By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe
Phew, how fast the 2007 gardening year has gone and with record rains over the past three months there have been fewer than normal sunny days for tidying up the garden or weeks or that the vegetable garden has been dry enough to work. Indeed it looks as if the first wet Christmas day for a decade will continue for a few days more and wet gear will be required for the rest of our traditional Christmas trek to a favourite Slow Food farm. However a couple more wet days before the year end festivities – which here in Spain continue to Twelfth Night and the Fiesta of the Three kings in every Spanish village and town on the 6th January – will provide time to think about ones gardening resolutions for 2008. Firm plans for ensuring that you make the best of your Spanish plot of land or apartment terrace however small or large. What is decided will obviously depend on whether you have a new garden to start or finish or are satisfied or dissatisfied with the garden that exists. However we indicate below the type of resolutions that we have heard fellow gardeners discussing at recent talks, book signings and chats over the fence.
Top dozen new year resolutions for 2008
- Make the garden into a chemical free zone to the benefit to the family, visitors, pets and wildlife without increasing the exposure to the possibility of major insect and fungal attacks. Luckily the growth of the organic vegetable and fruit industries had led to the availability of products for the amateur gardener as well as the major growers. If you have trouble finding them in your local garden centres, horticultural shops and agricultural cooperatives contact Trabe situated near St. Javier airport in Murcia and buy by mail order. (www.trabe.net), email: email@example.com or tel 968-572-004 asking for Fransisco Ibanez who speaks excellent English.
- Start or extend the home growing of ecological or organic vegetables in order to be able to harvest seasonal varieties 365 days a year. Our book Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain published this time last year was written to help you do this whether you have a garden or merely a small town house patio or apartment terrace. Even with a large vegetable plot we still grow sprouting seeds and Kombucha in the kitchen and have a sack of healthy wild mushrooms growing in the garage.
- With the abandonment of orchards in many areas and the practice of harvesting and selling unripe fruits more and more readers are planning to grow a wider variety of fruit, and to do so organically. As many of you already know our book Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain is in the bookshops and here on our website to help you. Within the UK its available together with our other books at the RHS Bookshop at Wisley Gardens 08452604505 and from Orca Books on 01202665432.
- Reduce the cost of plants by only planting those appropriate for the microclimate of your garden at it’s present stage of development. Recognise that the even microclimates of neighbouring gardens can vary depending on the height of hedges and fences, the extent of natural shade and the orientation of the house and the exposure of the garden to hot summer winds and cold winter winds. The plant tables included in Your Garden in Spain will help in this respect.
- Reduce maintenance needs by decreasing the size of lawns, increasing the area covered by terraces and paths and planting non obtrusive plants.
- Eat outdoors more frequently by establishing a variety of ways of cooking al fresco and cosy colourful perfumed situations for al fresco sundowners, breakfast ,lunch and dinners.
- Reduce pool cleaning times by only planting clean plants around the pool terrace. See section 3.3 of Your Garden in Spain for practical ideas.
- Stimulate the presence of more wildlife by installing nesting boxes, thick shrubberies as well as changing over from manufactured chemical insecticides, fungicides, weed killers and fertilizers to natural alternatives.
- Improve the facilities in the garden for keeping youngsters active and interested. This may include a children’s garden as well as Wendy houses and sand pits. Ideas are included in each of our books.
- To shred and compost as much as possible from the January/February major winter cutback and cleanup.
- Plant more evergreen and deciduous trees to provide for summer shade and sheltered winter sun.
- Recognise that plants can be harmed by too much water as well as well as allowing their root balls to dry out.
The making and implementation of new year resolutions such as these could help you enjoy your garden and life in Spain to the full and improve the local environment at the same time. Best of luck and happy and productive gardening in 2008.
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe December 2007.