FEBRUARY JOBS IN THE MEDITERRANEAN GARDEN
TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE
by Viveros Florena, Cómpeta, Málaga.
May is the month of flora and fauna - a month of revelry for gardeners as our gardens. burgeon and then billow with the arrival of spring. Everything is lushly green especially after the recent late rains. In Celtic lands Maia, the Roman Goddess of growth, shared the May Day holiday with the celebration of Beltane, or bright fire, which marked the mid-point of the sun’s progress around the astrological wheel between spring equinox and summer solstice. On the eve of May Day, beltane bonfires were lit on hilltops to banish darkness and welcome spring.
The first words spoken on May Day were “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” to ensure luck and fertility for the month. Gifting a branch of hawthorn ensured beauty, luck and fertility. Back in Medieval times, flowers were thickly strewn through the streets; it was a time of abundance, revelry, flirtations and fertility. The Queen of the May was crowned and Jack-in-the-Green led the procession through the streets. Dancing around the Maypole with colourful ribbons, weaving over and under, over and under - the wheel of life. It’s a time to romp in nature, celebrate life, sow seeds, make posies, garlands and bouquets and drink in all the fragrance and beauty. Over the years, this special day has evolved into a celebration of workers and human rights with a fair wage for all.
Important Days of the Month:
1st May: May Day, International Workers’ Day and the first day of Summer according
to the Pagan Calendar; hence maypoles and dancing!
Mother’s Day in Spain
2nd May: World Tuna Day, World Laughter Day
3rd May: World Freedom of Press Day, World Koala Day
4th May: International Firefighters’ Day
5th May: International Midwife’s Day
7 th May: World Naked Gardening Day - get out there and enjoy it fully!
8th May: World Red Cross Day
9th May: Europe Day
10th May: World Migratory Bird Day
14 th May: World Fair Trade Day
15th May: International Day of Families
16th May: International Day of Living Together in Peace
17th May: International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia
18th May: International Museum Day
Liz of Scattergood Aromatherapies will be starting a series of talks about herbs and their uses. The first one will be about mints.
At Viveros Florena, 11am, free.
20th May: World Bee Day
21st May: International Tea Day and World Day for Cultural Diversity
22nd May: International Day for Biological Diversity
23rd May: On this day in 1707 the Swedish botanist and naturalist Carl Linnaeus was born. He introduced the classification system of genus and species we use today
25th May: International Plastic Free Day, African Liberation Day
29th May: International Day of UN Peacekeepers
31st May: World No Tobacco Day
Moon Phases: Full moon 16 th May; new moon 30 th May
May Birth Flower: is the sweet-scented hawthorn, symbolising hope, luck and fertility.
And, if you sit under a hawthorn on May 1 st , you are liable to be whisked away forever to the faery underworld - you have been warned!
Jobs of the Month:
This is one of the best months to be in the garden. I love the greenness and the feeling that everything is growing and revelling in the lovely weather. The birds are singing and lizards and geckos are starting to re-appear. Because of the late and lovely rainfall we are having, everything is looking extra luscious and planting has never been easier or better so take quick advantage of it all.
Herbs: it’s a great time of the year for herbs – they’re fresh, tender and just bursting with flavour. They’re also great to attract pollinators. Basil is a seasonal favourite but many of you ask how to make it grow big. Whilst it is useful to have it close by in a pot, biggest plants grow in open ground, and reasonably decent ground. It’s ideal with some afternoon shade in full summer. Herbs don´t often need fertiliser, their flavour is best when grown tough, but for lush plants, try adding a little nitrogen-rich feed for extra leafage - dried blood is a good tonic. One of the most important factors is how you crop the leaves. The temptation is to
take the largest leaves on the bottom branches but these are the powerhouse of the plant; they take in the most sunlight and convert it into nutrients. So leaving those, means that your plant will grow bigger. Instead crop the newer leaves at the top of the plant. They’re not so big but they are very tender and every time you pinch from the top, two new stems will grow from that spot. Hence your plant will grow outward and get bigger every time you crop. Big, bushy, beautiful basil!
Mints are available in a myriad of flavours - chocolate, strawberry, orange, lemon, pineapple, rose - try them, they really are fabulous.
