By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe
Spain’s best known expatriate gardeners and authors
Why it’s great to grow vegetables in Spain
In Spain there are two springs , the spring and autum, and for many expatriates living on the coastal plain or in inland valleys frosts have little impact on growing over wintering crops. So September is a very timely time to think about preparing an area to plant a few vegetables either in the ground, raised beds or containers. Start now and you can harvest daily fresh ecological grown vegetables for Christmas including new potatoes. In our book ‘Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’ we describe how we have grown over a hundred types of vegetables and in ‘Living well from our Mediterranean garden’ we explain which of the vegetables are most healthy plus the same for fruit, nuts, herbs, edible flowers and tree leaves.
Advantages of growing own vegetables in Spain
The advantages of growing your own vegetables are numerous and include the following.
1. You can grow the types of vegetable that you most like.
2. You can experiment with the growing of old heritage and heirloom varieties that are no longer grown commercially.
3. By crop rotation one can harvest a wide diversity of vegetables 365 days a year.
4. You can harvest just sufficient for a meal or each day and not have to wade through the contents of a partially used and aging large pre-packed bag or tray.
5. You can reduce the weight of shopping carried back from the shops or to and from the car.
6. You can feed unexpected guests easily and well.
7. By using natural fertilizers, insect control methods and fungicides you will have no need to resort to manufactured inorganic chemical solutions. Both the garden and garden shed become less smelly and healthier places to work in.
8. Include herbs within the vegetable plot and you have culinary and medicinal herbs that are more potent when fresh than when dried.
9. Involve the family in growing the vegetables, even establish a children’s garden, and you may find it easier to persuade every one to eat more salads and vegetables.
10.You can save money´
11.You don’t have to spend time finding ecological/organic vegetables. Unfortunately they are scarce in many areaa as most are exported.
How to start growing vegetables in Spain?
Making a start is not difficult and a large area is not necessary as explained below.
A. SMALL SCALE.
Start to grow vegetables in large pots, an old bath, grow bags, bilders plastic buckets, a growing table, and a small raised bed. All are possible on an apartment terrace, in a patio garden as well as a corner of a larger garden. Purchase plantlets of to save the bother of sowing from seedsseeds. Potatoes can also be grown in large pots.
B. LARGER SCALE.
Develop a traditional vegetable patch. Start or expand a compost heap to produce an annual supply of humus and beneficial micro organism rich compost for enriching the soil. Garden weeds, shredded prunings and green kitchen waste can all be usefully recycled. Keeping a couple of hens and rabbits that love to eat many waste leaves from the vegetable garden are also a good source of organic manures, especially if you feed them natural rather than processed foods. And of course you will have a home source of organic meat and eggs.
Work in well rotted compost into the soil on the basis of up to 1:2 of the original soil if you have a poor soil. Add well rotted manure according to the needs of particular groups groups of vegetables as advised in our book . The following examples indicate the need for added manurs.
HIGH Potatoes, tomatoes, courgettes, beans, peas.
MODERATE Globe artichokes, beetroots, garlic.
LOW Carrots, parsnips, radishes.
Leaf vegetables like a moderately rich soil but also do best when given fortnightly nitrogen feeds. Nettle leaves steeped in water for a few weeks is one of the best naturally available and free.
Once plants are growing use natural methods for deterring and controlling pests. In fact after a couple of years of mixed vegetable growing you are unlikely to have major problems.
Where possible irrigate with non chlorinated water. Install a water butt to collect rain water if you do not have access to agricultural water or a spring.
What can b e grown in Spain?
Almost anything and more than one sees in most greengrocers. All can be grown from seed, but in many cases it is more convenient for beginners and those with only a small growing area to purchase young plantlets ready for planting out. They also enable you to plant an instant vegetable garden, and restock it as earlier plantings are eaten. In this way terrace or patio pots or grow bags and small raised beds can be made very productive. There is no reason why you should not be growing your own home grown freshly harvested ecological vegetables on Christmas day.
The way ahead
As you see growing your own vegetables can be very worthwhile and fun. Why not have a go? Our book’ Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’ tells you how to do so step by step and most importantly ecologically.
If you live in Andalucia Dick will being running a two clinic and giving talks on the 9th and 10th of November at the Homes Gardens and Outdoor Living Show at the exhibition centre in Estepona. He will welcome the opportunity of helping you progress the development of your garden and solve any problems you might have.
He will also be launching a new book and will be interested in staying over a few days to visit you to solve problems within your garden . Contact him on Dick@gardenspain.com if you are interested.
(c) Clodagh and Dick Handscombe September 2012.
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe www.gardenspain.com September 2012..