Gardening with nature

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PUKKA PLANTING: Some first vegetables grown on the drive in builders buckets.

GARDENING can be a lifetime of learning if you regard it as one of your prime hobbies and moving to live and garden in Spain opens up new challenges, positive and negative, compared to gardening in northern Europe. The soil mixes, the climates, the water tables, the insects and fungi vary, the type of views and the range of plants and seeds available all vary.

Naturally one can rush into doing things as one did in the UK and sort out problems as they occur, which will start in the first month in many cases, or first spend some time observing what you are inheriting by moving to Spain and what the most significant differences are today and will be season by season.

Taking account of nature in your garden design, soil improvements, water utilisation, when you work in the garden, plantings and seasonal harvestings can result in a better garden at less cost and with less time spent on travelling to garden centres and garden material suppliers.

One way of immediately saving personal and purchased energy is to decide before you start to work the soil where planted areas will be and where terraces, paths, sheds, pools and gravelled areas will be. You can then concentrate on improving only on soil areas to be planted up for all other areas will be covered over and the firmer the base the better knowing how nature can change rock hard clay soils to unstable heavy clinging mud with the first heavy rainstorm. 

Secondly prepare home-made compost to work into soils by composting mixes of weeds, soft prunings, fire ash, leaves and kitchen waste.

Work in the garden when it’s safest, most comfortable and when nature is most active. At present that means day break until about 11.00am.

Start growing a few vegetables, perhaps in builder’s buckets, the first week you take over a new house. Why not eat well from day one rather than wait two or three years until you have completed the total layout and have a pukka vegetable plot prepared for planting.

When you purchase vegetable seeds select ones collected in countries around the Med and not from northern England that may shrivel up before being ready to harvest. Most importantly recognise we have two springs along the coastal plain and in the inland valleys, the regular spring and the autumn, and that many popular vegetables such as broad beans, broccoli, garlic, early onions and Christmas new potatoes are planted in the autumn here and not in the spring as in the UK.

When you start to think about plants recognise that many coastal mountains and abandoned agricultural lands are green for much of the year with nature’s bounteous spring flowers and perennial herbs and native trees. Plants that survive with deep roots even in recent years where rain has been scarce for most gardeners. So research which plants are most likely to be drought resistant. A useful starter list is included in the book ‘How to use less water in your garden’ available from Amazon Books and other internet book shops.

(c) Dick Handscombe – www.gardenspain.com

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