We’ve got pimpinella anisum, the anise plant in stock. A Mediterranean herb, it has one of the strongest flavours available in nature, richly liquorice. It grows as a bushy herb with lacy leaves and a profusion of white flowers in umbels. Once established, they become drought resistant. The leaves and flowers are edible throughout the growing season; in September collect the seeds, saving some for replanting next year, and storing the rest for curries, baking and flavouring drinks (great in gin) - anywhere where you want an anise-type flavour.
And another unusual herb/spice for you, currently in stock, the wasabi plant or Japanese horseradish - that hot and pungent spice often used in sauces for sushi and savoury snacks.
A handsome plant, wasabi greens can be harvested throughout the growing season taking the outer leaves and stems for mixing in salads and stir fries. In its second autumn, the plant can be lifted and harvest the roots, saving one or two for re-planting. These are grated and dried for winter seasoning. Keep your plants in the shade and well-watered.
Vegetables: time for tomatoes, peppers, chillies, aubergines, courgettes, pumpkins, melons, watermelons, chickpeas, sweet potatoes and salad crops - all those that relish the heat of the coming months.
We’ve another novelty in stock for you - the peanut plant, arachis hypogaea. Peanuts are not true nuts but the underground seeds of a tropical legume plant, related to peas and beans - so a good nitrogen fixer. It forms a low bushy plant, with orange-veined yellow flowers above ground, as you’d expect. But the fruit and seeds develop at the end of shoots, called ‘pegs’ which grow down into the ground. The peanuts form at the end of these pegs.
Towards the end of summer/early autumn, the foliage of the plant will start to yellow, an indication that the pods are ready. Gently pull a couple of pods out of the earth to check for readiness. Then lift the entire plant, remove excess soil and hang in a dry warm place, but out of the sun. Leave them to cure for about 1 week, then remove the pods from the plant.
Let them air dry for about another week, then they’ll be ready for eating.
Fruit: If your trees have set huge amounts of young fruit, it is better to thin some out and not over-stress the tree, especially if trees are still young. Some natural fall will occur; citrus trees, in particular, often drop lots of young fruits so don´t panic! Incredible as it may seem, up to 99% of the flowers can drop without setting. But, once fruits reach the size of a
marble, if they still seem over-prolific, then gently remove some so that the remaining fruits have space to develop properly and the tree has the energy to carry them to full size.
If you have the opposite problem and your fruit trees aren´t producing fruit, here’s a few things to check out. Firstly, its age; don’t expect fruit until the tree, in general, is 5 years old - if you’re impatient for fruit, you need to buy a tree of that age. Position is vital , most fruit trees need full sun and try and find them a welcoming site - not in the teeth of the wind on a
bare rocky outcrop! Check if your tree is growing healthily and flowering - if not, adjust watering and feeding. Lack of flowering is sometimes down to over-use of nitrogen rich fertilisers. For instance, if your tree is set in a lawn that you regularly fertilise, the excess of nitrogen may produce a green, lush-looking tree but to the detriment of flowers. If you get flowers but no fruit, it may be lack of pollinators, so consider growing plants around it that will attract them. As an emergency measure, gently shake the tree so that pollen is dislodged and may fall onto a receptive pistil. Always fertilise regularly.
Climbers: These are some of the hardest working plants in our gardens – they, literally, raise us to another level and are great for adorning white walls or dripping over pergolas. Don´t scorn the annual summer climbers; they may only last one year but they are prolific flowerers during that period and most self-seed wildly, so you’ll never be without them!
They grow really quickly and give a great splash of instant colour. Some of the best are theipomoea hybrids such as Heavenly Blue and the tricolour. Relatives of the rampant deep blue morning glory that we love/hate, these are far more refined and won´t become an invasive problem but will give you masses of spring and summer flowers. And another favourite is the ipomoea lobata (formerly mina lobata) which is a gorgeous fiery combo of yellow and red. All of these may stay perennial in a very sheltered position with a mild winter but, in any case, will self-seed freely so look out for emerging seedlings next spring.
