December in your Spanish garden

By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe Spain’s best known holistic self sufficient gardening authors and broadcasters about to enjoy their 23rd Christmas in Spain.

Beginning of December weather in Spain

Having just arrived back from a wet study tour of Costa Rica – 13.5 days rain out of 14, the worst early spring weather for ten years – it’s great to sit here writing this column with clear blue skies and the warming sun shining through the study window.

Once done it’s off to the vegetable plot to prepare ground for planting some last over wintering onions, brassicas and garlic but there are other body warming jobs to be done. The temperature is below ten degrees centigrade but the snow that covered much of Spain while we were away has gone below 1500 metres.

Ten Essential December Tasks

The following tasks reflect our actual situation.

  • Sort through the stored squash especially the good crop of butternut squash we had this autumn and feed any doubtful ones to the turkey to add another kilo if possible in the next three weeks.
  • Harvest the excess crop of mandarins and slice them thinly to dry overnight on our Dorrex tray drier. Mixed with other dried fruits nuts and veg they make a tasty light tapa for a pre-dinner drink, sustenance during chilly mountain walks and half coated with chocolate they are healthier and tastier then oversweet after dinner chocolate mints. An English language data sheet re our drier can be obtained by emailing to
  • Put another layer of fleece over the Christmas potato plants in case there is a heavy frost.
  • Weed our experimental raised beds and give the leaf vegetables and onions in place a feed of the waste from our friends bee hives. After the wet autumn his honey yields are down but there was a sack of nutrient full waste waiting for us yesterday. A local bonsai specialist uses nothing other than this unusual source of fertilizer. Unusual that is to us – It was always used in the village pre chemical and EU days. Restrictive EU laws led to most villagers giving up their bee hives about ten years ago.
  • Continue the cleaning up of the old olive trees in the abandoned grove that we took over recently. No rent necessary – just our labours for the chance of our own extra virgin olive oil in two years time, good burning logs for the stove, edible wild chicory leaves , an extra supply of carobs for the rabbits, the chance to plant four classes of figs for we have run out of space elsewhere and the satisfaction of saving a few of the thousands of abandoned trees.
  • Write up our garden based mosquito repellent for our ‘Health from the garden’ blog on If you click communities and then blogs you will find our first three monthly entries. If not already subscribers to What The Doctors Don’t Tell You it would be a valuable Christmas present for many gardeners.
  • Plant up empty window boxes with colourful winter pansies and violas. The latter for edible flowers to brighten up festive salads together with nasturtium flowers as well as brightening up a terrace.
  • Sweep up the continuing fall of deciduous leaves.
  • Give the garden a final light pre Christmas trim.
  • Write our end of year letter to gardening friends reminding them that it’s not too late to buy Your Garden in Spain, Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain and Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain for Christmas or Los Reyes presents. Very cost effective presents as the books are full of cost saving ideas for today’s restrictive budget days. Last minute mail order books can be actioned by dialling 952-485367 in Spain or 0845-2604505 in the UK. Naturally they can be sent direct to intended recipients.

That’s the days writing complete. It’s now an old sweater and boots on to walk to the vegetable plot after first turning off and bottling last nights batch of dried mandarin slices.

© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe December 2008.