Always manana logo


Untitled Document












Untitled Document

>>> Click here to see the latest headlines for the new articles and additions on Always Mañana. <<<

Untitled Document

Click to translate






Unlimited Web Hosting - Kualo

Hello, today is Sunday, July 14th, 2024 








By Dick Handscombe, Author and gardener living in Spain for 25 years.


christmas gardenUnfortunately many families purchasing properties in Spain do one of three things each not very appropriate for an enjoyable relaxed outdoor life in Spain –which is the main reason given by people for coming to Spain.

  • Develop a replica of an urban English garden characterised by a central lawn, straight paths and edges to flower beds and age drive/car standing area. The overall design driven by wanting to look out on an attractive urban landscape from panoramic windows on dull and rainy days,  or when escaping inside to escape from the evening midges rather than on designing a garden to live in.
  • Develop a pool resort which is a replica of the hotel gardens that they used to stay in for a week or two a year characterised by the most visible part of the garden taken up by the largest pool and surrounding terrace possible with shade provided by large umbrellas, and generally no trees except for one or two in the boundary hedge to hide the house next door..


Many find that’s great for a couple of short holidays in the sun each year but it can become a monotonous never changing view from windows, sheltered covered terraces and from under the umbrellas.
And of course even in Spain the pool will probably be only used from May to October, unless it’s heated and covered with a three metre high sliding cover. And then one has a view of a large greenhouse 365 days a year!

  • Attempt to develop a tropical garden like the ones they saw in Asia characterised by dramatic jungle type gardens of tropical flowering and fruiting bushes trees, climbing plants and orchids. This is possible in situations very sheltered from the scorching hot summer winds from Africa and the cold northerly winds from the north and which have a reliable water supply throughout the year.

Unfortunately such gardens can many plants if winter frosts occur in your location.


A better alternative is to develop a garden that becomes the main room of the house for most months of the year, a garden designed for living in rather than only looking at. A garden that tempts one to wander through it, to sit in the shade of mature trees in the summer and relax and eat out in sheltered sunny nooks during the cooler winter months and with the views and night time perfumes that prompts one to eat out in it on most nights of the year.
Such a garden is likely to be driven by your vision of an open air lifestyle. A vision based on a detailed analysis of what your dream life in Spain will be and the ways in which your garden design needs to make that dream come true. The alternative is to install and use daily air conditioning and central heating and again live indoors looking out on an inappropriate hostile garden!


A satisfying garden is likely to be characterised by a balance of shady and sunny spots, mature trees within the garden as well as integral with the  boundary hedge, internal as well as boundary windbreaks,  the pool incorporated into one of a number of smaller connected gardens, attractive internal vistas as one wanders through the garden as well as the preservation of the best distant vistas beyond the boundary walls or hedge, plants appropriate to your summer and winter microclimates, space for some seasonal organically grown fruit and vegetables – it doesn’t require much space to be able to make daily harvests 365 days a year - and perhaps a corner run for one or two hens.

The above concept can be developed in very small gardens as well as in a larger space. We only have a 800 square metre garden around the house but our integrated holistic approach to it’s development enabled us to soon acclimatise to the Spanish climate in a natural way.

Our book ‘Your garden in Spain’  includes a simple lifestyle questionnaire as the first  step in designing or redesigning  a Spanish garden. The rest of the book and the two sister books ‘Growing healthy fruit in Spain’s and ‘ Growing healthy vegetables in Spain – From sprouting seeds to watermelons’ are designed to take the headaches out of the design, construction, planting and seasonal maintenance of your garden. Over the past twenty five years we have learned much the hard way – there is no need for you to make the same mistakes. Happy lifestyle gardening!

p.s. For convenience the books mentioned and ‘Living well from our garden – Mediterranean Style’ can all be obtained via Amazon Books for convenience. They would all make good Christmas presents.

(c)Dick Handscombe November 2013.


Ensure you grow some Vitamins October 2013

By Dick Handscombe well known gardener, author and broadcaster

living well from our gardenDaily we read advertisements and articles persuading us to buy manufactured vitamin tablets to supplement vitamin deficient diets but how much better to eat the vitamins as nature intended them by growing and eating fruit and vegetables that are known to contain the main vitamins we apparently need for continuous good health or for recovery if ill. Interestingly the labels on some bottles of vitamin pills include the note Not intended as a substitute for a balanced diet. Further heath authorities worldwide now recommend that we eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day for their vitamin and mineral contents, others emphasise that these are best if fresh and grown ecologically/organically without the use of chemical fertilizers insecticides fungicides and the Slow Food movement recommends that we should try and eat local produce to sustain the local economy.

So let's do it by growing our own in containers on apartment terraces, in raised beds in small gardens, in the garden or if convenient an allotment/huerto. The great advantages are that you can focus on growing those fruits and vegetables with the greatest beneficial vitamin and mineral contents and harvest each day just what is required for each meal or day.

To help you understand which vitamins minerals etc are of benefit to your wellness and which vegetables and fruits include them we include descriptive tables in our book 'Living well from our garden – Mediterranean style' which is available exclusively from Amazon Books or if you require autographed copies from

Whatever you select to grow ensure you include anti-oxidant and anti-inflamatory vitamin/mineral rich foods. We ensure that we grow and eat plenty of dark green acelga and spinach leaves, sprouting broccoli, tomatoes, nasturtium flowers and leaves, garlic, onions, tomatoes, radishes , beetroots and carrots.
As for fruit we can harvest something on every day of the year to give seasonal diversity ranging from vitamin C packed mandarins and oranges from now to May and red raspberries from May to November. Having planted a perpetually flowering and fruiting Lunar lemon tree lemons can be harvested 365 days a year. After waiting six years we finally had a good harvest of vitamin packed kiwinos which are like mini kiwis but growing in small bunches a little like grapes and yesterday ate the first of this years crop of goji berries. By the way the plants were grown from a few berries taken from a bag of dried berries purchased in a local market.

citrus medica

As a novelty plant a Citrus medica var.sarcodactylis lemon tree. The common name is Buddha's hand as it resembles a half open fist – some fruits have even more and longer thinner fingers. There is little if any juicy centre but the thick skins are excellent for grating. The quality results in individual fruits being sold in florida and California for up to twelve dollars if sprayed with chemicals and 25 dollars if grown ecologically.


And remember that working in the garden, on the vegetable plot or in the orchard under the winter sun means that the sun stimulates natural vitamin D when we most need it during the shorter winter days.

© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe October 2013.



Why noy use your gardening books to learn Spanish September 2013

By Dick Handscombe
Spain’s best known expatriate gardening author

Many expats come to Spain to enjoy the climate food culture and generally relaxed way of life and with a determination, at first at least, to learn some Spanish to be able to shop, find their way around Spanish menus, buy things in the local store, speak to the Spanish gardener and be friendly with Spanish neighbours. Some make speedy progress by concentrating from day one on being able to speak, listen to a little Spanish TV if only the news or a football match to start with, read the headlines and gradually the contents of Spanish newspapers, make shopping lists for garden centre, agricultural cooperatives and agricultural/garden machine shops and write out a few basic questions as openers to find things if they are not obviously on display.
Others soon give up because of the way Spanish is taught with months of concentration on grammar, the reading for a few minutes of a novel by a Literary Nobel Prize winner such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and the studying of the thirteen cases of the subjunctive so that you yourself could write a text along the lines of Shakespeare before you really get around to trying to talk in public. This can be a soul destroying process, as I initially experienced with a well -known Spanish language school. This can be made worse in some popular expat areas in that the first time you try out your embryo Spanish, the Spaniard you are addressing says , ‘Don’t make things difficult for yourself, speak to me in English. I know some and I need the practice to get better’.
To help our readers to design and maintain their garden their own way all our original four major gardening books all have useful vocabularies at the back and plant lists/descriptions with Botanical, English and Spanish names. These can be helpful at the garden centre or communicating with your Spanish gardener if you have one.

gardening in spain books
‘Each of these books by Dick and his wife Clodagh include useful English – Spanish vocabularies and plant lists.’
The vocabularies are grouped under useful headings such as measurements, commonly useful words, materials, tools, parts of plants, types of plants, gardening verbs, and gardening adjectives.
Take these gardening books out of the book case and:

  • Read through them regularly checking each week how many of the words you can remember.
  • Prepare garden related shopping lists that you could speak about or show Spanish garden centre and shop assistants.
  • Offer to give your gardener some English coaching in return for him helping you with your Spanish – start this by wandering around the garden together describing each feature plant and problem in both languages.
  •  If you have a Spanish teacher lend her your gardening book/s and ask her to concentrate on using gardening words phrases and sentences during your lesson and setting you relevant homework. I remember writing out for my early Spanish coach my gardening activities for the past week as the basis for a discussion and for my coach to correct my writings.
  • Use the vegetable and fruit names from the above vegetable and fruit books when preparing food shopping lists.

