Actions beyond the rains in Spain

At last it seems that the 2007 Spanish gota frio or monsoon season is over and sodden soils can start to dry out on sunny days to allow one to get into the garden for much needed attention as outlined below.

  1. Spanish soils, especially clay soils, are rock hard in dry periods but a thick slurry after weeks of rain so check that all posts on trees are still upright and bash all in a few centimetres more until firm. Driving around we see many tall recently planted trees leaning over. In such cases you may need to attach guy ropes to hold the trees upright once you have pushed them up to the vertical. It may be wise to reduce the heights of top heavy hedges so that they don’t tilt again during winter gales. Once their roots have spread they can be allowed to grow to your planned height.
  2. If you have lost plants in containers due to water logging empty the pots and drill bigger/more drainage holes in the base before refilling and planting. Improve the drainage of the soil compost mix before reusing by mixing in coarse sand or stone chippings or crushed lava.
  3. Unfortunately some early autumn sowings and plantings on the vegetable plot may have been lost due to rotting off. Replace as soon as possible. If it is still too wet to prepare the soil for planting over wintering peas and broad beans start them off in newspaper tubes that allow one to plant out when large enough without disturbing the roots. This is described on page 131 of our Growing healthy vegetables in Spain.
  4. The six weeks of rainfall, the heaviest for 400 years in some areas, has stimulated excessive new growth and broken some young branches. Cut out untidy damaged growth especially along paths and around terraces but leave the main cutback until after the new year. If you dead head bedraggled perennials there is a good chance that a couple of weeks of sunny weather will have them back in flower for the end of November and through to Christmas. Likewise with roses.
  5. All fruit trees and bushes need an urgent fungicide and insecticide spray. As explained in our book Growing healthy fruit in Spain we use an ecologically friendly neem, propolis and horsetail mix.
  6. Snails are appearing from nowhere so do a diligent search around comfrey plants, dry stone walls, waterways etc rather than kilos of snail granules. Snails fed for two or three weeks with rosemary in a snail cage sold in many hardware or ironmonger shops can then be cooked Asturian style for a tasty autumn tapas or starter.
  7. Remove fallen leaves off low growing plants before they start to rot.
  8. Don’t restart the irrigation system until the soil is dried out. For many that will be in the new year. If deep roots are waterlogged it can be months before plants start to wilt due to the roots rotting. Recognise that winter/early spring wilting is often not due to a shortage of water!
  9. If you have comfrey plants now is a good time for a major harvest and also splitting each plant to increase the number of plants. Each parent plant can produce three to seven healthy plantlets.
  10. Remove drowned/flattened summer annuals and replace with winter plants such as pansies.
  11. If not already done dig up the sweet potato and Jerusalem artichoke harvests.
  12. Read our recent article re the channelling and storage of storm waters and start to take actions before the next deluge. Whoever first coined the phrase In Spain the rain falls mostly on the plain must have never visited coastal Spain in the autumn!