Hello, we are Clodagh and Dick Handscombe. Between us we have a combined 50 years of gardening in Spain both on the Mediterranean coastal plain and inland. Luckily with the foresight of our parents and grandparents we had sixty years of experience before coming to Spain.
Like many we came to Spain for a less stressful, healthier outdoor lifestyle. We believe strongly that gardens, for both full time residents and absentee owners visiting only for holidays or letting for other peoples holidays, need to be designed or modified to support/enable planned lifestyles in Spain especially to make the best of the best of the weather throughout the year. Spanish gardens can also be the basis for a gastronomic and healthy diet.
Reacting to the disappearance of most local agriculture we have become very selfsufficient over the years as we enjoy a wide diversity of fresh ecologically grown produce.
In our holistic garden allotment and olive grove we grow flowers, culinary and medicinal herbs, vegetables and fruit and are largely self sufficient in our needs for a healthy Mediterranean diet. Summer shade for siestas, sundowners, al fresco cooking eating and dining is provided by the shade of mature trees and a colourful naya – covered arched terrace. Sheltered sunny warm winter corners are created by wind breaking boundary plant clad walls and internal hedges. To enable us to produce rich composts for enriching soils for garden beds, containers and the allotment plus invaluable home reared meat and eggs we keep a few chickens and rabbits. Colourful and perfumed flowers create a sensual and sensuous environment in which to dine, paint, relax and maintain the garden.
Unfortunately we don’t have a lake for fish but the occasional productive days trout fishing in clear unpolluted inland mountain waters and on the beach meet most of our fish needs.
Our self sufficiency has been stimulated by a number of things.
- Twenty years ago our Spanish village was largely self sufficient with much produce still grown by traditional methods. Today very little is grown or raised and available in local shops and restaurants. What there is is raised with the use of copious amounts of chemicals and synthetic feeds.
- Organically produced produce is more difficult to obtain than in the UK and other northern European countries as the majority is exported.
- Nine years ago we walked for 52 days across the Pyrenees from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean coast. An often wilderness walk of 950 kilometres during which we enjoyed the hospitality of small villages , some now with less than ten inhabitants, who still produced by ecological/organic methods.
- A couple of years later we travelled around Cuba largely on foot to see first hand the way in which both city and rural folks raised vegetables, fruit, meat and fish in holistic back yards, patios and roof tops by ecological/organic methods.
- Over the last fifteen years we have travelled extensively around Spain on foot and by car seeing the variations in plants used in gardens and vegetable and fruit growing practices and searching out traditional artisan produced slow foods and recipes.
- After twenty five years in Spain the price of eating out has gone up some ten times with fresh produce especially vegetables used less and less while our pensioners income is considerably less than working incomes when we first purchased Spanish properties.
- With the wonderful Spanish climate, especially the two springs spring and autumn, it’s easy to grow a wide diversity of produce throughout the year for daily harvests.
- The increasing cost of good fruit and vegetables as a result of agriculturalists abandoning their land due to rising costs and low at farm prices, the increasing use of agricultural land for the growing of bio-fuel crops and more profitable solar panel energy parks.
In 1999 we started to share our gardening experiences with other expatriates by writing weekly columns titled ‘Practical Gardening by Greenfingers’ in The Costa Blanca News. In 2001 our first 100 columns, by then also published in the Costa de Sol News, were published in our first gardening book ‘Practical Gardening on the Costa – Your personal guide’. Up to then we had been incognito as Greenfingers but a photograph of our wedding in Gibraltar appeared in the newspaper on the day the book was also launched. The launch of the book led us to be invited to write articles for a number of other newspapers and magazines and give talks up and down the coast to regional gardening clubs and societies.
Recognising the need for a more comprehensive book than our first book and other books on gardening in Spain we accepted an invitation from Santana Books to write Your Garden in Spain – Practical ideas for gardens that suit your Spanish lifestyle with the idea that a fruit and vegetable book would follow. In practice three follow on books were written Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain – From sprouting seeds to giant pumpkins published in December 2006 , Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain – From strawberries to oranges and watermelons published in February 2007 and Your Garden in Spain – From planning to planting and maintenance published in May 2007.
In 2010 we published Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style to enable apartment and village house dwellers to develop colourful, perfumed and productive gardens on their terraces, balconies and windowsills.
In September 2011 we published a short 40 page book as a natural follow up to the earlier books. It is titled `Living Well from Our Mediterranean Garden’.
Well implying developing a holistic colourful, perfumed, therapeutic and productive garden with benefits for mental and physical health, gastronomy and family economics.
In November 2012 we published ‘Making Waterless Gardens a Practical Reality Worldwide’ as an Amazon Kindle E-book.
All our writings are based on our own experiences in Spain and our garden includes many experiments. Like everyone we have had our share of successes and failures and the experience of the record breaking frosts of 2004, 5 and 6 that blackened and killed off many delicate plants. All have enabled us to enrich our books for your benefit whether an experienced or new gardener, long resident in Spain or about to do so or just generally interested in Mediterranean gardening..
We hope that the quintet of our last five books will help you enjoy your gardening in Spain, and other Mediterranean climate situations, to the full wherever you live or decide to settle.
For us we are having a rest from writing books to catch up on our own garden and fully live the outdoor self sufficient life that the Spanish climate and countryside enables one to have.
If you are interested we included a complete list of our fifteen pre and post retirement books in the article titled ‘About the Handscombe’s‘