Best of luck in making progress during the autumn and enjoying Spain even more than you do, or disliking it less.
© Dick Handscombe , September 2013.




handscombeBy Dick and Clodagh Handscombe, Spain’s best known expatriate gardening authors

Gardens on the costas and in the inland valleys are now at their peak of colour provided they have been appropriately planted and maintained. Colourful subtropical and tropical plants are in their element and plants that stop flowering in the hottest weeks such as gazanias and margaritas have not yet finished their early summer show.
Luckily established gardens will require the minimum of maintenance work over the next three months, except for watering, deadheading and tidying up the worst of exuberant growth. We can therefore start to sit back and enjoy the summer and the success of earlier plantings and the careful prunings of last winter/ spring cleanup. Hopefully there are not too many gaps in the kaleidoscope of colour as a result of last winter’s frost although replacement plants will take a year or two to really replace lost or severely cut back plants such as bougainvilleas, hibiscus and lantanas.
However, if your garden is still being developed , the summer months are a good time to  look hard at  the displays of colour developing so far in your own and neighbouring gardens and consider what new plantings might be made in the autumn or next spring. Do you have beds and banks of flowers that match and support your summer lifestyle? Perhaps a combination of dramatic’ hot bed’ displays of  the most brilliant coloured Spanish plants and ‘cool beds’ using whites and subtle shades of blues and mauves.
Although plants are available in containers planting over the next two months is not the wisest except for drought resistant plants like succulents but even those will need regular watering until their roots are established. 



  1. Spaniards often create a perfumed and colourful entrance from the street. We suggest you follow their practice. For perfume one cannot do better than plant a jasmine by the gate perhaps hanging over the wall   into the street. For evening scent and a kaleidoscope of colour plant the perennial San Diego from seed, plus vivid purple and red bougainvilleas and orange and yellow lantanas.


  1. Decide on the areas of the garden for planting hot colours and contrasting cool colours. Red, orange, yellow and purple to emphasise the climate of the Costa summer and white, blue, mauve and cream to create areas for cooling off. Try the following for starters.


The following flowering trees all give spectacular summer displays.  
The Devils Tongue (Lenqua Diablo or Poinciana), Oleander, Jupiter( lagerstroemia), Parkinsonia and Albezia.
And do consider the spiky stemmed Chorizia if you are at sea level. The flowers in August are exotic.

Of the many bush shrubs lantanas are a must, as are hibiscus if you are not in a frost belt. Streptasolen look good in containers in covered terraces, red and pink oleanders as a garden hedge and a bright coloured buddleia will attract butterflies. And of course you can develop a dedicated rose garden in the cooler inland valleys.

Climbing shrubs can turn walls, fences and old tree stumps into colourful features. Bignonias, bougainvilleas, passion flowers and red roses are our favourites and fit into most gardens.       

Many perennials can flower throughout the summer. Try the following for starters. Strelitzias(bird of paradise), geraniums, margaritas, gazanias, and African fuschsias. And if you have a pond brighten it up with red, pink and yellow water lilies, the exotic flowers of the floating pontederias plant and for a special effect plant a lotus plant if you can trace one.

And don’t forget to plant summer flowering bulbs next spring. Vivid coloured cannas, lilies, gladioli, eremuras and alstroemerias. The latter look good in the semi shade under a tree and also in containers.

Do recognise that annuals will need continuous watering and dead heading. The easiest to grow are sweet peas, zinnias, sunflowers, petunias, vincas, portulacas, and marigolds. And one should not overlook the attractive colours of ripening ornamental gourds. The seeds of all these can be collected and dried for planting next spring.



In the hills late jacarandas may still be flowering and later the white flowers of oleander, and   catalpa trees.

For lower cool effects use white and cream lantana bushes and  ground cover white and mauve varieties, white roses, hydrangeas in shady spots, and some of the following perennials.

White carnations and flowering sage, thyme, lavender and rosemary which add perfume as well as calm cooling effects.

In July blue and white agapanthus always impress both in large pots and in flower beds. If you are planting annuals there are many blue and white varieties to choose from at a good garden centre.

To clad walls consider shrubs such as plumbago, solanum, morning glory, jasmine, white roses and the highly perfumed galan de noche for balmy evenings.



1. The best time for planting is after a good storm has soaked the ground deeply.
2. When first planted the priority of the plant is to establish the root system and not prolong the life of existing flowers. Remember that unless you need instant colour for a party you are planning for summer long colour.

3. Fill planting holes with water retaining soil/compost mix and firm well around the root ball to ensure no air voids in the soil. Recently we have been experimenting with mixing a spoonful of a water absorbing gel such as Terracottem into the base soil of the planting hole. This certainly helps get plants off to a good start and reduces the risk of forgetting to water or going away for few days during a hot spell.

4. Fourthly water well until the plants are established in the open ground and don’t allow plants in pots to dry out.

We hope that the above ideas lead to some even more colourful summer gardens.

© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe  July 2013




By  Dick Handscombe
Holistic gardener and author living in Spain for 25 years
Ever since we started gardening in our parents and school gardens in the 1940’s and 1950’s respectively including things to eat has been an important element of our plant mixes. This led us to most enjoy holistic gardens with an element of cottage garden style and a series of patio gardens around the house including ones focussed on fruit vegetables herbs edible flowers and tree leaves plus eggs and poultry meat.
Moving to Spain to retire early allowed me to seek and to repeat the edible garden my parents had in West London in order to eat well during the Second World War.  My efforts were driven by the recommendation of his cancer surgeon, back in 1993, that he retire early to Spain to an active life, eating a traditional village Mediterranean diet. Rather than undergo radio and chemical treatments for a persistent slow growing cancer that they would probably not have touched and he would have lost his mop of hair. Reports on the latest medical thinking in recent editions of the magazine ‘What Doctors Don’t Tell You’ demonstrate how forward thinking the surgeon was.
A few years ago Clodagh and I gave a talk at a U3A conference at the Javea Parador on health for the third age illustrating how we gradually expanded the edible content of our eco garden in parallel with the local agriculturalists that used heavier and heavier doses of chemical fertilisers insecticides and fungicides and then eventually abandoning most of the local agricultural terraces and fields. Eventually we took on borrowed land to expand our eco vegetable and fruit production for ourselves friends and a local Michelin starred restaurant and make our own eco olive oil. Now the external production has been cut back to give me more time for writing and painting.
After the conference I expanded this into a booklet for people attending our talks. Recently IT has been updated and published as a book titled ‘ Living well from our garden – Mediterranean style’ available from Amazon Books UK Spain etc., to meet an increasing interest in our ideas on wellness gardens, what constitutes good and poor eating and what to grow most of based on the vitamin mineral and fibre content etc.


Last week I had a tapas and paella evening with guitar music by two friends under our maturing carob tree. The majority of the ingredients for both were from the garden including most of the thirty ingredients required for producing a quality authentic Valencian paella. Something unfortunately rarely found in tourist restaurants these days as short cuts on ingredients and the method of cooking them have been introduced to survive the economic crisis.


If you are interested in the history, ingredients required, method of cooking a fully fledged paella for festive occasions and understanding the other rice dishes eaten by Spanish families on a day to day basis my 25  k years of observations and personal practice are now published as a booklet ‘ Your personal guide to making AUTHENTIC VALENCIAN PAELLAS’ this is  also available from Amazon Books.

cover paella (1).jpg

Hope that these recent additions to our published book help you make better use of your gardens and apartment terraces.

© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe  June 2013




By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe
Practical gardeners and authors

Sunflowers (helianthus) are majestic summer flowers and do especially well in Spain in reasonable soil if one remembers to water them. At first one thinks of the large single headed yellow flowers on stems up to two or three metres high that look like a summer sun. Growing a specimen as a child in a small patch, pot or school garden has been the stimulus to many for the start of a lifetime interest in gardening. Such tall plants are not always easy to fit into a balanced garden layout. However there are now an amazing number of varieties available from dwarf varieties to the Russian Giants from Siberia. They can give valuable displays of colour and interest throughout the summer and early autumn. And with luck beyond. We even had self seeded plants flower during February in the middle of our vegetable plot, having survived many nights below zero.




Ten reasons for growing sunflowers come to mind.

