Cruella (my wife) said that I shouldn’t say this sort of thing as it may be misconstrued as boasting and could result in my blog being listed under pornography as opposed to gardening, and that I may get unsavoury characters looking at my blog. My only reply was that they would be disappointed. Anyway, setting aside all vulgarity, and I don’t mean to boast, but all this rain in the past month has resulted in the fact that the orange harvest this year is enormous which means you can start harvesting oranges now.
4th December: Things I have been doing lately.
🍊 Beginning to harvest oranges. Normally around here you could start harvesting oranges about the end of December or early January. But because of the rain the oranges have swollen up to quite an extraordinary size and they haven’t stopped yet. Oranges will continue to swell right through till nearly the end of May. The only problem with all this swelling is there a strong propensity for the skin to split which in turn lets the birds and insects in to the fruit which is then spoiled.
You should try and pick some oranges every day to juice or eat. Pick the largest fruit first as these are the ones in greatest danger of splitting. If you haven’t got a juicer then go and get one as this is an effective way of using and storing orange juice. The photos below show some of the record harvest, together with my juicing implements and lastly a photo of me in my special juicing apron (doesn’t everyone have one). I apologise if it looks like I am eating my phone, but I don’t know how to take a selfie and Cruella was out taking a torture class. Click on each photo for a larger view.
🍇 Pruning grapevines. If you haven’t pruned your grapevines yet then you really need to get on with it. Trim back all side-shoots to leave just the main stem. Once you have trimmed it back the plant will spend a short time resting, but in late January you will start to see the new leaves coming through. If you leave grapevines unpruned then they just become a big sprawling unsightly mess. Once you have trimmed back to the stem then make sure the stem is firmly tied to what ever structure you are growing the plant up. The Winter winds can easily tear the stem loose and let it thrash around and become damaged. I always use wire in Spain as the sun just rots wood very quickly. The photos below show my various grapevines before and after their annual trim up.
🌴 Pruning European Fan Palms. I love Fan Palms and they look elegant. However, they grow like “Topsy” – note literary reference, and they can be dangerous at eye level. I have a lovely stand of these Palms which we have placed in a raised round bed which stands in the middle of the main path to the front gate, with the path flowing around the bed. This looks lovely until the fronds start to poke out over the path and into everyone’s eyes. This one of my least favourite jobs as the stems are filled with strong spikes and the Palms fronds give you painful (paper) cuts.
If you have European Fan Palms then you have to prune at two levels. The low level will be new self seeded plants coming through (which are technically termed eye pokers). Whilst the higher ones are the fronds that are dipping below 45 degrees and need taking off to ensure the plant retains its jaunty look (well I think it looks jaunty). The photos below show the Palm in its original dangerous state, me manfully tackling the high branches, the final trimmed palm, and some of the fronds trussed up ready for recycling. Click on each photo for larger view.
💦 Harvesting rain water and turning compost. No this is not about prostate and bowel problems, but about the need to catch water when ever you can. Here in Spain it is quite common for us to go for months without rain so it is imperative that you have a system in place to capture rainwater. I have various systems but the main one captures all the water that falls into my tiled pool surround and then channels this through a pipe into a large 1,000 litre tank. When there is so much rain that the tank overflows, I siphon the water out into large plastic dustbins. The beauty of this system is that I can add and take away the dustbins when necessary. In effect the dustbins are neatly stacked one inside the other all Summer and only come into use when needed. The photo below shows my emergency bin cohort in place ready to to siphon off the downpour.
Another important job to do when it is raining, is to make sure that you open the lids of your compost bin to moisten the compost. I have been known to wake up in the middle of the night, hear it is raining, and rush out to open the bin lids, (of course I’m a bloody idiot). Once your compost is nicely wet then you need to turn it over to make sure that it is composting down evenly and that you are spreading the moisture. The photo below shows my compost bins. The nearest one is the resting bin which is being left to compost over a period of six months or so. You can see that it is already showing good results. The further bin is the active bin which is being filled now.