Friday, December 25, 2009


Weather has been dreadful this past while, so I haven't done anything in the garden. Wish I had a greenhouse, then I could work away with my plants even though it's cold! Anyway, no greenhouse, no way am I working outside until the weather warms up again. I have loads of seeds to get planted, and cuttings to pot up, but I can't seem to get warm enough to go and sort them out.
The sad thing is, it's actually been warmer outside than it's been inside my house this past few days!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I shouldn't have mentioned the 'no-rain' thing! Winter arrived with a vengeance yesterday. What a wild day it was! Sleet or snow, driven horizontaly inthe high winds, for hour and hours and hours. Course it seemed even longer when the powerfinally went off and stayed off. Thankfully we have a gas fire.

Today, damage-wise, the little cypress tree in the front garden is leaning at 45 degrees. The echium pininana is on it's side, and my lovely big cestrum nocturnum is at a precarious angle.
Upstairs on the terrace, I have lot a few palms that have been blown over and chucked out of their pots, but that should be repairable.

The little late tomato plants are OK. Well they are not dead yet, but the windchill factor yesterday must have been pretty unbearable for them, so I'll have to wait and see if they recover. Likewise the papaya. I'm sure tropical fruit would have hated the weather yesterday, and of course I didn't take them in for the winter.

Of course, it has to be said, that if they can't survive the odd freak weather day here, then they can't be grown here, except indoors. Need to find out which it is to be.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Slow gardening

I really haven't kept this blog up to date much, but then again I haven't done much in the garden. I'm still having to water the plants, but once every 4-5 days is stopping them from dying now that the heat of the summer is gone. It has only rained ONCE since September, when we had more or less three weeks of rain.
The grass hasn't grown any, yet most years at this time, I have to cut it every two weeks or so. I transplanted some of the herbs in pots into the garden, but they are not doing much without rainwater; this time last year the were growing great and I was cutting down bunches to dry and store for the winter.
My solitary chili pepper plant is still producing, but I've discovered I don't actually like chili peppers and rarely have a use for them in the kitchen.
I planted 12 babies in the spring, that I grew in pots from seed.
That very first night,the snails ate three. the next night they ate another six. By the time I found a shop selling snail-killer, all but one were gone.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hubnuggets Award

This isn't anything to do with gardening, I just wanted to announce to the world that one of hubs over on Hubpages has been nominated for a Hubnugget Award, but I now need everyone to read it and all the other contenders and VOTE! There are 10 hubs in the running and one of them is mine, but of course you can vote for anyone you want to.
Scroll to the near the bottom of the Hubnuggets link above, mine in the one entitled West Coast of Kintyre, Scotland

Friday, December 4, 2009


Rubber Tree 'Cone' and seeds
I've been given some great seeds to try. How about the seeds from the rubber plant? I didn't even know they produced seed!
I've also collected a few seeds from the Jacaranda trees that grow in the nearby village. I'm ready to start them off too, plus seeds from pandorea jasminoides, which a neighbour gave me. I'm already seedlings from the pepper tree.
Fascinating stuff!

I've got a couple of baby pandorea seedlings which I will upload photos of soon.

The rubber tree and the Jacaranda seeds haven't germinated to date.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I'm sure there must be loads of things to do in the garden just now, but I'm not finding anything at all. The veg patch is turned, ready for new plantings. The compost heap continues to break down. The new replanted tomato plants continue to grow. And the grass has not needed cut since last time as there has been no rain since September.
I've only had to throw some water on the plant pots every other day.
I do have new seedlings coming up - two different types of tree, the names of which I can't remember, have young seedlings in pots, but they are still only at the first leaf stage.
I have some lovely Christmas cactus in flower, but the shortened daylight hours is sending almost everything else off to sleep for the Winter. Growth has slowed down, leaves have changed colour and dropped.
I've just obtained some seed pods from the Pandorea jasminoides climbing bush that grows over a neighbour's fence, and they will require planted soon.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

New Compost Heap

Making your own compost is so important here in Spain, because the soil is terrible. It's cloggy and lumpy and full and stones, and CAL which I think is limestone but I could be wrong. The water is full of CAL too. Really hard and horrible tasting - though the addition of chlorine may be responsible for the taste, I'm not too sure.

