May Jobs in the Mediterranean Garden,
Seasonable & Sustainable
Among the changing months, May stands confessed
the sweetest, and in fairest colours dressed!
–James Thomson, Scottish poet (1700–48)
May is always a month to celebrate and this year more than ever. I’m sure, like me, you feel like getting out there and dancing! The sun is
shining and blue skies have come back, the birds are singing, wild flowers are billowing and beautiful and our gardens are green and lush after all
the recent rains. And – we’re coming out of lockdown! Gently, tiptoeing, peeking around corners, because it feels rather strange, but we are slowly
emerging from our pyjama world. We’ve learnt about isolation, so now let’s revel – carefully – in the company of our family and friends. May is
going to be a month of love and hugs! (Are inter-family hugs allowed – or what phase does that come in?)
May has always acted as the bridge between spring and summer. This year May will be our bridge from unreality to reality but let’s not just discard all the magical things we learnt in never-never land. Some of them are vital to our world and some, sadly, will never see that world again. We must learn from all that has happened.
Important Days to Remember this Month:
1 st May: May Day and the first day of Summer according to the pagan Calendar; hence maypoles and dancing!
Also International Workers Day/Labour Day
2 nd May: World Tuna Day
3 rd May: Día de las Madres in Spain. World Freedom of Press Day
9 th May: World Migratory Bird Day
11 th May: VIVEROS FLORENA WILL BE RE-OPENING AFTER LOCKDOWN
14 th May: Dance Like a Chicken Day!
15 th May: International Day of Families
16 th May: International Day of Living in Peace
20th May: World Bee Day
21 st May: International Tea Day and World Day for Cultural Diversity
23 rd 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 for all living organisms.
31 st May: World No Tobacco Day
We’ve been forced to cancel our regular Maytime Fair at Viveros Florena but we will be organising something very special for us all to enjoy later in the year.
Moon Phases: full moon 7 th May; new moon 22 nd May.
May’s Birth Flower is the sweet-scented hawthorn, symbolising hope and lily of the valley indicating sweetness or the return of happiness.
We are passionate about plants!
Garden Centre, Designers and Landscapers
Probably the best little garden centre in Andalucia!
We are not just a web page
- please talk to us!!
We are passionate about plants!
Necessity is the mother of invention they say and our foray into the world of contactless veg, herb and fruit tree selling has been a storming success – thanks to you all, of course. It filled a gap from many angles, helping us to make some sales and helping you to get out in the fresh air, breaking the boredom and growing your very own fresh crops bursting with goodness and flavour. Win, win, win!
With those sales came many queries, many of you are new to the veg growing game so I thought, this month, it might be useful to do some
start-from-scratch vegetable growing.
Absolute basics. General advice is always to look for an open sunny site. Well, we need to tweak that a bit to suit our rather extreme climate.
During the hot summer months, our veg will appreciate some light shade or shade for part of the day. And look for a sheltered position, out of the
wind. Improve the soil, though for our summer veg you don´t need double-digging or anything that energetic. After all the rain your soil
should be quite workable, just give it a dig over and rake to remove stones etc. Work in any well-rotted manure, compost or soil improvers such as
worm manure; this is vitally important and will make the whole process a success.
You can, of course, grow from seed which is great fun though sometimes frustrating; some don’t germinate as you hope and others come through
in their thousands! For beginners plug plants are easier so I’m going to give you some tips on how to grow those.
Tomatoes: If your young plants are a bit leggy (long stems with no leaves on lower part), plant them deeper; roots will grow from these extended
stems and help anchor the plants. Young plants grown in a greenhouse can be rather weak; ideally a light breeze ruffling through them will make
stronger stems as they build up resistance. If you’ve got tomato seedlings inside, turning a gentle fan on them twice a day for 5 minutes will help
toughen them. Even rubbing your hand gently across the tops of the seedlings for a few minutes a few times a day will help and it’s such a
hands-on relaxing thing to do, stroking your tomato plants!
Next decide if your plants are determinate or indeterminate – terms that describe bush or vine tomatoes, respectively. In the wild, all tomatoes
would sprawl across the ground; we train them to grow up canes (indeterminate varieties) and keep the fruit cleaner or we have developed
bush/determinate varieties, often producing cherry fruits.