1. They are relatively easy to grow.
2. Their wonderful display whether you grow a block of tall varieties in the vegetable garden, medium  height varieties mixed in a perennial /shrub bed or dwarf varieties grown in flower pots.
3. Long lasting cut flowers for the naya or house.
4. Flower heads that attract beneficial insects.
5. Supports for climbing beans in the vegetable garden. Or why not at the back of a flower bed ?
6. A natural windbreak for lower growing vegetables or annuals.
7. Seed heads that can be separated and sundried to provide seeds as an alternative to nuts or olives with an evening drink, adding to breakfast cereals or fruit, or crushing to extract sunflower oil if you have sufficient. Make sure you eat them before the oil content turns rancid.
8. Seed heads left on the plant to dry can be cut off with a short stem and then tied to a suitable branch of a tree in the garden to attract and feed birds during the winter. Loose seeds can also be added to the bird table or the food for many cage and aviary birds.
9. As a sprouting seed – soak seeds overnight.  Cut the base out of a 5 litre water bottle, about 8cm deep. Fill with 50/50 soil and compost, dampen, lay seeds on top and cover with damp newspaper. Put in a sunny corner, but remember to keep the paper moist but not soaking. As soon as the seeds start to sprout remove the paper but continue to keep the soil moist. In a couple of days you will have green shoots two centimetres high  which you can cut off and add to salads  for their flavour and high mineral content.
10. A good first seed for a children’s corner.
Some years ago we have also just read that a famous 16th century herbalist, name escapes us, found that sunflower buds boiled and eaten like globe artichokes with butter, vinegar and pepper exceeded the taste of artichokes - as well as stimulating a bodily lust. Something to try this summer, but with olive oil!






As already mentioned sunflowers now come in a wide variety of heights, leaf forms, single or multi headed branches of flowers, and most importantly colours. Yellow, red, orange, bronze and cream varieties are now available in single or mixed hues. Unfortunately few seed shops and catalogues stock more than a few common varieties. For variety we have purchased seed for many years from the mail order catalogue of Chiltern Seeds, Which has had up to thirty varieties The following selection will give a feel for the range of sunflowers available.
1. Drawf.30 to 45cms. Pacino. Can grow well even in a 10cm pot. Develops a number of branches with a continuing display of 10cm flowers.
2. A little taller 40 to 60cms. Little Dorrit. A single stem with 20 cm yellow flowers around a dark chocolate centre. Useful for the front of a bed.
3. Mid height 120 to140cms. Autumn Beauty. Branching stems of 15cm flowers in a range of artists colours...bronze, lemon, mahogany, old gold and cream.
4. Tall.200 to 300cms. Earth Walker. An abundance of multi headed branches of terracotta and reddish brown flowers.
5. Even taller! 300cms plus. Uniflorus gigantus - why not call it Sky rocket? Traditional single headed large plate sized yellow flowers.

It is obviously possible to achieve a breath taking display.


Plant singly in plant pots for planting out when 15cms high or growing dwarf varieties to maturity. One can also plant seeds direct but inevitably one looses a few seeds to hungry mice and snails. Plant in a rich water retaining seed compost or garden soil.


Although established plants can survive in poor soil this only where there is deep soil that the tap root can explore searching for water. In most soils it is best to water and feed regularly to achieve maximum heights, number and size of flowers and seed heads. Apart from a little leaf rust sunflowers give little problem provided you establish strong young plants. Don’t over water seedlings as they can rot off. They do not like marshy conditions.
Sunflowers do best in full sun but will tolerate semi shade.


© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe  May 2013


Fruit trees can flourish in Spain -March 2012

fruit treesSpain is a fantastic place to grow our
own fruit. Both coastal and in land climates are suitable for growing a wide range of fruit and it is possible by careful selection to harvest one or more fruits on every day of the year – even from apartment terraces. Indeed some of the easiest fruits to grow can be grown in various types of containers. For instance strawberries in a strawberry barrel or
window box, a grape vine in a tub trailing along a balustrade or supported on an end wall and a perpetual flowe r i n g / f r u i t i n g
Lunar lemon and early season white
fleshed peach tree in large pots. With the latter not only do you get the benefit of picking perfectly ripe tasty juicy peaches for immediate eating but also the early blossom. Our tree in a tub started to flower in the middle of January while the almond
blossom in the garden below was still
With a garden one can obviously expand and plant fruit trees in
containers on terraces, trained on
walls or as spring flowering/summer or autumn fruiting trees anywhere in the flower beds. Naturally if you have a large property one can develop a dedicated orchard.
So much is possible but there are a number of important success factors each covered in detail in our book.
Firstly do plant fruits that you like. Over seventy are described in the book including tropical/subtropical fruits for frost free areas of the coastal plain and temperate types that need inland frosts to fruit well. The former include citrus fruits, mangoes and avocados and the latter cherry and pear trees. Secondly select strong plants and if oranges or mandarins check out when they will be ready to harvest. In both cases there are early, mid season and late season varieties to chose from – some ripening in October and others as late as early June. We list some of the most popular varieties in the book.
Thirdly prepare the ground and planting holes in advance and ensure that the young root ball is spread out when planting. If not strangled roots can develop that result in stunted poorly fruiting trees.
Fourthly spray with ecological insecticides and fungicides to ensure that there are no residual chemicals on or in the skins and also that the garden is save even when spraying for the family, pets and wildlife. Our favourites are neem based insecticides and propolis as a fungicide.
Sorry space has run out to say more but the book 'Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain' is comprehensive. If you purchase it via you will receive a complementary copy of 'Living Well from
Our Mediterranean Garden'

© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe february 2012



COLLECTING CUTTINGSThis gardening section is contributed by Clodagh and Dick Handscombe well known gardening authors and broadcasters who have lived in Spain for 25 years and been visiting Spain since the 1960’s when the Mar Menor gardening scene was very different to now.

We have taken ‘Lifestyle Gardens’ as the theme for this winter edition of the magazine as the most common reasons given by those moving to Spain is the climate and the opportunity for a more relaxed, open air and healthier lifestyle than in northern Europe. Yet when we talk to those new to Spain or old stagers this is not always being achieved for a variety of reasons including the mismatch of the garden or apartment terrace design with lifestyle ambitions. Luckily the winter months are the best time of year to make changes ready for next spring and summer.

Recognise that in Spain a garden is to live in for most months of the year rather than look out on through northern Europe rain spattered windows.
For most the need is for a garden that is colourful and perfumed and designed to make it possible to relax, work, eat and drink, exercise and entertain throughout the year except of course when it rains. For some it is also important that the garden is a major source of ecologically produced herbs, fruit, vegetables and edible flowers. Some will want to design develop and maintain the garden themselves while others prefer to hire a gardener for all or some of the tasks but in hard economic times both groups will be looking for a garden than is economic in the time and money required for maintenance.

Those with roof tops or large apartment terraces have similar needs.


The answer is no! All to often plants selected are not suitable for the microclimate of the garden either when it is the initial bare patch or years later when surrounded by hedges and trees that give shelter from the harshness of hot and cold winds. Plants are planted without first preparing and enriching the soil for flower beds and trees or composts for containers. Non sensible very thirsty plants are co-planted with more sensible drought resistant plants which often leads to the very unnecessary insect and fungal attacks to the drought resistant plants. Mature trees are felled and not replaced with new flowering or ever green trees to give shade for the summer and shelter for sitting out on sunny but breezy winter days. Often the eventual size of mature shrubs and trees are not recognised and small gardens especially become over planted and plants become leggy and produce less flowers. In providing for shade sheets of canvas are sailed instead of perfumed plant covered gazebos and in providing for a greater degree of cooling off and exercise the pool is allowed to be the dominant feature of the garden although only used for five or six months unless heated all year round and then a plastic pool cover is not the most aesthetic centre piece of a garden.


Keeping things to basics we suggest the following plan for 2012.
1. Audit the good and not so good things about your garden villa, town house or apartment garden in 2011 and decide what would best be changed.
2. If you are starting a new garden recognise that the climate especially the  maximum and minimum temperatures and pattern of rainfalls, soils, many plants, hot drying winds are very different to the UK and other northerly locations..
3. Reduce the risk profile of your collection of plants.
4. Improve the soils and composts you use.
5. Expand the range of herbs, fruit and vegetables currently grown.
6. Change over from manufactured chemical insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers to organic/ ecological and natural ones to ensure that the atmosphere and garden produce is as unpolluted as possible to the benefit of the health of plants, the family, neighbours, pets and beneficial wildlife.
7. Make the major structural changes over the next three months


We suggest that you do this annually at this time of the year remembering back to the best and worst things last winter, spring, summer and autumn whether you have a garden or only an inner patio or apartment terrace. Consider how you could extend or repeat the best things and how to overcome or replace the worst.  Chapter 1.7 of ‘Your Garden in Spain’ provides a practical check list to help you do this in a systematic manner.


