APRIL JOBS IN THE MEDITERRANEAN GARDEN
TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE
by Viveros Florena, Cómpeta, Málaga.
April Showers Bring May Flowers!
And my Grandson out enjoying the Rain!
Remember the joy of rain when we were young? Jumping in puddles, raindrops spattering on faces, damning streams, looking for frogspawn and making mud slides?
My daughters used bin bags as slides on our slippery banks after a good downpour – before I planted rosemary all over them and spoilt their fun! Then, somewhere, as we grew up, rain just became a bore - in Northern Europe it was seemingly constant, grey
skies so low you felt you could grab the clouds and hang them on the washing line to drip dry. But now, living in Andalucía, the delight in rain has returned – after all, it’s not that common a thing! Heavy winter and spring rains fill us – and the reservoirs – with
delight. We know that every drop is precious and will help our plants survive summer bakings. I’ve done many a rain dance in high summer, hoping for a crashing thunderstorm but Easter, in my memory, is often wet and cold. I remember one year,
sitting in the square under an umbrella, well-wrapped, as the heavens opened. The penitents were just coming down the ramp with the last statue, many of them bare-footed. There was a rather undignified rush to bundle Mary back into the church and a
dash for warming brandies at Perico’s Bar.
Important Days to Remember this Month:
1 st April: World April Fools’ Day, International Fun at Work Day and International Tatting Day
2 nd April: Good Friday , International Children’s Book Day and World Autism Day
3 rd April: World Party Day – if only we could!
4 th April: Easter Sunday. World Rat Day
6 th April: National Tartan Day
7 th April: World Health Day and International Beaver Day
8 th April: International Romani Day
12 th April: Ramadan
13 th April: International Plant Appreciation Day
14 th April: International Moment of Laughter Day
15 th April: World Art Day
17 th April: World Haemophilia Day
22 nd April: International Mother Earth Day
23 rd April: St. George’s Day and World Book and Copyright Day
24 th April: World Day for Laboratory Animals
25 th April: World Malaria Day and World Penguin Day
28 th April: World Day for Health and Safety at Work
29 th April: Day of Remembrance for all thos injured by Chemical Warfare, International Dance Day and International Bee Day. The dance of the bee!
30 th April: International Jazz Day
Every Wednesday morning at Viveros Florena, we host our Food and Health Market with local artisanal stall holders.
Through Easter we are open 1 st , 2 nd and 3 rd April 10am until 4pm. Closed Sunday and Monday, as always.
Moon Phases: New moon 12 th April; full moon 27th April
April’s Birth Flower: the simple daisy of daisy chains and he loves me, he loves me not!
Ready, steady, plant! The planting season is in full swing, so don´t miss out on it - rain, sun and lots of spare time, it couldn´t be better. The largely cool, wet spring means that there’s still time to plant all trees, climbers, fruits and ornamentals. Even the more tropical plantings – things like bananas, citrus, mango, avocado, papaya, bougainvillea, hibiscus, frangipane and many others – can go in now. And your pots will be needing urgent attention to get them looking good for spring into summer.
Beasties: As the weather warms up, the bugs will be making their appearance. Don´t reach for chemical poisons; there are lots of organic solutions that won´t harm us, our pets or our planet. Create wildlife havens in quiet areas of your garden so that a
natural balance forms, this is your best ally. Leave a wood pile as a cosy home, the decomposing activity is hugely beneficial to many creatures. Build a bee hotel with varying sizes of hollowed-out bamboo cane. And don´t be too quick to clear away fallen leaves and debris. Wait until well into spring when hibernating creatures have woken and gone about their busy lives.
Citrus: The last fruits should have been cropped (apart from the perpetual cropping lunar lemon) to allow them to flower and set new fruits. It’s particularly important to feed citrus as they carry fruit for a long time and need energy to do that.
Fertilising: If you didn´t do it last month, it’s crucially important to give your plants a feed now. Something like worm manure is a good slow-release feed, excellent for all fruit trees, climbers and bigger plantings. Apply it twice a year, in spring and autumn. If
you want some quick green growth (for instance on leafy veg) then try dried blood – sangre seca - not quite as vampire-ish as it sounds. And for pots and smaller plants, granulated guano is easy to apply and should be repeated every couple of months.
Herbs: It’s a good time to plant the more tender herbs such as basil, stevia, coriander and tarragon. Freshen up your herb area ready for summer barbecues and tasty salads.
Think also of edible flowers – nasturtiums, violas, sweet garlic and hibiscus. They will make your salads look super funky! And get lavish with chocolate mint and orange mint – it smells and tastes so good and adds a certain panache to cocktails. Don´t forget, the hot sunny herbs are lavender, rosemary, sage, thyme, lemon grass, lemon balm, lemon verbena, oregano and marjoram. Those that will appreciate a little more shade are parsley, coriander, basil, tarragon and chives. And mints need their own special, shaded, area so that they don´t overpower everything else.