Indeterminate/vine varieties are slower to develop than bush types but they produce over an extended period. Most heirloom tomatoes belong to
this category. They like to grow tall, up to 2m or more, before they flower and set fruit and will need some strong supports – a wigwam of canes is ideal. Whilst they are putting on growth, pinch out any side shoots that develop in the crotch of the main branches – they are not fruit bearing. As the plants fill out, remove lower leaves from the lower 30cm of stem; these are the oldest leaves and susceptible to fungal problems which can
splash up from the soil. Removing these leaves will help keep your plant healthier. Once your plant has reached a good height, you can pinch out
the main leader stem and this will encourage flowering and fruiting.
Determinate/bush varieties do not require pruning; let them develop as they wish. Most will reach a maximum of 1m height/spread, some are
even more mini, and they are particularly good in pots, hanging pots too. The tiny tomatoes are produced in great profusion.
Water deeply and regularly whilst the plants are actively growing and the fruits are developing. Irregular watering – missing one or two waters, then flooding to try and make up for it is not good! It causes cracking and splitting of the fruit and blossom end rot – soft yellow-brown patches on the end of the fruits. Watering early in the morning and late evening may be necessary when the heat really ramps up. As the fruit begins to ripen, ease up on the watering for best flavoured fruits, but always use common sense – don´t let a plant wilt too much.
Fertiliser. Specific tomato fertilisers can be purchased and should be applied throughout the season – tomatoes are hungry things. Follow the
instructions on the bottle, different products vary, but in general apply every 2 weeks.
Tomato Oddities. Tomatoes, along with other plants of the nightshade family, grow during the night. Ease a headache by drinking tomato juice
blended with a generous handful of basil. Although there is no proven link, tomatoes seem to aggravate arthritis; try the paler coloured ones – white, yellow and gold are less acidic and seem to be more tolerated.
Leafy Greens. Lettuce, chard, spinach, mustard, pak choi. Most leafy crops are shallow rooting so will need regular watering. They are quick to
develop and the darker green leaves, such as spinach and chard, produce more nutrition per square metre than any other common garden crop.
Lettuce now come in a big range – butterhead, romaine, cos and looseleaf and many colours. The looseleaf are often more heat resistant.
Chard and spinach are easy to grow and very productive. They will be ready for pulling about 5 weeks after planting; just pull the leaves you
require leaving the plant to produce more. The rainbow types of chard are lovely to look at and add colour and elegance to your veg plot.
Mustard greens are quick, delicious and versatile; you can even start pulling young leaves a couple of weeks after planting when they’re baby-
tender and delicious. Their zing of mustard/horseradish/garlic type flavour is great in salads; as the leaves get a little older and tougher, gently stir fry them and the flavour mellows. Red Giant, that we have in stock, is heat-
resistant and good-looking.
Pak Choi is a type of Chinese cabbage and it is great for pots as it grows quickly, is decorative and doesn´t occupy much space. Preferring a little
shade, it has a delicious flavour between cabbage, spinach and mustard. The entire plant is edible, the leaves and the bulb. Most commonly used in
salads, you can also use it in stir fries and soups and the bulb can roasted.
Courgette, cucumber, melon, watermelon. These are all easy thriving in our hot climate and reliable and heavy producers – great plants for
children and those with only pale green fingers! They do need quite a lot of space, around 1m2 each plant and melons and watermelons even
more. Give them room to roam. If space is a problem for you, slip some lettuce plants in between whilst these are filling out, you’ll harvest them
before the big leaves swamp them and be double-cropping. Water and feed them generously for good results. All of these have male and female
flowers, so you’ll need some bees to help you. Usually, here, I find that pollination is not a problem, (it’s been calculated that you only need one
bee for every hundred flowers) but you can also do it manually. The male flowers open first and there are usually ten times more of them than
female flowers. They have thinner stems than the females so are easily identified.
Aubergines should be spaced about 75cm apart and growing requirements are much as tomatoes. Pick them when the skin is glossy;
dullness indicates that the fruit has been left on the plant too long and is over-mature.
Peppers and Chillies Like tomatoes, these can be planted deeply, burying any long stems. Space about 50cm apart and pinch out the growing tips
once the young plants are about 20cm tall. Carry on doing this for nice bushy plants. You’ll need to give support to the bigger bell peppers.
Chillies are often a little slow initially, they’re waiting for the hot weather, that they just love!
