QUESTION TIME

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1.Forgetting that this is not an English climate!
In spite of the worst frost for 25 or 50 years last March the climate is indeed very different in this part of Spain. Summer temperatures can soar towards fifty degrees in some inland locations and there can be no rain for four or five months on end. It is therefore important that you understand the natural microclimate of your parcel of land or existing garden and improve it before planting too many expensive semi tropical and tropical plants. Shade and protection from cold winter and hot summer drying winds are very important when laying out an embryo garden. Also ensure that you have the water to keep thirsty plants alive before you plant more than the naturalised drought resistant plants.
 
2. Watering systems!
Following on from the first problem we recommend that you install a simple drip irrigation system to all plants at least until they are established. That could be two or three years.
 
3.Matching and identifying in Spanish suitable plants for our climate and conditions!
This was one of the reasons that we wrote our second book Your Garden in Spain. Some 350 of the plants most likely to survive in our Spanish gardens are described in Section Four including their botanical and most commonly used Spanish and English names. Section five looks at what are suitable for a range of different types of gardens.
 
4. Rocky ground and large rocks in the wrong place!
   Firstly recognise that rocks can be very useful when constructing the garden. They can be used for walls, rockeries, the sides of raised beds, edging of paths, surrounds of ponds etc. If the largest rocks are not in the ideal places consider incorporating them in special features where they are or hire a crane or bulldozer to move them. If all the soil is full of rocks or builders rubble don’t attempt to clear all the ground but first lay out terrace areas, paths and areas of stone chippings laid over black plastic and work on clearing and enriching the areas left for flower beds and a fruit or vegetable plot.
 
5. Clay!
We started with a plot that was rock hard but after the first two day storm one could sink up to ones knees in a clinging orange clay. The answer was to stabilise as much as possible before worrying about plants. Once paths, terraces and chipping areas are laid the problem is more than half solved. And recognise that it’s worth laying temporary chipping paths even if you intend to lay down hard surfaces later. The chippings can then be used as a base, mixed into cement mixes or moved to use elsewhere in the garden. The clay areas retained for planting flower or fruit bushes and trees and perhaps a vegetable plot can then be improved by mixing in sand, rotted composts and manures to create a friable loamy soil before making major plantings. If an absentee or non gardener interesting minimalist gardens can be created by covering the whole plot with an attractive colour and size – or  colours and sizes – of stone chippings and then planting a few drought resisting shrubs and trees through the chippings and relying on pots and ornaments for added interest.
 
6. Creating ‘rooms’ in a terraced garden!
We assume that by ‘rooms’ the reader was thinking of dividing their garden into a number of mini gardens to create interest, wind breaks, winter sun and summer shade, and privacy. We suggest that they consider dividing the garden by low hedges or cordoned trees above or below the terraces and with hedges at right angles to the terraces perhaps either side of descending steps even going the whole length of the garden or just between two terraces. It would also be possible to develop the garden as a series of concentric boxes, the inner box being the most sheltered and exotic. And of course as in all gardens one start point is four mini gardens at the front, the two sides and the back of the house.
 
 In the next issue:  we will consider the other listed problems of: The monthly care and maintenance of citrus trees to obtain good crops; Controlling and removing weeds; Making good compost; Overcoming the geranium moth, Controlling snails;  Designing low maintenance gardens so that you have time for all the other interesting things there are to do in Spain, and  general ignorance of how to cope with the Spanish gardening challenge.
 
 
 Regarding the last problem the full title of our new book is
‘Your Garden in Spain – Practical ideas for gardens that suit your Spanish life style.’ In it we record our experiences and ideas gained by learning from scratch over a combined thirty years of gardening in both inland valleys and along the coasts.
 
Like many readers we started at the deep end learning by trial and error and by our successes and inevitable failures.
 
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe
November 2005.
 

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