Iron: If some of your plants still look yellow from cold winter temperatures and even after feeding, give them an additional boost with iron chelate.
Irrigation: Make sure your irrigation systems are ready for the summer. Check every micro-tube outlet/sprayer and filters to ensure that they are not blocked by calcium deposits or dirt. Don’t forget you may need to put new batteries into your programmers.
Mulching: is the next step to help conserve that moisture in the soil for as long as possible. Mulching also moderates fluctuations of temperatures at the roots, meaning happier plants. If you can mulch over your irrigation pipes too, it will keep the water cooler during summer months, avoiding putting scalding water onto your plants when the system first opens, and it does look nicer! Mulching also keeps weeds down, so it’s a win-win. Use home-made compost, rotted leaves, bark chippings, even gravel chippings though a mulch that slowly rots down and nourishes the soil is best.
Cardboard doesn´t look very pretty but it will soon rot down, if watered, and be pulled down into the soil by worms and beetles.
Perennials: are those plants that give a real shot of colour and elegance to our gardens. They thicken and look better each year and can be split to increase stocks.
Some are known as herbaceous perennials because their top growth dies down in the winter to emerge strongly in springtime; others stay evergreen, especially in our relatively mild winters. Try some of these: agastache, alchemilla, asphodeline, centaurea, centranthus, crocosmia, echinacea, erysimum, hardy geraniums, helianthus, hemerocalis, iberis, kniphofia, liriope, penstemon, phlox, stachys – we’ve got them all in stock now.
Pots: Eastertime is traditionally a time to freshen up pots and plant up new. Nothing has the same impact as a beautifully planted pot and to keep them looking good, you’ll probably need to change them twice yearly. Plan for autumn/winter and
spring/summer. Or maybe use a main structural looking plant and just freshen around the edges with some suitable bedding. Brighten existing pots by removing weeds and topdressing with some concentrated worm manure; they’ll instantly look better. Check under pots for colonies of slugs and snails and dispose of them before they make lace of your precious new lush leaves.
Seed sowing: If you like to sow direct, now is an ideal time for things like radish, peppers, aubergines, cucumbers, courgettes, pumpkins, tomatoes, chillies and melons.
On-line seed companies are seeing unprecedented demand! Summer leaves of all sorts should be sown in succession – just sow a few every couple of weeks to keep the supply flowing well but avoiding gluts – this is one case when you can have too much of a good thing! One of the joys of home growing is that you can try more unusual varieties that you won´t find in the shops, so be brave.
Don´t be daunted by seed sowing, remember that it happens naturally in Nature without too much fuss!
Here are a few basics to follow.
1. The most common reason for failure is lack of light or placing in too much light! Never put them in direct sunshine.
2. Don´t be in a rush to get started. Seeds will languish in cold damp compost; once the weather warms up and conditions are right they’ll germinate quickly and easily.
3. Get hold of fresh seed. Your chances of germination are severely reduced if the seeds are old and no longer viable.
4. Use a fresh bag of proper seed compost at the start of the season.
5. Cleanliness is important – wash out your seed trays or pots to prevent fungal problems.
6. Sow thinly. Larger seeds can be planted individually in small pots. This avoids later root disturbance.
7. You may want to top with vermiculite to assist in even moisture spread.
8. Never let your seed trays dry out; keep them consistently moist but not sodden! And water gently.
9. Once germination has happened, water less frequently. More seedlings are killed from overwatering than dryness. Spray with a very weak solution of copper fungicide or neem oil to prevent fungal infection and damping off in seedlings, when they can suddenly collapse.
10. Seedlings need really good overhead light to grow straight and strong. If yours are spindly and stretching one way, it’s because of lack of light.
11. On overcast days, you can move your seedlings outside. Light breezes strengthen those growing stems.
12. Direct-sow crops, such as lettuce, radish, beetroot, need to be kept well weeded. Don´t make your tiny seedlings have to battle amongst monsters!
With direct-sow, plant more so that later you can cull the runts for early crops and make succession sowings to spread your harvesting season.
13. Harden off before planting out. This means acclimatising your young plants to outside conditions gradually. A few hours a day initially, increasing over a period of a week or so until your plants are happy out in the big wide world.
14. Don´t be in a rush to plant out young tomatoes, chillies, peppers etc if they’ve been snug in a greenhouse. Again, acclimatise.
15. And lastly, don´t blame yourself if nothing germinates. There are so many variables but it’s part of the fun. That’s why gardening is endlessly fascinating!
Plug plants: Unless you like the pleasure of seeing seeds germinate, and for novice gardeners, it is easier to start with young plug plants, especially for vegetables.