If you are about to layout a new garden the ‘garden lifestyle questionnaire’ included in chapter 2.1 and the descriptions of fifteen types of gardens included in Chapter 2.2 provide practical start points.

© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe January 2012




GARDENING CHRISTMASA good time to plant
After recent rains most readers can easily dig their soil so making tree and shrub planting holes, digging over new flower beds and rotovating vegetable plots is a practical proposition without breaking ones back or even tools.
If you are in truly frost free coastal situations most things can be planted with the benefit that roots will have grown by the Spring. However if you do get frosts only plant up genuinely frost resistant things. If in doubt check the frost resistant columns in the descriptions of practical plants in 'Your Garden in Spain'.
Good planting practices
1. Size of plants
In general smaller plants and trees establish good root systems faster than larger ones sold root bound in small pots in relation to the size of the plant. So if two sizes of a plant are available we would purchase the smaller one for our garden.
2. Size of planting holes
In the UK we normally got away with making a planting hole the same size as the compost around a purchased plant. But there the surrounding soil was not metres of clay that can dry out to create the equivalent of a thick walled terracotta pot that soaks away moisture from the soil around the recently planted and watered new plant like a dry sponge. So make planting holes twice as large and infill with a good soil/compost mix with a little added sand and TerraCottem soil improver – search TerraVida on the internet for information about this useful product.
3. Improving the soil
If possible improve the soil of an entire new perennial plant or shrub bed before planting.
4. Spreading the roots
Entwined roots in a pot bound pot , or plastic tube in the case of trees, are likely to continue to be entwined as they grow and often start to strangle each other in a growing corkscrew shape. Eventually plants and trees stunt and even die. If the citrus fruit tree planted a few years ago is growing poorly this may well be the cause. So do ensure that roots are spread out downwards and sloping 45 degrees sideways before planting.
5. Splitting root bound perennials
Many root bound perennials are best split to create additional plants before planting. We created a dozen separate plants from the last gazania plant we purchased.
6. Staking and tying
Ensure you stake trees and tall shrubs at the time of planting to ensure that they do not lean and loosen roots in high winds and heavy rain.
Likewise climbing plants need tying onto support frames or screw eyes fixed to walls and fences.
7. Mulching
Prevent early drying out by mulching the soil around newly planted plants and trees with compost, grit, rocks, chippings or stone slabs. The latter, especially useful for protecting the roots of climbers.
If you have had torrential rains do allow the ground to dry out a little before making new plantings.
Happy Autumn gardening.

Clodagh and Dicks books are now available from their website as well as high street and internet bookshops. They are essential to new gardeners to Spain and make good presents. On their site there is a special offer involving their latest book Living Well from Our Mediterranean Garden.
© Clodagh & Dick Handscombe Nov 2011.




fruit trees

No Spanish garden or apartment terrace should be without fruit trees or plants. Even in less than a square metre it is possible to grow alpine or ordinary strawberries in a strawberry barrel or window box and citrus, peach, apple, pear, pomegranate, avocado and fig trees on dwarf root stocks grow perfectly well in containers provided you fill the containers with a rich in nutrient and water retaining/ well-draining soil mix. Our experimental container orchard has done well.

In a larger garden it does not require much imagination to plant a dozen varieties of trees or plants and be able to harvest one's own ecological fruit crops on every day of the year.
Try the following for starters – almond, apricot, fig, lemon, mandarin, orange, persimmon, peach, plum, strawberries, raspberries and walnut.

4 seasonsIf you combine the above with a vegetable raised bed or patch, even a moderate sized garden can become your daily market for the fresh healthy fruit and vegetables increasingly recommended by medical authorities. Spanish readers will immediately recognise what we are saying –i.e. return to the back yard or small holding of our grandparents – for what we recommend does not require a large orchard. Indeed, as many inland expatriates with 10.000 metre plots have discovered, how does one cope with the ripening fruit of several hundred trees when Spaniards are feeding surplus oranges to their sheep and goats as it is more economic to do so than pay to harvest the fruit for very low market prices.
Luckily many fruit trees have multiple benefits so they easily fit into mixed gardens for they are among the best trees for spring blossom, then the colouring fruit adds interest, followed by the vivid autumn leaf colours of the deciduous trees and early winter colours of persimmons and pomegranates well after the leaves have fallen.

As mentioned in our earlier columns and described in detail in our popular book Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain there are now many natural, ecological and organic ways of fertilising and spraying fruit trees bushes and plants against pests and diseases so one does not need to be concerned about residual chemicals on the skins. Eating perfectly ripe fruit direct from the tree bush or plant is one of the delights of gardening in Spain. Fresh raspberries from May to October and in a few weeks' time tangerines are regular pre breakfast snacks when working early in our holistic garden. They are irresistible. Thinking about citrus trees if you select early mid and late season varieties it is possible to harvest edible mandarins from October to May and a mature perpetual flowering/fruiting lemon tree can supply a year's supply of lemons for gin and tonics and lemon sorbets.

By the way the book includes over seventy fruits so there are plenty to choose from whether gardening on the Costa, inland valleys or a thousand metres up on mountainsides. For convenience Dick's recently published book includes details of the beneficial vitamins and minerals etc., found in a wide range of fruits.
Autographed copies of Clodagh and Dicks books can now be purchased via their website as well as unsigned copies from high street and internet bookshops. © Clodagh and Dick Handscombe Nov 2011.



from your gardenOur garden in Spain has evolved over twenty five years from a holiday garden that was Dick's fitness camp in which to recover from a hectic working life to, after early retirement, a holistic therapeutic garden that helped him recover emotionally and physically from cancer and then live well in a green oasis. A densely planted garden insulated from a surrounding urbanisation that after ten years had taken over the original surrounding woodlands and agricultural lands.

fruitIn time the garden was supplemented by being guardians of an abandoned allotment and olive grove to increase production of ecological vegetables and fruit, and produce ecological extra virgin cold pressed olive oil. Now with most of the agricultural lands of the village being abandoned with the air and waterways full of weed seeds and increasing thefts vegetable growing has been moved back into the garden in raised beds and a Ten-Tub veggie garden as explained in Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain.
With respect to the sun we have from the first year ensured that trees and hedges provide plenty of summer shade and also sheltered winter sitting out spots. Naturally it is a chemical free garden.

A couple of years ago we gave a well received presentation to a U3A conference on Health for The Retired explaining how well we lived from our garden especially avoiding the need for medications and vitamin supplements. At the same conference a Medical Doctor was extolling the benefits of taking 200 plus anti aging tablets a day. The Doctor did not get much support for this idea, particularly with the high cost involved, but friends suggested we expand our talk as a book.

saladThis Dick has now done and it was launched in September.
The title of this new book is Living Well from our Mediterranean Garden. Wellness in terms of a healthy garden environment, eating well from a diverse range of ecologically grown produce rich in beneficial vitamins and minerals, eating gastronomically but not gluttony, and improving ones financial position by producing most plants in the garden from cuttings, plantlets and seeds. We now only need to purchase artisan cheeses wine and Jamon Serrano to enjoy healthy Spanish style Mediterranean cuisine to the full.
The book is written as a case study and handbook for healthy living that could be of interest to all with a property in a Mediterranean climate situation. One of the reasons Dick wrote it is that at almost 75 he finds it difficult to remember what we have learnt about the vitamin and mineral contents of various fruits, vegetables etc.. They are listed in the book.

Although only small the 40 page book is packed with interesting information and useful ideas and only costs 3.90 Euros. Postage is always expensive in Spain so have a launch offer of 5 Euros including postage and packaging. If you are interested send an email to or a letter with a payment of 5 Euros, stamps, cheque, postal order to Clodagh Brown, PO CORREOS 572, Javea 03730, Alicante.

homerThe book is a natural follow up to the author's quartet of books Your Garden in Spain, Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain, Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain and Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style.
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe September 2011.





Developing a great Spanish Garden sept 2011

spanish garden

How does your garden stack up? Apart from the swimming pool terrace how much use of it did you make this summer? Does it take maximum advantage of the Mediterranean climate we experience? Is it a garden in which it is enjoyable to walk around, work in, take siestas, eat out in on most days of the year and at the same time provide some of the family's fruit and vegetables and perhaps even eggs? If not we provide a basic framework for you.

-Enables you to create an outdoor lifestyle for most of the year by, amongst other things, providing for summer shade and sheltered winter sun.