I've got little heaps going all over the garden, but there is never enough rain to break it down. My best success so far is the stuff I had in old household bins, with circulation holes drilled in the sides, and water added by hose every other day.

I did at first try digging holes in the ground, but it made it really hard work to get to later.

The other day, I nailed three wooden pallets together, lined them with cardboard, and put chicken wire and black plastic over the front area. I'm sure this is going to be a great composter, and it has loads more space than the bins ever did.

I've also got earthworms in the garden. Not many, and I'm not sure where they came from, but I'm hoping they will move into my new compost heap and multiply, because they are great for breaking up and improving soil, and their casts alone make great fertiliser.

Winter Tomatoes?

I had started a new compost heap in an old palm tree tub. Then I threw some used compost on top of the remains from the kitchen, to stop the dogs getting to it. Then early September we got some rain, and next thing I knew I had melons and tomatoes growing in the tub. The other day, I lifted 6 of the tomato plants out and replanted them in a sheltered part of the garden. They seemed a bit big for transplanting, being at least 1 foot tall, and it is now early November which has just GOT to be too late for them. Or is it?
I'll let you know.....

Monday, October 12, 2009

Seed Tip

I grow a lot of things from seed, and not just from shop-bought seed.
When I store unused seed, I store it in the vegetable box at the bottom of the fridge where it will keep forever it seems. Also, a lot of fresh seed prefer a period of 'coldness' before planting, imitating winter, after which I have learned that they grow much quicker than they would normally and the germination rate is higher.
So, don't throw out that unused seed, store it!

Zingiber officinale

Ginger is also very easy to grow from shop bought produce. Simply plant a piece of it in compost in a large pot in a sheltered and shaded part of the garden, and in a few weeks you should be rewarded with the green tip of a new shoot coming up.

This area is subtropical and ginger is commercially grown in tropical areas which are not only hot and sunny, but wet.

Ginger needs a lot of water especially during its growing period.

Plant a shop bought rhizome with 'eyes' in early spring, and when the foliage dies down in autumn, dig the plant up and you have fresh ginger to dry and use during the following year.

Punica granatum

Pomegranates grow in the wild locally, though I believe the fruit is pretty sour. They are easy to grow from seed which is obtainable through the fruit, simply rinse or suck off the juice surrounding the seed, dry for a few days, and plant in a pot filled with compost to the depth of the seed. Germination takes from a few days to a few weeks, just be patient and keep the soil moist (I find it easier to just bung the seeds into damp compost in a plastic bag, seal and keep in a light place but out of direct sunlight).
I have a LOT of plants now, because I was unaware of the phenonemol germination rate. It must be near 100%.
I have some I grew last year that are about 3 feet tall now. They grow into tall bushes but can be trained into single stemmed trees, although you will have to spent a lot of time removing all the suckers they throw up from around the base.
They are self fertile so one plant is enough for fruit.
Plants grown from seed do not grow 'true', so there is every chance the plant will not be like the parent. It may have inferior fruit. Or it may have superior fruit. If the latter is the case, they can then be propagated by cuttings.
Inferior fruiting varieties can be used as rootstock onto which a cutting from superior stock can be grafted.
The pomegranate is deciduous and can also be grown as an ornamental as it's leaves vary in colour from deep red to green, to yellow, changing as the age of the leaf changes. It has spikes so can be used as hedging to keep out unwanted intruders. Just trim it into shape. It is drought-tolerant, likes alkaline soil and most can tolerate light frost. Some have been known to survive temperatures of -10C.
My two year old pomegranates are throwing out their first flowers which are a very attractive deep orangey/red. I wonder why no-one told them the normal time of year to flower is early spring, not autumn!
Perhaps they are confused because they are not from local produce, their parent having been bought in Tesco.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Thanks dogs and cats! One of you has eaten and ripped up the one papaya plant that was growing directly in the garden. Of course, I really blame your male owner who obviously can't keep you under control when you enter the garden to shit everywhere.

