Blossoming and fragrant gardens

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LANTANA: Noticeable difference at the end of May with south facing plants in full bloom, unlike the north facing.

Well we have experienced yet another non-traditional May in terms of rainfall. 

Traditionally the month opens with heavy thunderstorms that soaked the ground to enable planting holes for late flowering shrubs and trees to be easily dug, to stimulate the formation of fruit on olive and other fruit trees and enable secano (growing without regular watering) of melon, squash and onion crops

It also raises the water table, especially on the north facing where a line of springs ran throughout the year to provide inexpensive running agricultural water and the possibility of bottling up pristine unchlorinated water for domestic cooking and drinking.

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Since none of this happened even more villagers have given up traditional agricultural practices and expat gardeners have had to commence summer levels of watering early with very low water tables so there will be no let up until the autumn. 

It’s difficult to believe that the first summer we spent in Spain, in the late 80’s, it had rained on 10 days in May and it rained on eight in the first half of June.

But despite the climatic changes gardens are certainly becoming colourful and perfumed and great vegetable crops are being harvested with those being grown in well prepared soil mixes in raised beds or builder’s buckets which are less water demanding than poorly prepared vegetable plots in the open ground.

In the latter case success comes from ensuring that the top 30 centimetres of soil contains 30 per cent of worked in composts from compost heaps, local horse stables and sheep or goat sheds or bags of ground up well composted animal manures.

In recent years the use of a little TerraCottem water conserving soil improver available via the TerraVida website www.terravida.com at the bottom of planting holes and in seed drills has certainly paid off.

 It may seem expensive at first but one uses so little per planting that it is in fact economical in water and plant savings.

Those who developed their garden as four mini gardens, each on one side of the house will have noticed significant differences in the speed of leafing up and flowering of plants such as lantanas, hibiscus and roses as illustrated in the two photographs.

During the last winter cut back both plants had been pruned to the same size and neither have been watered being now 20-year-old plants.

This adds to the interest of gardening in Spain and by midsummer both lantana plants will be equal.

Indeed the north facing plant may well require more summer pruning as it will require less watering as temperatures rise to the mid-30’s.

© Dick Handscombe 

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