, say that they do not like fruit. We planted additional fruit and nut trees this year, which means that in a few years we will have harvests, some small and some large, of 36 of the 74 fruits we describe in our best selling book ‘Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain’. So often there are health articles in expat magazines and newspapers that focus on one or another diet, tasty dishes or juicing machines that do not emphasise the distinct difference between the enjoyment and health benefits of freshly picked ripe fruit compared with fruit picked when unripe and sold in supermarkets up to six months after harvesting, having been chemically treated and stored in chill rooms for out of season sales.

Growing Vegetables for Christmas

Now is a good time to start to prepare the soil and sow or plant vegetables, including new potatoes, for harvesting from autumn to spring and especially for Christmas. You don’t need large spaces as explained in our books ‘Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’ and ‘Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style’. If you like healthy wild mushrooms, start to look out for spore-impregnated bales or sacks so that mushrooms can be grown in a cellar, under-build, garage, utility room or kitchen.

Which Fruit and Vegetables to Grow.

In both cases, our advice is grow what you like or would like to try, what will grow in the microclimate of your garden and which have the greatest concentration of beneficial vitamins minerals and fibre etc. The first two issues are covered in the fruit and vegetable books already mentioned. The wellness benefits are discussed in our book ‘Living Well from our Mediterranean Garden’. This book is free if you buy one of our other books via

Eco/organic Benefits

gardening-booksThose that still promote fast foods, still sometimes question the benefits of ecological naturally organic grown fruit and vegetables. Fortunately university researchers, including some at Barcelona and Valencia Universities, are now coming up with scientific reasons why they do in fact have wellness benefits on a domestic scale. Such vegetables are easy to grow even in small spaces. By the way, try growing leaf salad vegetables and annual herbs in the shade. They just don’t survive the high July to September temperatures in full sun.

Happy autumn gardening. Hopefully the warm sunny days will continue, but with some much-needed heavy autumn rains.

Clodagh and Dick Handscombe