-Has an attractive and interesting network of terraces and paths. Terraces of different sizes for different activities such as cooking and entertaining, secluded siestas, sunning after a dip in the pool or a quiet winters read. Curving rather than straight paths and the use of a variety of surfaces can add to the magic of a new garden even before the first plants are planted.

-A number of interesting and contrasting mini gardens, patios or corners. The pool area treated as one of several mini gardens rather than the only feature of the garden.

-A variety of colour schemes in different parts of the garden using plantings with the many hues and textures of green foliage as well as the subtle or blazing colours of the flowers. Our book 'Your Garden in Spain – Planning planting and maintenance' includes an important chapter in this respect – chapter 2 'Painting with plants?

-The growing of even just a few seasonal vegetables that can be harvested and eaten fresh, especially if grown ecologically. If you have prepared the ground well and kept up the watering during the summer you may be voted as amongst the best at the vegetable display to celebrate the Virgin de las frutas?????? on the 17/18 September.

-The growing of a variety of herbs for use in cooking as well as for their natural aroma therapeutic and medicinal benefits Herbs can be grouped in a herb garden or on a rockery or spread around the garden in mixed beds.

-Perfume throughout the year as one passes through the entrance gate and around the garden. Favourites include jasmines, roses, honeysuckles, galan de noche, san diego, frangipani, mock orange, citrus trees, freesias, lilies, passion flowers, sweet peas, geraniums, and naturally culinary and medicinal herbs.

-The traditional Spanish sound of dripping water from a fountain, the running water of a waterfall into or between ponds or a creative mini water feature.

-Attraction of an interesting range of beneficial wildlife ranging from geckoes on the walls at night that catch flying insects to lizards on rocks and frogs and dragon flies around a the pond.

Naturally you won't achieve such a garden within a year unless very small but do have a clear vision of what you are aiming for before you start.

Send us a photo when you have finished!

Clodagh and Dick's instructive books will tell you more about garden design planting and maintenance whether starting from scratch or improving an existing garden. You will find them in bookshops including Bookworld and Carrefour. For convenience many internet bookshops stock them including Santana Books, Amazon UK, Bookworld and The Royal Horticultural Society.
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe August 2011.


WATCH THOSE PLANTS, THEY MAY NEED MORE WATER. By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe Practical gardeners and authors living in Spain for 25 years. Aug 2011

handscombeWe are now in mid July, normally the beginning of the hottest four weeks of the year. Everyone will experience over 300C in the shade, some over 400C. Resident readers will find it hot and even more so visitors from the UK. But that's nothing to what many of your precious plants will need to endure if they are in sunny versus dappled shaded positions. The temperatures above are in the shade temperatures. In the sun temperatures can be considerably higher – put the thermometer you have in a shady porch or covered terrace in the midday sun for an hour and it will immediately go sky high and could in fact break a delicate glass thermometer.

So do take action now to minimize summer losses.

1. If you have not adjusted your irrigation system for summer conditions immediately double the amount of water per day for the next two months. If you find that some plants are still drooping water less frequently but for longer to ensure moisture is getting down to the roots. To pay for the extra water check that you are not watering unnecessarily long established shrubs and trees which by now will have deep tap roots. Fairly frequently we find that long planted fig and olive trees are still being watered daily and likewise oleander and gandula hedges.

watering potswatering plants made easy

2. Except for truly draught resistant plants such as cacti and succulents move potted plants into places where they will be in dappled or semi shade for much of the day.

3. On apartment terraces and balconies use awnings and blinds to shade plants during the hottest hours of the day. Most importantly recognize that plant containers can become very hot and therefore the growing medium in the containers will heat up increasing moisture losses by evaporation from the surface. With poor compost mixes containers can dry out in 24 hours or less. As illustrated in the table on page 119 of our book 'Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style' typical watering requirements for drought resistant and thirsty plants under summer and winter conditions in containers may require six times the watering in mid summer to during the cool winter months even in semi shaded situations.

sey feed me4. Both in the garden and in terrace pots mixing a little Terra-Cottem gel into the soil and composts at the bottom of planting holes has saved many a plant that was not watered for a few days during the holiday season. It can be purchased via You can still use terracottem for established plants by digging a whole down the side of containers and pouring a half tea spoon of Terra-Cottem into the bottom of the hole or digging a hole or a trench around plants in the garden and doing likewise but naturally increasing the amount of Terra-Cottem according to the size of the plant. The above website gives good indications of how much to use.

5. If you planted new flowering or fruiting trees last autumn or in the spring digging holes around plants or trees to slide in empty water bottles or lengths of 5cm diameter water pipe down to the root ball level enable you to give extra watering down to the developing roots. Many trees die each summer as they are only watered on a drip irrigation system to the same extent as smaller more shallow rooted plants. Don't assume that damp surface soil means that roots six twelve or twenty four centimetres below the soil are damp and not drying out. If in doubt dig a hole alongside a number of shrubs and trees to check how deep the soil becomes dry.

So take care this year that plants as well as the family don't get too sunburnt!
Clodagh and Dick Handscombe's books include instructions for caring for plants during each month of the year. The books can be purchased from bookshops and via internet mail order sites such as Santana Books. At present they have a special summer offer for 'Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style'. It will save your garden as well as being a great present.
Date for autumn diary. Dick Handscombe will be giving a talk about 'Health from your garden' and leading a 'Question and Answer Session ' at the autumn Mediterranean Gardening Society meeting organized on the Costa Blanca on 8th October. Members and non members welcome. More details from Joan Ball on 972 662061
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe July 2011.



July in the Garden 2011

deadheadingThings are hotting up. It's now time to enjoy summer leisure activities to the full and cut back gardening activities to the minimum. But some things will need to be done to have a colourful, perfumed and scenically enjoyable garden during the summer.

Make sure that at least the following ten things are done.
Deadhead and prune back flowering plants to stimulate speedy next flowerings.
Prune back untidy and spiky growth from the sides of paths and terraces.
With a delay in turning on watering systems due to the damp Spring check and clean all spray heads on watering systems. Some could be at least partially blocked.
Give stone fruits such as peaches and plums a light summer pruning to stimulate fruit buds for next year.
Cut back the excessive growth of pond plants so that you can see and feed the fish. If a hungry heron appears in the garden as we have at present drape pea netting over canes across the pond.
Weed the vegetable plot to maximize the moisture available to the roots of vegetable plants.
Mulch soft fruit bushes with cuttings of comfrey leaves. If you don't have any comfrey contact us via our website.
handscombe 2011To clear weeds from areas of stone chippings a safe ecological weed killer is 3 to 5 % vinegar in water.
Leave some seed heads to develop and ripen for keeping the seeds for sowing in the autumn or spring.
Train and tie in climbers on gazebos fences and walls.
Each of Clodagh and Dick's practical and comprehensive gardening books include seasonal checklists of what needs doing month by month. By the way if you are learning Castellano or get stuck in garden centres and shops each book includes an English-Spanish vocabulary For convenience buy the books by mail order from Santana Books or Amazon UK. Inland Ebro Valley Properties shop in Riba Roja del Ebre stock the books.
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe July 2011.


mulchingMay brought much rain but will it reduce your watering needs over the summer months. Mostly this depends on whether you improved your garden soil and container composts to increase their water holding powers while still remaining free draining to prevent water logging and whether you mulched the surface of the soil to prevent them drying out and stimulating serious capillary evaporation during hot days.

There are also other benefits.

-Reduce chance of soil compacting which destroys the essential space between soil particles which fill with moisture and oxygen in healthy soils.

-Keeps roots cool in hot weather.

-gravel mulchProtects roots from frost damage during cold winter spells.

-Reduces chance of weeds germinating and growing.

-Invisible transportation of rain water.

-Tidy and attractive areas.

-Organic mulches recycle growth nutrients to the soil.

The following are some of the things that we do and which are referred to in our books.
1. Mulch along rows of raspberry canes with a mix or with layers of comfrey leaves and compost from the compost heap.

mulch2. Surround plants and shrubs with small weathered rocks on the rockery and with small rocks over breathable plastic sheeting in shrub/flower beds. Volcanic ash chipping layers on rockeries and to cover the compost in containers.

3. Place stone slabs or large rocks over the roots of climbing plants.

4. Lay stone chippings over breathable plastic membrane between trees .

5. Plant plants close to create a living mulch that allows no drying sunlight to reach the surface of the soil. In one area of the garden we have allowed a carpet of wild strawberries to develop as a mulch and a warning from drying leaves that the soil is drying out in mid summer.

tree mulch6. Leave leaves to rot under hedges and ground cover plants.
So get mulching during early June before the really hot weather arrives.

