October in Spanish Gardens

By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe

October an important month

This month is very important in the Spanish gardeners diary for a number of reasons.

Firstly the Indian summer temperatures of September have dropped and it is very pleasant to work in the garden throughout the day.

Secondly everywhere in Spain had rain during the second half of September so the soil is very workable.

Thirdly October has been generally dry in recent years but November has been wet in many areas so working in the garden during the four weeks of October is vital if the flower garden is to be colourful and tidy for Christmas and the vegetable plot sown and planted up to achieve maximum winter and spring crops.

Fourthly this is a good time to progress the development of a new or revamped garden and forget for a few hours the financial and political volcanoes of the current global scene.

Gardening for a better world

The other day we came across the following quote from a speech Sir Winston Churchill made in Scotland on the ninth of October 1908 exactly a hundred years ago. We thought it appropriate to gardening in Spain knowing of his love of gardening at Chartwell and elsewhere.

What is the use of living if be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone.

There is no better time to start the process in our Spanish gardens than October to make them more colourful and peaceful places in which to enjoy both our gardening and leisure time and as well make them more productive in order to eat more economically, gastronomically and healthily 365 days a year whatever new political decisions rain down on us.

Important tasks for October

  • Expand the area or number of containers available for growing vegetables as prices of good vegetables and fruit to continue to be inflated. If short of space try our ‘Ten-tub’ approach described in Part Three of the vegetable and fruit books referred to below.
  • Plant/sow the majority of over wintering vegetables. As explained in our book Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain the possibilities are much greater than in the UK unless you live in an inland in a severe frost pocket.
  • With the damper cooler weather snails and slugs can appear from nowhere. If you enjoy eating them cooked Asturian style with herbs, garlic, tomatoes and a slice of Jamon Serrano – cured ham – collect them several times a week and otherwise use ecological baits.
  • Clean up fallen leaves in flower beds, on paths and terraces but in the main leave under hedges and thick shrub beds so that they rot down in situ to improve the soil and reduce next summers evaporation.
  • Turn and top up compost heaps. If you have been having problems in producing good compost in Spain read the longish chapter in each of our three books re this important task. There are a few tricks to be learned as it is not as easy as in the cooler damper northern Europe.
  • Tie up or trim back the shrubs and perennials bashed down by recent heavy rains. While writing it is pouring preventing planned work on the vegetable plot. Luckily we cleared and rotovated several areas last evening.
  • Prepare planting holes for new deciduous fruit trees to plant up at the end of the month or in November. In the main evergreen citrus trees are best planted in early spring. See Growing healthy fruit in Spain before making a final choice for there are over seventy possibilities!
  • If not already done dig up and dry peanuts and harvest walnuts and chestnuts.
  • Enjoy your delicious persimmons and pomegranates that are now fully ripe, the last of raspberries and the first crops of early varieties of mandarins.
  • Order copies of our books as Christmas presents to ensure that friends new to Spain or those here for many years but with gardens that would benefit from a revamp have the essential information to hand.

As a reminder the books are:

  • Your Garden in Spain – From planning to planting and maintenance – ISBN 978-84-80054-670
  • Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain – From strawberries to oranges and water melons – ISBN 978-84-89954-62-5
  • Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain – From sprouting seeds to giant pumpkins – ISBN 078-84-89954-53-3

The trilogy is published by Santana Books in Spain and can be obtained from many bookshops and if more convenient from the publishers on 952-485838 and www.santanabooks.com and if in the UK by a phone call to the Royal Horticultural Society Bookshop at Wisley Gardens on 0845-260-4505. They can also be ordered from the publishers by clicking on OUR BOOKS on our home page and clicking the link at the bottom of the description of each book.

© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe October 2008.