By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe,
Spain’s active gardeners and authors, living in Spain for 25 years.
At the time of writing it’s still only 7th June, but we have already experienced 41 degrees and no rain is yet forecast.
Will we get rain or not? Will we continue to have no rain until the autumn as happened in the mid eighties? It’s anyone’s guess. For us for sure the monthly thunder storms of the early nineties is a thing of the past and the ‘gota frias’ of mid-September are now most likely to be one or two months later. The new concrete jungle that removed a previously green coast line has totally and irreversibly changed the coastal climate.
With a generally mature garden, we only started watering the flower garden on the first of June and then only where necessary once a week. Naturally some vegetables in containers are best watered every two days, but many are best flooded once a week. As we planted a dozen additional fruit and nut trees this Spring, these need watering with five litres of water twice a week. If leaves droop in July, the watering can be doubled with little effort. The main thing is that we are coaching roots to search for nutrients and water, not giving it to them on a plate. This way they develop good root systems which will reduce our gardening efforts in the future.
Already the considerable shade we have in the garden from high tress and hedges is invaluable. Deep shade becomes the outdoor workshop as well as the place for lunch, siestas, reading newspapers and books and thinking about the content of newspaper articles and new books.
Apart from going indoors to sleep, the interior of the house is rarely visited and when it is, it is a cool below twenty degrees centigrade temperature, for the wooden shutters are closed all day to keep the sun out in traditional Spanish style. Once the sun sinks down, shutters and windows can be opened to achieve a night time cooling breeze across the bedroom.
Having come to Spain twenty five years ago, we became accustomed and acclimatised to living without air conditioning or indeed winter central heating. We came for the generally liveable climate and did not attempt to establish an expensive, electricity-driven UK office and home, artificial climate. Likewise, generally we chose plants that caused few summer problems and work.
For those who live in apartments, blinds and awnings transform the life for people, pets and plants. As explained and illustrated in our book ‘Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style’, awnings and blinds make the growing of a wide assortment of flowering plants, herbs, fruit and vegetables very possible, indeed easy, if you read and take on board the practical advice given in the books.
Lastly, dust the sunhat and wear it when working and wandering around the garden after 10am until sundown. Do most of the essential summer garden work between 6am and 10am, plus water in the evening as the sun goes down. An afternoon siesta will enable you to catch up on sleep and restore energy levels for evening social life.
Be prepared to enjoy the Spanish summer. Correctly planned, it can be enjoyed without escaping to the unpredictable weather of northern and central Europe.
By the way, an hour in a hammock is a relaxing time to browse through our books ‘Your Garden in Spain’, ‘Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style’, ‘Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain’, ‘Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’ and ‘Living Well from our Mediterranean Garden’. These can be obtained from high street and internet bookshops and also via our website www.gardeninginspain.com with a special offer.
One final thought – We have a long section on growing vegetables in containers in both ‘Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’ and ‘Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style’. Many people have purchased the books and are achieving great crops from small spaces. This is not a gimmick. Over many years Medwyn Williams has won many gold medals at UK vegetable shows including at the Chelsea Flower Show. Most of his winning vegetables are grown in containers and one can now try out his seeds in Spain by buying from Medwyns of Anglesey by mail order. We are going to try some for the autumn.