More Grass

Hmmm.. we've had rain for weeks and his excuse for not cutting the grass was that it was too wet. Now that it hasn't rained for a few days his excuse is wearing thin. Truth is, some of the grass has grown too long for the mower to cope with.
As you know, I got some of it under control one day but the incident with the centipede has well and truly put me off trying again. Everytime I do some work in the garden I have to spray all exposed skin with Autun or a similar insecticide, because there is some as yet unidentified insect that bites and causes an allergic reaction that lays me up for days.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Passiflora edulis

Another seed I have been growing is those of the passion fruit.

Again, they are normally grown from seed, although they can be grown from cuttings (clones).

Passionfruit are self-pollinating climbers, fast-growing and have the most gorgeous flowers. A lot of them suffered from sunburn while in pots in the garden, but the one plant I put in the soil next to a chain link fence is looking really healthy and green.

The one in this photo is recovering from its sunburn in the safety of the house.

Read more about growing passionfruit

Growing Kiwi

I've been growing kiwi from seed too. I've got a few left out of maybe 100; there is something they don't like here and I'm not sure exactly what it is yet. They grew really well in my Dad's (unheated) greenhouse in Scotland but their growth is stunted here.

Kiwi have male and female plants and, like the papaya, you need both to produce fruit. Again sex cannot be determined until they flower and none of mine have flowered yet, and I think I read it may take years until they do.

However, it's an interesting project if not exactly a money-spinner.

To Grow Kiwi from Seed

Buy a kiwifruit in the shop, take it home and cut it open. Extract a few of their tiny seeds and remove as much pith as you can from around them. I find the easiest way to do this is to lay them on absorbant kitchen paper and place the paper, seeds and all, inside a colander and run them under the tap.

  1. Leave them to dry in a warm dry place, and when they are completely dry they can be planted into some compost, just lightly press them into the surface of the soil.
  2. Water well, and seal the whole pot inside a sealed polythene bag.
  3. Leave in a light, warm place out of direct sunlight and after a couple of weeks you should see the seedlings peeking through. 
  4. At this point, remove them from their plastic bag.
  5. When they are large enough to handle, after they have grown at least their second set of leaves, gently transplant them into individual pots. 
  6. Keep in as bright a situation as possible and water daily, potting on as they outgrow their pot.
In a warm climate like Spain they can be planted straight into the garden, but in cooler climates you will need to keep them indoors or at least in a greenhouse or conservatory, bringing them indoors when frost threatens.
There are varieties you can buy now at that is specially grown for UK climates.

The botanical names for the kiwifruit vines are usually either actinidia chinensis or actinidia deliciosa.

Castor Oil Plant

I'm an awful one for collecting seed I find on my travels. Then at some future date I plant them; and when they grow I haven't a clue what they are!

Extensive searching on google suggests this cute little fella is a Ricinus communis except he doesn't seem to have red leaves yet. I did have three or four others that I potted on and planted out, being fast growers, but they promptly died on me!

Carica papaya

Papaya plants are normally grown from seed. Belonging to tropical countries, I am experimenting to see if they'll grow successfully here in Relleu ( sub-tropical), however, I do not expect them to do too well come the winter storms as their stems break easily. Two are in pots and may be moved indoors. The third is in the garden.

Papaya have separate male and female plants, and both are needed for successful fertilization, though one male can service many females. As I have no way of knowing what sex mine are until they flower, I'm hoping three is enough. With my luck I'll get three of the same!

This one here is approx. 6 months old and 3 feet high.

Air Purifying House plants

spider plant Dracaena

Many toxins enter households every day in the form of food packaging, cleaners, waste material etc, and NASA has done research to see what plants are best for getting rid of them.

Formaldehyde: Commonly used in a number of items including particle board, pressed wood, foam insulation, cleaning products, and treated paper or fabric. If your home or office contains particle-board furniture, grocery bags, tissues, paper towels, or anything that has been treated to make it stiffer, wrinkle-resist, fire retardant, or water-repellent, then you’re likely to have formaldehyde in the air.