Palms: The palm weevil continues to be a scourge. Whilst perhaps not quite as all-devouring as it was a few years back, it can still be devastating, especially if you have large mature palms. As a preventative, don’t cut leaves off palms once the weather really starts to warm up, so from about now. Cutting releases an odour which invites the palm beetle and they are active through all the warmer months. Contrary to popular belief, they will attack all types of palms (though their favourites are the phoenix and washington families) except our dwarf native palm, chamaerops humilis, which seems to be immune.
Summer smells: the classic Mediterranean aromas that waft around are jasmine, cestrum nocturnum (lovingly known as dama de noche/lady of the night) and citrus blossom. But there are many you can add to these. Try heliotrope, brunfelsia, murraya, philadelphus, choisya, viburnum, stephanotis, nicotiana, the ginger lily family and, of course, roses.
Because of the late rains, you’ve still plenty time to add some of these into your garden now.
Deadhead: Remove old flowers to encourage a continuous supply of new flowers. Things like daisy bushes and lavender can simply be sheared over lightly, but prune large flowerers, like roses, individually. Cut the flower stalk down low to an outward-facing leaf
bud to encourage new branching.
Save Our World: Our population of swallows is in serious decline. I recall, only a decade back, when we would sit on our stoep on early spring evenings and be bombarded by swallows searching for nesting homes. Sadly, this no longer happens. It is reckoned that
their population has dropped by an alarming 21% in the last decade; that’s some 30 million less swallows. In our close area, I would guess this figure could be even more. Once a common site in all the major European capitals, swallows are now rarely seen. In Paris,
Berlin and Prague numbers have plummeted; in London, Brussels and Hamburg they have almost totally disappeared. We must restore clean air and stop global warming to help these little friends that devour huge amounts of mosquitoes. It has also been confirmed that swallows lose their appetite when exposed to insecticides such as imidacloprid, widely used across the world, and which affects the birds nervous system. Death follows rapidly.
Job of the Month: We all want pots on our patios and terraces and we want them to look wonderful but it can be a tough environment out there. Would you really like to be standing out in the burning summer sun all day without protection? Make it a little easier for your plants by using terracotta rather than plastic (which gets really hot); if you can give them some shade for part of the day, it will help; grouping pots sets up a micro-climate, providing a degree of protection; and, vitally, because you water pots more, you must also feed them more. Go large - smaller pots dry out very quickly and are hard to maintain. When you water
pots, do it thoroughly – until the water comes out of the bottom – but never leave plants sitting in water over long periods, their roots need to breathe. For easy-care, forget flowers and go for structural plants with great form/foliage - things like yuccas, cordylines, palms, succulents – these are the real toughies. Flowering plants will be more demanding, generally needing more water, more fussing and tidying. If you have to have flowers in your life and in your pots, some of the best for the heat of summer are the semi-tropicals such as hibiscus and canna lilies. Portulacas, or moss roses, are brilliant for lots of colour and now in stock.
Come and see us for more advice!
Tip of the Month: to cut down on water usage use water-retaining crystals for your pots and myccorhizal powder for ground plantings. Both will significantly reduce the amount of water used and encourage healthy root systems.
Plant of the Month: has to be iris germanica, the hardy iris which is so beautiful in our gardens at the moment. We are stunned by the beauty of ours in the garden centre, in a rainbow of colours. Come and take a look but, sorry, we’re totally sold out. But we will accept orders for when we start digging again in the autumn.
There’s always something happening at
Viveros Florena Cómpeta
with Shabby Shed Shop, The Shambles down below and our Café
with free tea and coffee whilst wandering around our little paradise
stuffed with interesting plants, pots, art and treasures!
Our Shabby Shed Shop has been re-vamped - it’s full of riches!
And The Shambles is replete with gorgeous citrus trees in all shapes and sizes.
Our Food and Health Market is weekly, every Wednesday morning, 10am until 2pm.
Our Springtime Market is going to be a little later this year - we’ve had such a busy spring
that we’ve had to set it back to June - a celebration of early Summer!
So Wednesday June 22 nd is the big day.
If you want a stall, please get in touch with us.
And don’t forget, 18 th May at 11am Liz of Scattergood Aromatherapies
will be giving the first of a series of free talks about herbs and all ways to use them.
11am and the subject is MINTS.