Granada is an amazing place to visit and for those interested in gardens there are some hidden gems. Naturally the 14th century Alhambra and Generalife Gardens are top of the list but behind the high walls of villas within the old city exist many interesting gardens termed carmens mostly not open to the general public. Dick was therefore delighted to be invited to join Nicholas Borjesson, the official Granada Guide who guided Michele Obama on her visit to Granada last year, in supporting a three day tour 'Gardens of Granada' which visits seven gardens plus the Alhambra organised by Go Granada. The 2011 dates are 5-8 July and after the hot summer 6-9 September. Full details can be obtained from, or by calling Lucy on 0044 7944 882690.

Don't forget Clodagh and Dick's books are full of ideas and solutions to your problems based on their 25 years of gardening in Spain. For convenience they can be purchased via the internet on Amazon, Bargain books, The Royal Horticultural Society Bookshop etc..
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe June 2011.




mediterranean garden societyGardening in the Mediterranean
When I came to live in the Mediterranean region, I brought with me, as probably most gardeners, memories of gardens I had tended elsewhere. The characteristics of the Mediterranean climate were new to me. What plants would tolerate such prolonged heat and dryness? Where to find them? How to make the right choice and care for them? Gardening in a Mediterranean Climate is challenging and often frustrating, especially when we buy plants from the garden centre only to find them shrivelled up and dead within a short time. I found help in the form of the Mediterranean Garden Society (MGS) which offers monthly workshops on topics such as How to Dry Garden, Pruning and Design, talks from Horticulturists on topics such as Weeds, Pests & Diseases, private garden visits and the opportunity to meet with like minded gardening enthusiasts and share knowledge and experience.

Membership of the MGS gave me access to amateur and professional gardeners, horticulturists, and botanists, and others who appreciate the unique climate called 'Mediterranean'. I was asked last year to take on the challenge to create a Catalonia Branch of the MGS which together with two other members is now up and running.

You don't need to be a member so why not come along to any of our events. However if you want to join the MGS, as part of your membership you will receive a wonderful quarterly journal, an informative website, a seed exchange programme and expert advice on Mediterranean Gardening.
For more information or a copy of the Catalonia Branch Activities 2011 either contact or

salvia microphyllaSalvia microphylla - Hot Lips is a "must have" in any Meditteranean Garden. The fast-growing, 30" tall x 6' wide clump is adorned with stunning bicolour flowers with red tips and white lips. When the nights warm in summer, the new flowers are all red with an occasional solid white one and the fragrance is amazing. As Autumn approaches, the flowers again will be bicoloured red and white. This plant needs little or no water once established and is one of my favourites.



Some how last months gardening article failed to mention that Dick Handscombe did in fact catch 14 fine fat Ebro fish before frost stopped play during his gardening visit to Riba Roja del Ebro. He broke his personal carp and catfish records and has just phoned to say that on a follow up visit last weekend he did so again with a 36lb carp and 110 lb catfish. Great, but now has a stiff back making gardening painful from lifting fish for photo shots. In total he caught 16 fish weighing in total over 600 lbs. if you want more info email Dick on <>.
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe April 2011.


Dick fishing on the ebroWhen Dick recently travelled by train from Tarragona to Riba Roja del Ebro he noticed the many abandoned orchards and vegetable plots on the fertile land either side of the river. Later chatting to elderly folk in the village he learned that many of the tall once elegant village houses – many now in ruins - were built when the village made lots of money by exporting fruit and vegetables on the sailing barges which traded along the Ebro prior to the construction of the electricity power station dams in the 1960's. Today many abandoned plots still have the old water wheels once driven by donkeys to raise water to irrigate the fields.
But all is not lost. Although many riverside plots are abandoned there are small vegetable plots attached to village houses, some elderly folk grow vegetables on rooftops as suggested in 'Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style' and expatriates are buying up riverside plots to not only fish but also to grow ecological fruit and vegetables for their families.
riba rojaBoth are what prompted Dick to take a March busman's holiday away from our own garden to help a friend, fishing guide and coach Nick Shaddock, layout and start to plant up 300 square metres of recently manured land with his first ecological herbs, soft fruit and vegetables. Having seen the patch of land Nick is able to use we envy him. Fine alluvial soil, a high water table, irrigation water laid on, and facing south to be soon warmed up by the Spring sun. No need to lighten heavy red clay or flood the plot as we have to do and there is fishing within yards.
It was only natural that Dick coached Nick in the morning on the veggie plot and later Nick coached Dick on the river bank. The first two evenings were warm and cloudy so fishing was successful. Dick soon caught a personal best 32 pound carp and a good number of smaller ones.
But then the new moon brought clear skies and frost. Fish stopped feeding so no chance of matching the 40 pounder or 145 pound catfish caught by Nick during the winter. So Dick packed up and took a train home to work on our own vegetable plot but planning to return for another gardening/fishing busman's holiday in April when the frosts are past. In the meantime Nick plants more vegetables and fruit trees following the practical advice in our books 'Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain' and 'Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain' which he now reads waiting for bites.
Nick Shaddock-----------------------------
Guided day, weekend or week long fishing trips around Riba Roja del Ebro for individual or groups of experienced and learner anglers. All equipment and baits provided. Pick up from coastal hotels or trains possible.
Phone Nick Shaddock on 680-820-728 to discuss.

The above books can be conveniently purchased by mail order from the websites of Angloinfo Spain, Amazon and Santana Books. If in Riba Roja Ebro Valley Properties stock the books.

© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe
April 2011.



ROCKERIESRockeries, jardincitos rocoso in Spanish, are attractive features for many gardens including roof top gardens in Spain. Basically a rockery is an area or garden constructed of rocks and earth with plants planted between the rocks as on natural mountainsides.

There are several reasons for their popularity.

1. Rockeries can be interesting and colourful throughout the year.
2. There is a wide range of plants that thrive in the micro and nano climate of a rockery including bulbs, dwarf perennials including some ground cover plants, succulents, cacti, herbs and dwarf conifers. Possible plantings for rockeries below 400 metres above sea level and above 400 metres are given in chapter 3.1 of our book 'Your garden in Spain – From planting to planning and maintenance'.
3. The rocks retain moisture within and below that keep roots moist and cool.
4. There are many situations where rockeries can be used including:

To cover over a pile of builders rubbish.
As a surround to a natural looking pond.
On top of a dry stone wall with plants also grown between rocks in the face of the wall.
To break up a sloping plot.
To retain and stabilize a corroding earth bank.
Around a swimming pool terrace as clean plants can be used that do not drop leaves or wind blown dead flowers.
To stabilize and make attractive the bank of earth around raised up or partially raised up beds.
To retain and improve the rocks and flora of an inherited natural hillside or outcrop of rocks.
Either side of a cut in from the road before your entrance gate.
As a stand alone island that you can walk around within an area of grass artificial turf, stone chippings or stone slab paving.
As a surround to a terrace.
Mini rockeries can be built in large containers for terraces in gardens and of apartments.
Once established they require little watering.

ROCKERIESIn each situation the success factor will be your vision of the end result, the size colour and age of the rocks you select, the natural placing of the rocks, starting at the lowest point and constructing the rockery upwards, placing roots under or sheltered by rocks, weeding the area before you start, pruning spreading plants to keep them from covering other plants, filling as many gaps between rocks as possible including as mentioned earlier the gaps between rocks on the vertical face of dry stone walls and watering young plants until their roots are established.
If you start now you could have an attractive spring feature before Easter which is late this year!

The quartet of books can be purchased from highstreet bookshops and online bookshops such as Santana Books, Angloinfo Spain, and Amazon.

© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe March 2011.



