February in the Spanish Garden

By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe,
Active gardeners, authors and broadcasters in Spain

The hope

Above all February along the Mediterranean coast, both on the coastal plain and near by inland valleys, is the hope that the disastrous frosts of 2004 and 2005 will not be repeated. Last year was mild and this year so far even milder. Our garden is full of colour while we complete the winter cutback – the equivalent of the autumn cutback in the UK.

On the other hand gardens an hour plus inland in the regular frost belt have been black since November when the first nights of well below zero were experienced.

Some of the work required

  • With the cut back and clean up almost complete now is a good time to split perennial plants and transplant alongside the parent plant for mass effects or to a new part of the garden. Small root cuttings can be potted up and put in a cold frame or green house to create new plants for planting out in the Spring or using as swaps with friends.
  • Seeds for flowering annuals such as petunias and summer vegetable plants such as tomatoes and peppers need to be started during February if they are to be ready for planting out in May.
  • With the mild weather, currently eleven degrees centigrade overnight and twenty five in the sun at lunch time the spraying of fruit trees needs to be started early. Sticky strips hung on our fruit trees are already catching unwanted insects. What to spray with is outlined in our book Growing healthy fruit in Spain.
  • Many areas have had no rain for some weeks so vegetable plots need an irrigation. We flooded ours last night being still on the ancient system of channelled water.
  • Whatever transpires re February weather March is likely to involve some high winds so during February check all post supports and ties on trees and climbers.
  • Sweet peas are up and it is time to put in pea sticks or a net support hung on wires between posts.
  • Now is a good time for the annual trimming of palm trees. If they are now too high to do yourself invest in a professional palm surgeon. While doing so check that your palms are not attacked by the spreading pest the palm weevil.
  • Compost heaps deserve a turning and completed compost can be sieved for inclusion in seed composts.
  • Pond plants grow rather fast in the Spanish climate so now is the time to thin them out before they take off again as temperatures warm up .
  • Now is a good time to evaluate and monitor your progress towards being natural ecological and organic before you forget the successes and failures of last years vegetable growing , whether in a vegetable plot, raised beds or containers. There is a practical audit in section 5.8 of our book Growing healthy vegetables in Spain for this purpose.
  • The traditional warm sunny days of February – once the sun is up – are good times for progressing construction projects which could be the building of a pond, raised beds. or hen house or the preparing a vegetable plot.
  • Clean out and fumigate the green house before filling with seeds trays and pots.
  • Clean out the garden shed and discard old containers of manufactured inorganic chemical products and replace with ecological products for this year.
  • Seed potatoes purchased during January are sprouting and they can be planted out in frost free areas this month. In frosty areas hold back for a month.
  • New deciduous fruit trees can be planted in containers and the mixed garden or orchard.
  • If not already done purchase seeds for spring sowings.
  • After dinner cut up some more mid season mandarins and dry them overnight as outlined in our recent article on the topic.

Further tasks are listed in the monthly calendars included in our latest books Your garden in Spain, Growing healthy vegetables in Spain and Growing healthy fruit in Spain.

© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe February 2008.