Retirement Gardening in Spain is Great

By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe, Retired holistic gardeners and authors living in Spain for 25 years.

Setting the scene

In spite of the poor economy and exchange rate, bad press, and some unethical developments Spain is still a great place to garden in retirement whether living in , or about to purchase, a villa town house or apartment.

Each can be made attractive and productive all the year round with large range of plants available and the long growing seasons. But a few things need to be taken into account from day one if Spanish gardening is to be enjoyed and not a chore as one ages.

Twelve things to take into account

  1. All situations
  • Plant drought resistant plants to reduce losses and watering costs.
  • Design layouts and plantings to reduce maintenance. Read the chapter/audit re minimising maintenance needs in our book Your Garden in Spain’.
  • As advised in the same book don’t use spiky or sharp leaf edged plants.
  • Don’t work in the heat of the day. Siestas were not invented for nothing!

‘Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style’ advice on suitable plants, containers, compost mixes, watering needs summer and winter, and general care.

  1. Villas
  • Ensure paths and terraces are even, non slip and have no loose slabs.
  • Add hand railings to steep steps in terraced gardens.
  • Resist the challenge of attempting to create and maintain a perfect English lawn.
  • Locate seats around the garden where there are interesting vistas within or external to the garden and perfumed plants are located.
  1. Apartments and town houses
  • Awnings and blinds are as important to protect plants from high summer suns and low winter suns.
  • Choice of plants for sunny, semi shaded and shaded areas is critical as terraces and balconies can get very hot.
  • The volume of compost to accommodate roots and maintain an adequate moisture level are limited.
  • Vegetables are easy to grow autumn to late Spring but in the summer although fruit veggies such as tomatoes and peppers thrive salad leaf vegetables suffer unless grown on a north facing terrace or are shaded.

‘Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style’ advise on suitable plants, containers, compost mixes, watering needs summer and winter, and general care.


Based on our combined 50 years of gardening in Spain and overall 127 years of gardening in Spain and elsewhere we have written a quartet of books published by Santana Books ( to help you make things easy for you with particular emphasis on what is possible and realistic whether living on the coast or inland.

The latest book is described in our last two articles and descriptions of the earlier three books will be found by clicking ‘Our books’.

© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe May 2010.