Benzene: A solvent used in manufacturing paints, inks, plastics, rubber, dyes, pharmaceuticals, and detergents.

Trichloroethane: Can be found in adhesives, varnishes, paints, and used in dry-cleaning.
At the very least, chemicals like these can irritate the eyes and skin, lead to allergic reactions, and cause headaches. At worst, they’ve been linked to more serious problems including asthma, cancer, anemia, organ damage, and birth defects. Given the pervasive presence of these chemical in our homes, it can be difficult to create an environment that is free of them.

Top Plants for Reducing Indoor Air Pollution

Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)
Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)
Dracaena (Dracaena sp.).
English Ivy (Hedera helix)
Ficus, or Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)
Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
Golden Pothos (Epipiremnum aureum)
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum sp.)
Philodendron (Philodendron sp)
Pot Mum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)
Snake Plant, or Mother-In-Law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’)
Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

For best results, have at least one six-inch plant for every 100 square feet.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My Palm Tree

It's possibly a Trachycarpus fortunei but I'm ready to stand corrected.

Cordyline australis

This is my 2 year old cordyline australis shortly after I planted it out earlier this year.
I have another growing quite happily in a bucket, and several dozen seedlings less than a year old.
Another of my experiments, I haven't seen any growing locally. There are plenty yuccas, agaves and palms so I'm hoping this palm-like plant will fit right in. It also withstands strong winds which, of course, is a necessity here.

Viable Seeds?

I bought 10 Cofea arabica seeds on Ebay last week and, as recommended, soaked them in water for 24 hours before planting. All bar one floated. Does anyone know if that means they are dead or not? I read somewhere online that old seeds don't germinate too well, but I've no idea if these were old or not.
Anyway, they are planted up so I'll have to wait (up to 6 months) and see if grow or not.

The spreading grass area

I've decided to grow a lawn unlike my neighbours who prefer concrete (low maintenance), chiefly for composting material to improve the soil.

I tried planting seed a few years ago but it came up and died the same summer.

My next door neighbour had a lawn courtesy of the builder; his was the show house for the estate. I've no idea what type of grass was laid but he dug it up and replaced it with concrete, but not before some had escaped under his hedge through to me. It creeps like couch grass!

I hated it at first, as no matter how many times I pulled it up, it came back. It's roots got everywhere. So, finally, I took some by the roots and transplanted it to the area where I had initially planted the seed, and it took off and gradually spread over the whole area.

It survives drought, it greens overnight after the rain, it's hardwearing and yet soft underfoot and it keeps weeds at bay.
I love it.
Pic above shows what a week or two of rain has done to the length of it!
Just wanted to add, I was in the process of cutting it today, when I felt something move up my leg under my denims. It got higher and higher despite my attempts to brush it off. I raced into the underbuild and pulled my denims down. Out popped the most enormous centipede I have ever had the misfortune to meet in my life. It had to have been at least 6 inches by half an inch. Couldn't photograph it for my collection as it was off like a shot. Think it got a bigger fright than me, and that's saying something!
I've been advised that I've been extremely lucky not to have been bitten by this insect, and that its sting is venomous.
Who wants to volunteer to cut the rest of the grass????

Intro to Izzy's Spanish Garden


My name is Izzy.

Welcome to my blog about gardening here in south-eastern Spain, where the soil is poor, rain water extremely limited and the tap water contains more chlorine than the local swimming pool! Izzy's Spanish Garden is going to tell you about the trials and tribulations of gardening here in Spain.

The sun, however, is almost always present.

Winters are cold but never freezing, (although there could always be an exception one year) and nine months out the year we are subject to the most horrendous winds which is why I do not have a greenhouse. I think only a brick one could withstand the gusts and that kinda defeats the whole object.

Summers are long hot and dry, and usually windless, which is when even a slight breeze would be Heaven-sent.

This is equivalent to USDA zone 10. My old home in Western Scotland was zone 9 (believe it or not), and I've spent the last year or two experimenting and learning what plants plants can grow in both places.