Spring in Spanish Gardens

By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe active self sufficient holistic gardeners, authors and broadcasters living in Spain for over twenty years.

Spring is here!

The first of March is generally regarded as the start of Spring on the coastal plain and in coastal mountain valleys although it will be a few weeks later on the colder central plain and in the high mountain areas – being as late as May in the snowy villages of the Pyrenees. But few expatriates and each year fewer Spaniards live in such extreme conditions.

For us spring bulbs are flowering, fruit trees are blossoming in succession the early almonds being followed in succession by peach, plum, nectarine, quince, pears, avocado, mandarin, oranges, and grapefruit trees etc.. Light spring showers have freshened up the garden, softened up dry cracking soil in the olive grove and dampened the recently rotovated soil on the vegetable plot. The latter is now in good shape to make Spring sowings and plantings during the next month. The rains have been light so the digging of new flower beds and the planting holes for new shrubs and trees will not be a back breaking task. And of course even if morning temperatures are on the chilly side by mid day the sun is generally hot enough for a pleasant outdoor lunch followed by a sunbathing siesta to top up the vitamin D.

But Spring brings a few potential problems with it!

It’s great that spring is here but it does bring some potential problems with it and many gardeners like international bankers are lax when it comes to risk management and garden disasters. Spring related gardening disasters can be as demotivating as the reductions in ones spending power from the devaluation of Stirling and the decline of stock exchange related pensions.

Our books explain and give practical solutions to the many risks faced in Spain especially by new arrivals. We highlight below nine practical actions to avoid the common problems of dying or stunted plants and trees, few flowers and poor crops and harvests. We treat them as the Nine P’s of Spring.

The nine P’s of Spring in Spain

PATIENCE – Unless you are sure that in your location the risk of late heavy frosts is past don’t rush out and buy the newly arrived tender annuals and sub tropical plants from the local garden centre. There is a months difference between our situation on the south facing side of a valley to gardens only six hundred metres away on the north facing slope.

PLANT SENSIBLY – Especially in these hard economic times reduce the risk profile of your flower garden by only planting native plants suitable for your microclimate and avoid the expensive risky imports. Losses and replacements are increasingly expensive.

PREPARE SOILS – Before planting anything improve soils. Not only will this enable roots to quickly spread them selves but you will reduce the costs of summer irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides and dead or stunted plants.

PROTECTION – It’s still worth covering tender plants including early planted potatoes with fleece and if wild boar are feeding in the area renew the bags of human hair that you hung up on the fence or canes last autumn as a wise deterrent.

PEST PROTECTION – Alternate hot and rainy days are stimulating early hatches of harmful insects so start regular sprayings – preferably with ecological products.

PRUNINGS ARE DUE – Ensure you finish off the winter pruning of flowering and fruiting plants and trees to ensure good Spring/Summer flowerings and the quality of fruit crops.

PHASE SPRING SOWINGS – Sow the hardy varieties now but delay the most tender. At this time of year there is a month or two’s difference between sowings on the coastal plain and in inland situations.

PHASE SPRING PLANTINGS – Like Spring sowings there can be differences. In well protected south facing situations on our nearby coast one can already find outdoor tomato plants while we twelve kilometres but 400 metres up would not do so for another eight weeks.

POSTS MAY BE LOSE – After the recent gales and likely hood of more in March straighten up and knock all tree supports further into the ground.

Such actions will ensure that the garden is both colourful and productive 365 days ahead. Our books Your Garden in Spain, Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain and Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain are there to help you minimise the cost and problems on the way.

© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe March 2009.