January in the Spanish garden

By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe practical gardeners and authors living in Spain

January is a busy month in Spanish gardens for this is when the major garden cutback and clean up takes place rather than in the autumn in the UK and Ireland. Here many plants flower through to Christmas so the objective of autumn gardening was to maximise year end colour. In coastal areas many of those plants will continue flowering throughout the winter or until there is a frost but if not cut back now they will become leggy and untidy . The later the cutback the later they will bud up and flower in the spring or early summer.

Although the early flowering acacias and almonds are in blossom, or about to be so, most flowering and fruiting trees also need pruning. The first to tackle being the almonds, olives and deciduous fruits then the evergreens such as avocados and citrus trees. Fruit trees also need spraying against fungal attacks after all the recent rains.

Raspberries have just stopped fruiting having started in May – yes we have a really long fruiting season here in Spain – so the canes need pruning and tying up. Excess young plants at the outside of the rows need digging up and replanting to create an extended or new row. Strawberry beds need cleaning up and restrawed. Young runners can be used to replace old plants and extend the size of beds. Currant bushes benefit from pruning and prunings can be planted to raise new bushes.

The vegetable plot and raised beds are now yielding well with daily harvests of seakale beet, rocket, nasturtium leaves, young onions and garlic whose stems can be chopped and added to salads, parsley, radishes, broccoli and the peas, broad beans, onions, leeks, garlic globe artichokes, cauliflowers, cabbages, spinach, carrots, beetroot for early spring harvests are growing well.

In the garage the second crop of wild mushrooms are ready to harvest and in the kitchen the first sprouting seeds are growing in an automatic sprouter and the first fortnightly harvest of kombucha is due tomorrow – more of that in a later article.

Yesterday the asparagus bed was weeded and given a top coating of well rotted seaweed collected last January from a local beach after a storm and the onions and leeks weeded and the rain/sun compacted soil loosened.

Later in the month we will dig holes in the area intended for growing squashes and melons and fill them with a mix of well rotted horse manure and compost. They will be sown with seeds under plastic or planted with plantlets after any chance of late frosts is past.

Like most villages there are nearby lines of canes growing alongside ditches and a generally dry river bed. The waning moon at the beginning of the month is the time to cut and stack them so that they will dry and harden before we need them in May to prepare supports for beans, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines etc.

At the end of the month we will also need to look out for seed potatoes so that they can be chitted ready for planting out six to eight weeks later.

All the above activities with the exception of kombucha are included in our three latest books Your garden in Spain, Growing healthy fruit in Spain, and Growing healthy vegetables in Spain. Descriptions of the books and buying possibilities will be found elsewhere on our website.

© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe January 2008.