Spanish Gardens in December

By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe – Practical gardeners and authors living in Spain for 25 years.

Seasonal Changes in your Spanish Garden

As mentioned last month Autumn is often a very few weeks in Spain as indeed it was this year. Late November the warm sunny weather changed to a week of rain and snow for most of Spain although luckily the expatriate Mediterranean coastal strip and immediate range of mountains avoided the snow. But the first few days of December dropped to just above or just below zero for many but, as happens in the winter months, catapulted back to the low twenties over night. Indeed the early morning temperatures two and three days ago were minus one and plus twenty degrees centigrade in our garden! A sweater is no problems for gardeners and walkers but plants are at time not sure what to do – hibernate or spring into new growth. Whether inland Spain will have a white Christmas and the coastal areas are affected is anyone’s guess so gardening tasks in December reflect this as well ensuring gardeners contribute as much as possible to the festive season.

Top twelve tasks for December in Your Spanish Garden

  • Plant up window boxes with colourful Christmas/winter plantings.
  • Make a last planting of spring bulbs.
  • Nurse Christmas pot plants so that they are at their best from Christmas to Los Reyes – the Three Kings festival of 6 th January.
  • Sweep up the last of the fallen leaves from deciduous shrubs and trees.
  • Do a pre Christmas weeding and tidy up to maximise the Christmas display from still flowering plants. Leave heavy pruning until the annual big cutback in January/February – It’s not in October here in Spain.
  • Cover valuable plants vulnerable to frosts with fleece, wind break material or bubble wrap.
  • Harvest vegetables and fruits and the last of walnuts and pecan nuts for the festive season. If growing new potatoes for Christmas cover them with fleece in case there is an early frost or snow. If your oranges and mandarins are still green and sour make a note to plant some early fruiting varieties before the spring.
  • Clean up , prune and feed soft fruit beds.
  • Make last plantings of plantlets for Swiss chard, peas, broad beans, winter onions and leeks and salad leaves.
  • If you have olive trees complete their harvesting. Pickle some and if you have sufficient alone or with neighbours and friends arrange to have them pressed for your own extra virgin cold pressed olive oil. One litre normally needs 5 to 6 kilos of olives and a personal pressing a minimum of 200 kilos of olives. How to pickle is explained in our book ‘Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain’.
  • The tops of palm trees can be pruned and shaped to look their best.
  • On dry days start winter projects such as building paths, terraces, rockeries, raised beds, ponds and walls for a compost heap. Shreddings from the winter cutback and Festive season green kitchen waste will provide good starter material.

That should keep you exercised and warm up to Christmas. Then enjoy a festive rest . There will be much to do in the new year to ensure Spring and Summer gardens are as beautiful and productive as possible.

Our books for seasonal presents.

Each of our books make excellent presents for both enthusiastic and reluctant gardeners whether experienced or learners. There is something for everyone as gardening in Spain and other Mediterranean climate locations is very different to that experienced previously in more northerly climes.

‘Your Garden in Spain’, ‘Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style’, ‘Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain’ and ‘ Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’ will each help you avoid common mistakes and pay for them selves on you next visit to a garden centre and the plantings of buys.

© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe December 2010.