PRUNINGIt's now the major garden cutback and fruit tree pruning time of the year but before you start to use the Secateurs pole pruners or saws ask yourself why you are pruning each plant, shrub and tree to ensure you achieve the most from your efforts.
For instance in the first photograph lantana shrubs are being cut back hard to stimulate bushy flower covered growth and prevent the plants becoming leggy. In the second photograph an olive tree abandoned some years ago is being given a very hard recuperative pruning as the first step in developing an easy to harvest high yielding tree.
A dozen reasons for pruning are given below.
1. To shape – Heavy pruning best done as part of winter cut back except for winter flowering plants that are generally best cut back after flowering.
2. To stimulate blossom on fruit trees and the continuous or second flowering of plants by preventing them from going to seed.
3. To let air and sun into the centre of fruit trees to reduce the chance of disease in an otherwise shady humid centre and enable inner fruits to ripen.
PRUNING4. To reduce the number of small fruits to achieve larger final fruits.
5. To remove some buds on roses to achieve larger flowers for special displays.
6. To remove diseased growth before it affects other parts of a plant shrub or tree.
7. To stop large plants, Shrubs and trees from becoming top heavy and eventually breaking or toppling over.
8. To remove the chance of hitting heads or damaging eyes.
9. To make it safe to walk along paths especially if there are prickly or cutting leaved plants nearby.
10. To take cuttings for propagating new plants or grafting different varieties onto an existing tree or bush.
11. To remove the original variety once a cutting has taken on a branch of a fruit tree.
12. To cut out frost damage or branches broken in gales or by snow.
Hope the above leads to better looking and yielding plants shrubs trees and gardens this spring summer and autumn.
You will find further advice on pruning in 'Your Garden in Spain – From planning to planting and maintenance' in relation to the garden in general and ' Growing Healthy Fruit – From Strawberries to oranges and water melons' specifically related to fruit trees, bushes and plants. You will find the books in major bookshops and Carrefour and on internet sites such as Santana Books, Bookworld, Amazon and The Royal Horticultural Society.

© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe January 2011


treat your health in the new year-JAN 2011

PUREWATERDr. Brett is a Naturopathic Physician with practices in Stratford and Stamford, USA

A number of patients coming into the office have been suffering from a variety of symptoms, all of which can be traced to a lack of pure water intake. Most were drinking plenty of fluids: coffee, soda, tea, and juice.
But none were drinking enough pure water.

What kinds of symptoms result from drinking too little pure water? Most commonly I see constipation, dry and itchy skin, acne, nose bleeds, repeated urinary tract infections, dry and unproductive coughs, constant sneezing, sinus pressure, and headaches.

You might ask how a lack of pure water intake can cause this wide array of symptoms. Pure water is required by every cell in the body as nourishment and to remove wastes. When water becomes scarce, the body tries to limit the amount it loses through breathing, mucous production, urination, perspiration, and bowel movements.

Several cups of water are lost daily through breathing because the lungs require humid air to do their work. In the winter when drier air prevails outside and heating systems (especially forced hot air and wood stoves)
dry out the air inside, even more water is lost. It is estimated that on an average day in the fall, 3-4 cups of water are lost through breathing.
On a cold, dry winter day, as much as 2-3 more cups of water may be lost in this way. The body has to moisturize the air before it reaches the lungs and does so through the mucous membranes lining the nasal passages and the bronchi. As available fluid decreases, the mucous lining becomes drier. This in turn irritates the lungs, causing them to become more reactive to dust, mold particles, cigarette smoke, and other irritants; and is less resistant to viruses and bacteria. The result: dry cough and bronchitis.

The mucous membranes of our lungs and gut are an important component of our resistance to disease. They provide an effective barrier to bacteria, viruses, and pollutants when intact. But a number of substances (such as aspirin) are known to harm this barrier. What is less well known is that a lack of pure water in the body makes the all important mucous less viscous and can cause constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and a slowed movement of the bowels contents. These problems in turn increase ones risk of other long term disease including hemorrhoids and colon cancer. The mucous lining in the sinus passages is similarly vital as a defense against disease. When it becomes drier, sinusitis, nose bleeds, and allergic symptoms worsen.

Obviously, we all lose some water through urination, and urination is required for the removal of various toxins from the body. When fluid volume is diminished, the ability of the body to remove toxins through urination is also diminished. It is a common misunderstanding that the more pure water we drink, the harder it is on the kidneys. In fact, except for people with some uncommon kidney problems, the opposite is true. Water soluble toxins cannot be easily removed through the bowels, especially when a lack of water also causes constipation. These toxins then must be eliminated in other ways such as through the skin. The increase in body toxin levels can cause headaches and fatigue. The attempt by the body to remove excess levels of unwanted chemicals through the skin can cause acne and will aggravate eczema.

The easy solution to all these problems is to drink more pure water. Coffee, tea, and soda all contain caffeine which is a known diuretic and will actually accentuate the symptoms of fluid loss. Fruit juices are more concentrated in sugar than your body's fluids and so the body will attempt to dilute them in the gut, thereby causing a loss of water from other areas of the body.

In the dry, hot air of winter and very hot days of summer, drink at least 10 glasses of pure water daily for optimal health. During the spring and fall, 8 glasses will suffice for most people, although those with inhalant allergies do best to drink as much pure water as possible. Pregnant women need to drink at least 50% more pure water daily than they would while not pregnant.
People who exercise vigorously should add one glass of pure water for each 30 minutes of exercise. Herbal teas and diluted fruit juices (1/3 fruit juice to 2/3 water) can be substituted for some of the water. Drink one extra glass of pure water for each cup of coffee or black tea you have. Humidifying the air in the winter will help reduce water loss, but be careful to clean humidifiers daily to discourage bacteria or mold build up.
Pure water can be a miracle cure for many common ailments.
Try drinking some now, and see if you don't feel better!
Dr. Jennifer Brett

For more information call PureWaterSpain 977 059 364



New Water Conditioning Technology
No Salt * No Power * No Maintenance * NoScale®

noscaleNoScale® is a revolutionary type of catalytic water conditioning media which changes the structure of limescale in the water to stop it depositing in pipes and on heating elements, saving users energy and costly maintenance.

NoScale® is suitable for residential or commercial use. Tanks are very simple to install and available in various sizes.

For most applications, NoScale® is a hassle-free alternative to traditional water softeners.
* Save energy
* Save water
* Save money
The benefits of softened water without the disadvantages
Limescale causes all sorts of problems for homeowners and business people in hard water areas. Not only is it highly destructive to appliances, potentially decreasing the lifespan of boilers, washing machines and dishwashers by several years, but it can also increase their energy consumption dramatically. 1mm of limescale deposited on a heating element can increase the energy consumption of that appliance by around 10%. NoScale® is a revolutionary type of catalytic water conditioning media which changes the structure of limescale in the water in order to stop it depositing in pipes and on heating elements. Our installations have proved highly effective, saving our customers money, time and effort from the word ‘go’.

noscale     noscale

• Simple to install

• Highly effective - Testing has shown that NoScale® can prevent 99% of limescale deposition and even reduces limescale that has already been deposited on heating elements and in pipes.

• Suitable for even very hard water supplies - NoScale® can be used on supplies up to 428mg/l or 25 grains of calcium hardness (around 95% of supplies).

• Long life and great value - the media should continue to work optimally for up to 5 years, making the cost of ownership very low.

• Versatile - NoScale® is suitable for residential and commercial applications and can be used with all types of electrical appliances from boilers and dishwashers to ice makers and washing machines.

• Environmentally friendly: - No Salt. Unlike traditional softeners, NoScale® does not require regeneration with salt, which can save users hundreds if not thousands of pounds per year, not to mention the hassle of ordering, carrying, and adding heavy bags of salt to their systems on a regular basis.

• No wasted water. Unlike traditional softeners, NoScale® does not require backwashing, which can save users thousands of litres of water per year. As well as the cost saving for those on metered supplies, this water saving combined with the absence of salinated water being flushed into the sewerage system has huge environmental benefits.

• No power. Unlike traditional softeners or electronic water conditioners, NoScale® does not require power.

• Reduced soap/detergent use - as with soft or softened water, water treated with NoScale® requires the use of much less soap than hard water.

• Healthy - Unlike traditional softeners, NoScale® does not add sodium in order to replace the limescale in the water. It is not healthy for humans to consume too much salt and the absence of sodium means that NoScale® is even suitable for those on low sodium diets. In addition, minerals which are beneficial to health remain in the water.
For more information call PureWaterSpain 977 059 364