We now have in stock in organic plug plants:
3 varieties of tomatoes, salad red, salad black and cherry yellow
Bell peppers in green, red and yellow
Chillies, mild yellow
Red mustard leaves, Bavarian lettuce, Pak choi,
Cucumber, courgette, melon, watermelon and aubergine.
Young plants in small pots: in stock now, some following on in a couple of weeks.
Tomatoes, Early Croppers:
Currant Sweet Pea, tiny very sweet tomatoes. Heavy yields
Outdoor Girl, red medium-sized fruit. Excellent flavour, very juicy
Tomatoes, Mid-Season Croppers:
Banana Legs, yellow fruits 10cm long, fleshy with few seeds
Lemon Plum, from Russia, lemon-like, 8cm diameter. Sweet taste (available soon)
Pink Thai Egg, heirloom tomato from Thailand, very sweet (available soon)
Black Truffle, deep red-brown, sweet and rich complex flavour. Pear shaped, 8cm long
Moneymaker, red 5cm diameter. Good shape and flavour on vigorous plant.
Chillies, Very Hot. Available mid-April:
Aurora, multi colour
Thai Hot Culinary, red
Armageddon – hottest in the world 2020, red
Chillies, Hot. Available mid- April:
Satan’s Kiss, red
Hot Portugal, long red
Penis Pepper Red
Chillies, Mild. Available mid-April:
Save Our World:
An iconic image of Miama, U.S.A. is of palm trees swaying in the wind. Well, that is coming to an end as town planners voted to incorporate shade-giving trees into the landscape to help combat rising temperatures, sea-level rise and salt water invasion
due to climate change. Surge tides and flooding are becoming a big problem in Miami.
Canopy coverage will increase from 17% to 22% in the next 10 years with some 5,000 trees to be planted within 5 years. Guidelines for species diversity say that no plant family should make up more than 30% of a given area; in Miami palms are currently a
dominating 55%. Native, salt-tolerant species are planned for replacement and new plantings.
An oak tree, for instance, gives nearly seven times the benefits of a palm. It will remove 510 pounds of carbon dioxide annually, compared to the paltry 2.7 pounds of a palm – over the lifetime of an oak, a staggering 3,214 pounds to 26 pounds of a palm.
Similar objections are being seen all over the world. Our local Pedregalejo in Málaga is programmed for a make-over, hopefully respecting native wildlife and the old and wonderful boatyard, Astilleros Nero, alike! One of the biggest discussions there is
whether the eucalyptus (with a long history there) should be replaced with varied autochthonous species.
We’re delighted to present to you puya venusta, a fabulous bromeliad native to Chile.
It has bright green serrated rosettes of leaves to about 1m high with a 1.5m spread.
Large dusky red pine-cone like buds emerge on strong stems, opening to purple-blue flowers with electric-green stamens – it’s a powerful combination. Full sun, low water, winter hardy. Can also be grown in pots. Supplies are very limited and they’re not the
cheapest at €37,50 but it’s an investment in natural beauty.
Also new, we will shortly have stocks of CBD and THC seeds, fertilising products and compost. Check with us for more info.
Tip of the Month:
It’s often said that the old ones are the wisest! An old planting technique, used by campesinos, makes sense to me. Whenever a new tree was planted (without automatic irrigation in those days, of course), a deep hole was dug, approx. 50cm deep and a layer of prickly pear leaves (opuntia sp.) was laid in the bottom, around the roots of the new tree. The cactus leaves contain a substance called mucilage, a thick slimy substance which retains water and moisture for a very long time. It’s said that the benefits of this can last for up to 5 years, by which time the tree is well rooted and able to look after itself. The very mucilaginous aloe vera would work the same. Just be sure to plant deep or the prickly pear leaves will start growing!
Job of the Month:
Get the strimmer out instead of the poison!
Look at this Toxic Rankings Chart – Spain should be ashamed!
Around the end of this month into early May is a good time to strim the wildflowers.
By then the flowers will have finished, pollinators will have moved on to other plants and they will have cast their seeds and be starting to die back. By strimming instead of poisoning, the roots are left in the ground for another year. This is the best way to
build up a wild flower meadow.
Plant of the Month:
Iris tectorum Cruella is the Japanese roof iris, another new one to us. It’s a rhizomatous perennial with clump-forming cream and green leaves, rather phormium-like. It’s a super fresh-looking plant native to Burma, China, Japan and Korea and bears very pretty and delicate-looking lilac, blue and honey flowers. It will need more water than the bearded iris we commonly get here. Folklore tells us that, during times of great famine when all the land was given over to food crops, the people planted this iris in their thatched roofs, hence the epithet tectorum. Although all parts of the plant are poisonous, the roots were ground down to make a white powder applied to hair and faces, similar to the look achieved by Geisha girls. Not sure where the ‘Cruella’ comes from but my grand-daughter and I immediately burst into the Cruella de Vil song carrying plants around the garden centre! A touch of madness helps plants grow you know!