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Gardening in Spain for Expats – What you need to know

in Expat Life, Expat Tips and Hints, Facebook Posts
Flowers in Asturias - Indalo Transport

Flowers in Asturias

Did you know that, in 2014, there were around 27 million Brits who enjoyed gardening, and that approximately one third of all UK adults in that year gardened at least once a week?

Looking at these facts then, it’s pretty safe to say then that if you’re moving to Spain from Great Britain, you’re likely to be a green-fingered gardener who wants to know more about the lie of the land in your new country.

Even if you’re not a fully-fledged flower-master, knowing what types of plants, herbs, fruits and vegetables you can grow in Spain might come in quite handy, especially if you like the sound of becoming self-sufficient so that you can live on a varied and healthy Mediterranean diet.

(All links in this article open in a new tab of your browser, so you don’t lose your place!)

What type of gardening conditions can I expect in Spain?

Clay Soil - Indalo Transport

Oh no, not the dreaded clay soil! But it’s not as bad as you think!

Now it may worry you to learn that the main soil type in Spain is clay. But whilst clay soil can be a nightmare for UK gardeners because it is so hard to work, (especially with all the wet weather our little island gets), clay soil in Spain actually works quite well!

With the amount of sun throughout the year in Spain (approximately 2700 hours compared to just 1500 hours in the UK), the ground can become quite arid. However, drought is much less damaging on clay soils than any other type, and the clay soil in Spain also doesn’t take as long to warm up as it would do back in the UK, so it’s easier for plants to germinate and grow healthily.

Also, because the rainfall in Spain is just over half of what it is per year than in Britain, (Spain sees roughly 636mm per annum, whereas Blighty gets 1220mm), you don’t have to worry about your garden getting wet, cloggy, and unmanageable.

For some, having an arid garden might not sound appealing, almost boring and drab, but whilst it can be frustrating to maintain an oasis of colour and scent in a place that doesn’t have much rainfall, having a bright, colourful, English country garden in Spain isn’t impossible.

With some hard-work and dedication, your new Spanish garden will flourish.

colourful gate - Indalo Transport

It’s always colourful in Spain

But I won’t have a garden when I get to Spain, I’ll only have a terrace or balcony…

balcony - Indalo Transport

A beautiful balcony in Albayzin

Don’t fret! Plants can still grow very happily in pots filled with a high quality compost.

So what types of plants, trees and vegetables can I grow in Spain?

 

Here’s a video slideshow, showcasing just some of the plants that you can grow easily in Spain.

There are nyoutubegardeno names with each picture, so if you want a quick quiz, see how many you can name!

A full list of all the plants is at the end of the blog post!

For other types of plants that work well in clay soil and under a lot of sun, please visit the Mediterranean Garden Society’s page on Mediterranean plants, and there’s more info on the Royal Horticultural Society’s page on clay soils.

How can I make sure my Spanish garden will grow well, and stay healthy?

barrell - Indalo Transport

An important ingredient to help your garden grow – collect your own rain water

The most important part of maintaining any Spanish garden is watering. Less frequent, deep soakings are best as this will increase the drought tolerance of your plants.

Because of the weather conditions in Spain, it’s likely that you’ll have to water, on average, twice a week. That’s why it’s a good idea to gather rainwater when you can. It will significantly reduce your water consumption (which is metered in Spain) and you can easily make your own, low-cost, rain barrel out of, well anything!

As long as it holds water and you have a way to screen out the debris and mosquitoes, then you’re all set to capture nature’s H2O. Check out this handy little, step-by-step guide which shows you how you can make your own rain barrel.

Another way to make sure that your Spanish garden flourishes is to improve its soil condition, where you can. You can repair clay soil by using compost, which is readily available in Spain, particularly in the region of Extremadura, where donkeys are still the favoured mode of transport!

Even though, in the short term, it’s a good idea to whip your clay soil into shape by mixing in organic matter regularly and deeply, it’s not a good idea to do this every month because the less you disturb your improved clay soil, the better. That’s because extensive tillage stimulates the microbes deep in the soil, and they begin to devour all the nice, organic matter that are keeping your plants healthy.

To determine whether your clay soil needs an organic boost, roll some of it between your palms into a ball about an inch in diameter. If, when you pinch the soil between your thumb and finger causes the soil to crumble into pieces, you know you can add some more compost.

Along with adding compost, you should also plant ‘cover crops’ in any areas of your garden which would otherwise be left empty. Cover crops help to smother weeds, they reduce erosion and increase infiltration.

When it comes to flower or crop rotations, or if you just fancy a re-arrange, pull out your cover crops, and bob in your new plants. Your new occupants will adore their lovely home, filled with rich, organic matter that’ll help them grow into strong plants or veggies.

poppies - Indalo Transport

Poppies in Navarre

 

Here are the answers to the quick quiz:-

Yucca, Yarrow, Oranges, Tulips, St. John’s Wort, Strawberries, Succulents, Passion Flower, Bell Peppers, Pineapples, Pistachios, Plumbago, Ornamental Onions, Bee Orchid, Melons, Geraniums, Grapes, Hibiscus, Ironweed, Lavender, Daylily,Cacti, Canna, Avocados, Aster, Black-eyed Susan, Almonds and Apples.

Photo Credits

Flowers in Asturias – Ramon Duran

It’s Always colourful in Spain – Oseillo Pictures

A beautiful balcony in Albayzin – perlaroques

Poppies in Navarre – Bernard Blanc

If you’ve enjoyed this article, you may enjoy Moving to Spain … an Expat Guide, Easter in Spain – Fantastic festivities in the Sun, Essential Tips for moving to Spain with your Children,or Moving to Spain … Regions guide for expats.

 

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