Seven Useful Products for Spanish Gardeners

Having recently given the garden shed a spring clean we thought it useful to share our ideas of the most useful products it houses. Products that over the past twenty years of gardening in Spain we have found the most beneficial in terms of reducing the strain of working heavy soils, pruning tough woody growth, daily watering of containers and the incidence of pests and fungal diseases. We wish all had been available and purchased the day we came to Spain!

FORK AND SPADES

The several broken fork and spade handles and misshapen fork prongs  thrown away highlighted the inappropriateness of both typical brands sold both in the UK and in Spain. Although a fork and spade are less used in gardening here in Spain compared to the UK we eventually came across and purchased the Fiskars ergonomically designed products. Both have strong adjustable ( for height) metal handles.

MATTOCKS

Many of the jobs done in the UK with a fork or spade are done in Spain with mattocks. The range we use is as follows. Short and long handled narrow bladed for preparing seed beds, digging planting holes for smaller plants, removing weeds and digging small trenches. Long handled wide bladed for digging trenches and planting holes for trees and larger shrubs. A wide one with a serrated edge is used for preparing seed beds, raising ridges and clearing dead growth at the end of the growing season.
Often the strongest and least expensive mattocks are found in Agricultural Cooperative shops.

PRUNERS

There is a lot of pruning to do in a good Spanish garden especially during the winter cutback and spring pruning of trees. It’s very easy to end up with a sore wrist, elbow, shoulder or neck especially as one ages. So most of our pruners from small ones for deadheading  to a long extended pole tree pruner are now from the Fiskars ergonomic range. Some of their mechanisms for reducing the effort required to prune are very novel.
See www.fiskars.com for more information.

NEEM OIL

More and more ecologically friendly sprays are appearing in Spain to support the commercial growing of organic fruit and vegetables. Gradually they are also being made available to the retail trade.
One of the most useful is neem oil, a natural insecticide,, for use in the flower, fruit and vegetable gardens. If you cannot yet find it locally contact Trabe (www.trabe.net) and ask for your nearest distributor.

NEEM POWDER

The kernels from which neem oil is pressed are dried and ground into a powder that can be dusted over the surface of seed beds and around recently planted plantlets to kill off fungal spores and lurking young slugs.
Also a Trabe product. An alternative mail order supplier for both is kontakt@niem-handel.de. The proprietor Gerald Moser speaks and writes good English.

SULPHUR POWDER

We use the natural yellow sulphur powder rather than the more hazardous copper sulphate powder to dust the leaves of vegetables such as squash and tomatoes, and grape vines and strawberries  against fungal diseases.

WATER RETAINING SOIL IMPROVERS

There are now several dried water retaining gel products available in Spanish garden centres. We have found the most useful and economic to be TerraCottem distributed by TerraVida to retail outlets and by mail order. Garden centres normally stock 750 gram bottles but if you are laying out a new garden it is worth investing in a 5 or 10 kilo container.
English product descriptions will be found on <www. terravida.com> and www.terracottem.com. Contact for mail order is <admon@terravida.com>.
The gel can be mixed into new flower beds, seed drills, planting holes and container compost mixes. It was originally developed for mixing into the seed beds of new golf courses.
Recent published research claims that TerraCottem can reduce irrigation needs by over 50%.