In general the larger leaved veg require a bit more shade during high summer – maybe try growing something like sweetcorn or bananas to cast
shade on the lower growers. And don´t forget some marigolds to keep the bugs at bay. Plant closely to avoid water evaporation and, as the plants
develop, you can use some for young leaves, tasty and nutritious. Fertilise during the season with a seaweed or guano feed. If we have any more wet weather, slugs may be a problem – just set out some beer traps. Mulching helps keep the moisture in and encourages roots to spread better.
You don´t have to have a ‘proper’ veg plot to grow veg; a few pots is fine, an old bath, a raised bed made from pallets, whatever turns you on. Some are so good looking that you can usefully tuck them into pots where you already have ornamentals planted to give great contrast foliage.
Check out our current stock of veg and herb plants below.
Save Our World
I was delighted to read that the first stork chicks for centuries are about to hatch in England. It is believed that the last breeding birds became extinct there back in 1416 but 100 birds were recently released in three situations, including Knepp farm that was rewilded at the turn of the
century. Knepp is close to the West Sussex village of Storrington, known as Estorchestone or ‘homestead of the white storks’ in the Domesday Book.
It is here that the birds have built three nests high up in the oak trees. Fingers crossed! It reminded me of the hundreds of storks on nests we
saw when we were travelling, pre-lockdown, through Extremadura. I couldn´t stop and get a photo but there was one large electricity pylon
there with five nests seemingly precariously balancing on the struts – stork high-rise.
Hyssop (hyssopus officinalis) is a rarely seen herb, it has a rather old- fashioned bearing that works well in cottage-type gardens and our more
natural campo landscapes. It is a native of the northern Mediterranean coats and is used in soups, stews and sprinkled over salads. A member of
the lavender family, it has a minty-lavender taste with a slight bitterness. Hyssop oil is used in chartreuse liquor. It will grow into an erect bushy
shrub with shiny dark green leaves and tubular purple-blue flowers held in whorls on long flower spikes. It is very attractive to bees and butterflies but witches are said to flee from it!
Tip of the Month
Viveros Florena will be re-opening on 18 th, May if all goes well with the lockdown deceleration. That’s a Monday; normally we don´t open on
Mondays but the team are so keen to get back that, exceptionally, we will open on that Monday. Please be patient with us, supplies and deliveries
are somewhat difficult – growers have had a hard time, plants aren’t something you can produce overnight! We’re looking forward to seeing you all again but please remember, respect social distancing. We all want to stay safe!
Job of the Month
Has to be posh up those pots and get your garden summer ready. We know you’re all itching to get to it and we’ll be restocking with lots of
colour. If you need some advice, come and see us and we can help you.
We’ve lots of little corners all over the garden centre where you can enjoy a coffee at a safe distance and plan your pots!
Plant of the Month
Our Jerusalem sage (phlomis fruticosa) is looking fabulous this year, best we’ve ever seen it. It grows on a hot, dry bank and shrugs off the summer heat but it has also relished the recent rains and is blooming lovely!
This is our current stock list of vegetables and herbs:
ECO VERDURAS/VEGETABLE PLANTS Plantas en alveola/Plug Plants
pak choi rojo, red pak choi €0,20
acelga multicolor, rainbow chard €0,20
lechuga hoja de roble, lettuce oak leaf €0,25
berenjena negra, aubergine black €0,30
melon amarillo, melon yellow €0.30
pimiento lamuyo amarillo, bell pepper yellow €0,35
pimiento Italiano, Italian pepper, green, long €0,35
sandia negra, watermelon black.s €0,40
cilantro/coriander Caribe €0,25
mostaza Red Giant, mustard Red Giant €0,25
calabacin, courgette €0,40
cebolla roja, red onion €0,10
espinaca, spinach €0,10
pimiento guindilla amarilla, chilli yellow €0,25
tomate Jupiter F1, tomato Jupiter F1 €0,35
tomate Noire de Crimée, tomato Black Crimean €0,35
tomate Marmande, tomato Marmande €0,35
tomate cereza Star Gold, cherry Star Gold €0,75
Citronella grass €6,50
Hyssopus officinalis €3,50
Lavender dentata €2
Lavender oficinale €1
Lavender stoechas €1
Lemon balm €4
Lemon grass €6,50
Lemon verbena €6,50
Mint peppermint €2
Mint chocolate €2
Parsley curly €2
Rosemary creeping €1,20
Sage purple €4
Thyme lemon €2