We are just at the start of the gardening year here in Spain and already things are warming up nicely with most plants moving into early growth. So if you don’t want to get caught out then there are some things you need to do now.
18th February. Things I have been doing lately:
🍊 Planting a new orange tree. Regular readers of this blog will remember that our idiot son helped me with some tree work when he was over for Christmas. One of his lumberjack tasks was to cut down an old orange tree that had already been heavily pruned back twice and had no more to give. The photo below shows the idiot about to take the chainsaw to the tree.
Now, if you are thinking of planting new citrus trees then you have to get them in the ground within the 3-4 weeks. After this time they won’t have enough time to set some new root before the heat of summer comes along. The important thing about replacing old trees is that you cannot plant back into the same spot as the soil will be depleted and the roots of the old tree will be everywhere in the ground.
The first thing you need to do is find a good replacement tree. Here you have choices. You can buy a tree that has been forced and is basically a lollipop with a very thin trunk and a round ball of new leaves at the top. If you are lucky a tree like this (if it survives) may produce fruit in 5 years. Or, you can buy a tree that is 3-5 years old, has been grafted on to good root stock grown on for a few years and has been pruned back to provide good fresh growth. The first tree will cost you about 20€, the second cost me 95€, but will provide fruit next year. Cruella (my wife) who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing has calculated the cost of oranges and has accused me of gross profligacy. The photo below shows my proud new purchase next to the remnants of its predecessor.
Start by moving your planting site at least 3 metres away from the old tree. In my case it was important that the new tree should be in line with the old tree so that I could pick up on my existing tree irrigation system. You then need to transfer the ground covering stones away from your new site into the old tree site so that it blends into your garden and doesn’t become an eyesore. The photos below show the magical transformation from the old to the new site. Click on each photo for a larger view.
Once you have your site prepared then the really hard work starts. You need to dig a roomy planting hole which ideally should be twice as large as the root ball of the new tree. I have to be truthful with you I seldom manage this here as the soil can be rock hard in my orchard. So I think myself lucky if I can dig it big enough for the root ball. Once you have broken your back digging the new hole get as much good rotted compost in there as possible and top it off with some slow release granulated feed. Finish by planting your new tree, treading it in well to avoid wind root rock, and then place a cross stave low down the trunk to again stop root rock. The photos below show the best planting hole I could manage, together with the new tree in all its glory. Click on each photo for a larger view.
🌱 Killing lawn weeds. I know not a lot of people have lawns in Spain, and technically speaking though I have four of various sizes, they are mainly the play areas for my Labradors to rampage around on a nominal grass surface. Nevertheless, whether your lawn is a bowling green or a prairie, they will all be suffering from broad leaf weed growth which really takes off from February to May. After May it is too hot and their leaves will shrivel, but by then they will have set seed and bequeathed you a whole new generation for next year.
I took a vow last Summer not to use a general weed killer on my lawns after I enjoyed the flowers of the low growing weeds including: Creeping woodsorrel and Asian ponysfoot. Instead I now use a selective weed killer that targets broad leaf weeds. It is important to kill off the broad leafed weeds as they will shade the grass out and leave you with a bare patch of lawn when they die back where their leaf rosette has been. The photo below shows the product and method I use together with one of the culprits.
🧟♀️ Cruella has killed my Solanum. Regular readers of this blog will know that my wife Cruella is a practitioner of the dark arts and does everything in her power to undermine my work in the garden. I only ever let her near the garden when I have to go away, and even then I leave her strict instructions. These have not stopped her wreaking havoc over the years including:
- Killing all the seedlings and cuttings on the potting bench
- Destroying my one attempt at growing tomatoes
- Allowing our Labradors to dig holes bigger than WW1 trenches on the lawn
- Summoning the wind to blow away my little mini green house
- Encouraging her army of mice to eat the lining of my water feature
I could go on, but it only makes me cry, so I will have to stop there. Anyway, I have had enough, she has killed my Solanum. And it is not just any Solanum, I was given this as a cutting and have nurtured it to become a 9 metre long behemoth which I have trained up wires to cover the walls of our outside kitchen. It flowers profusely all summer and is (was) a joy to behold.
I first noticed a problem after I came back from a trip to Florence where I had taken the idiot son in the hope of inculcating some culture into him. I absorbed the culture, he thought Florence was a great place to play Pokemon Go! Anyway as soon as I came back I noticed there was a problem with the Solanum. It just didn’t look right. Over the next few days the sturdy stems started to blacken, but only at certain points. Sometimes a stem would be a lovely green brown and then at the next stem junction one part would be black.
It turns out that despite my instructions (in writing) to Cruella not to actually touch any plants, she thought she would just stroke the stems. The results can be seen in the photos below. I have also included a photo of Cruella’s hand so you can see the problem. Click on each photo for a larger view.