January in your garden - JAN 2011


Another gardening year is with us and probably another tough one economically so it makes sense to focus your gardening new year resolutions on achieving beautiful and productive gardens and apartment terraces with less money than last year.
1. Don't buy anymore boutique plants just imported for the first time which are often not appropriate for the microclimate of many gardens and are expensive.
2. Don't lose plants to slugs and snails during damp weather. Buy some Neudorff Ferramol Antilimicos snail/slug killer that is ecological.
3. Propagate as many new plants as possible from prunings cut during the January/February winter cutback.
4. Use water bottles with the tops cut off and newspaper tubes for growing plants from seeds or cuttings rather than buy new plant pots.
5. Plant varieties of fruit trees that ripen early so that what ever the weather you can leave fruit on the trees until they are really ripe.
6. As explained in our four books useful ecological insect and fungi controls can be inexpensively home produced from plants you have in the garden or can find in the countryside.
7. Brighten up the winter garden with containers of pansies and violas whose flowers can be added to salads and very less expensively than by buying them in boxes from greengrocers. "Interested in buying beautiful flowers for decoration or placement in your garden.  An online florist has a large selection that can be shipped to you very quickly."
8. Weed your over wintering vegetables regularly so as not to lose any. And if not yet growing any, build a one or two square metre raised bed or collect some large tree tubs to start to do so on a small scale in early Spring. There are full instructions for growing vegetables on a mini scale in less than one or two square metres in both 'Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain' and
'Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style'.
9. Add all weeds and shredded prunings to the compost heap adding some manure and comfrey leaves if you have them to accelerate the process and enrich the compost produced.
10. Clean up and extend strawberry and raspberry beds with runners from last years plants.
11. Review the overall garden while doing the cutback and decide what needs changing before next summer to make it more colourful with less maintenance. Chapter 2.18 of 'Your garden in Spain' lists the 25 most time consuming tasks.
12. Avoid repeating the early mistakes made by others when they first arrive in Spain by purchasing one or more of our books which are based on what we have learned over the past twenty five years of gardening in Spain with a flower garden, vegetable and soft fruit allotment and olive grove.
The four books can be obtained from and Amazon. Also by phoning 952-485838 if you have no internet. They are published by Santana Books. © Clodagh and Dick Handscombe. January 2011.




spanish viewOwning or building a holiday home in Spain can be quite taxing when it comes to installing basic utilities says one of our several valued customers in the foothills of Sierra Nevada in Andalucia, southern Spain. What seems a quick and straight forward process to acquire a mains electricity supply, can quickly career into a long-winded, stressful affair with Spanish neighbours and authorities, ultimately resulting in money and time costs that make a mains connection impractical. Sandy Spink comments,

"It was going to cost €40,000 to install the mains to my new holiday home and it was going to take a very, very long time, it was simple – we needed another reliable solution".

The solution chosen to provide 24hrs of reliable electrical power was the Powerguard PS System which was installed by the Powerguard service team within 2 days. The PS System is fundamentally a small power station for the home providing a very stable and reliable 230V electrical supply. The integrated PS System comprises of an electrical diesel generator and the PS System including battery bank and an inverter. Unlike normal generators which would run all of 24hrs, the PS system only needs to turn on the generator during periods when the electrical demand is high e.g. for a power shower, cooker or heating. This high demand period usually equates to less than 8hrs per day and if these periods are regular, the PS System can be programmed to turn on the generator automatically. For all other times when the demand is low, the system feeds the home using its revolutionary battery pack & inverter concept. Sandy explains,
"Our system typically operates the generator for less than six hours a day with two set periods; one period between 7am and 10am and the second between 5pm and 7pm. The morning run simply recharges the batteries from any overnight use but because we all get up at this time, any appliances can be turned on without any use of the batteries – we time it so this happens. In the evening, we time the generator so we can have dinner using the cooker and perhaps have showers – again without using the batteries."

The clever part of the PS System is that during periods when the demand is high, any unused power is used to recharge the batteries. This stored energy then provides AC mains power to the villa for the remainder of the day and night i.e. when the demand is low. During the day, if more power is required than what can be provided by the batteries, the PS Controller automatically turns on the generator and subsequently switches it off after the load has reduced. The payback on an integrated PS System over a stand-alone generator is usually around 3 years. For even more fuel savings, the system can also handle imports from renewable generation sources to recharge the batteries such as solar panels, and the CHP option (also installed in holiday homes in southern Spain) can provide free hot water for mains and heating - with over 80% efficiency. Sandy comments,

"The system is very economical and reliable, I have no issues with recommending this system to similar people like myself who require a mains electricity supply for their holiday home but are not able to secure a utility mains connection."

Further Information: Graham Chapman (Home Solutions Manager)
Tel: 0044 (0)1507 600688 or Email:

Power Systems Warehouse Ltd is a leading electronics company specialising in the design and manufacture of innovative and durable power and power management solutions. Power Systems Warehouse is the largest OEM manufacturer of static inverter lighting systems in the UK, and designs and manufactures the market leading Powerguard power management solutions. Power Systems Warehouse Ltd is ISO9001 and ISO14001 registered, and is an accredited supplier on the Utilities Vendor Database (UVDB). *Powerguard is a registered Trademark of Power Systems Warehouse Ltd





PRUNERSJust a few weeks to go and perhaps your still not sure what to buy the gardener/s of the family or friends. Here are ten practical ideas.

1. A pair of warm socks for the cold winter days when doing the winter cutback.

2. A set of Fiscar ecological pruners to avoid some of the back, neck, shoulder and wrist sprains and pains that can occur. We find the extended pruner shown excellent for extra reach and cutting back prickly plants.

3. A wooden or metal growing table for housing a plant collection or micro allotment.

4. A new kneeler for keeping knees dry, warm and unaffected by rocks and stones when doing weeding.

DISNEY AIDS5. Disney gardening aids to stimulate children and grandchildren to start to take an interest in gardening.

6. A fruit tree or twenty strawberry plants.

7. A light weight garden barrow especially for the lady of the house. Wheel barrows coated in concrete from all the DIY building tasks can become uncomfortably heavy for lighter gardening tasks.

8. A light weight cosy green body warmer.

9. One of our gardening books to save time and avoid mistakes in laying out a new garden or revamping an inherited one.

EBRO FISHING10. Many male gardeners need a stimulating break away from gardening. So why not book him a days fishing on the Ebro with ace fishing coach and vegetable grower Nick Shattock – telephone 680820728. There are two gardening benefits. The stimulus of catching a lifetime fish to afterwards dive enthusiastically into winter gardening projects and the bagging up the rich river weed caught in the process to add to the compost heap. Dick has already persuaded Clodagh to pay for a second day as a Christmas present. If any group would like a gardening talk while he is up this way contact him on Whatever you buy we hope the recipient and yourself have a happy Christmas. Our books 'Your Garden in Spain - Planning, planting and maintenance', 'Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain'. Buy by email from the publishers on or call 952-485 -838.


© CHRISTMAS LIQUORS FROM THE GARDEN AND LOCAL HEDGEROWS. By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe who have enjoyed gardening in Spain for 25 years.

liquersThe autumn is a good time to prepare liquors for Christmas and the new year using fruit and nuts from the garden or local hedgerows. The following are things that have been made in Spain by ourselves or friends..
Flavoured anis liquors.
You can add a number of flavours to either sweet or dry anis or a mixture of both according to taste. Try some of the following and by the way they will be even better by Christmas 2011.
1. Raspberry, passion fruit, blackberries, pomegranates, home made raisins and cacti fruits. You won’t be pricked by the spikes on cacti fruit if you follow the following sequence.

prickly pearprickly pearprickly pear

2. Extremadura is famous for a liquor made from acorns. Try making your own by grinding acorns from prickly oak trees. It can be even better if you add a mix of ground walnuts, almonds, hazel nuts and pecan nuts to the anis.
3. Northern Spain is famous for Pacharan especially that made artisanally. The base is sloes which are often found in Spain and increasingly grown in gardens. If you have a large bottle fill it half to two thirds full with fruit and then pour in the anis.. As you uncover the fruit you can top up with more anis.
4. Many areas of Spain have a local version of Hierba a liquor or digestive prepared by adding a twig of every herb you have in the garden or local hillside.
5. Moving on from Anis one can add home grown fresh or frozen tomatoes or blackcurrants to vodka.
6. To a brandy base one can still add dried or bottled plums or plum jam.
7. White wines can also be flavoured by adding slices of lemon or orange peel a couple of days before drinking it.
8. If you are a whisky drinker try doctoring a bottle of malt with orange peel for a couple of months. It creates an amazing flavour.
9. If you have a carob tree crush some beans and add to anis for a chocolate flavoured liquor.
If you have any other favourites let us know and we include them in a latter article for completeness.
Clodagh and Dick’s books.
Thinking of Christmas all their four books would make excellent Xmas presents. They are available from good bookshops and internet sites such as Amazon and Santana Books. If you ordered the Santana special offer for three books you would have three economically priced presents. Our books 'Your Garden in Spain - Planning, planting and maintenance', 'Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain'. Buy by email from the publishers on or call 952-485 -838.



ecos plantsGiving advice earlier this evening to a couple fortunate enough to have inherited 5000 square metres of largely unspoilt natural land surrounding their half built house stimulates us to consider such gardening opportunities in this months column. Faced with such a site many developers and home buyers would unfortunately immediately employ so called landscape gardeners to bulldoze the fallen walls, young self seed trees and large areas of herbs in order to layout a garden more fit for midland England than inland Cataluña with a large lawn and pristine flower beds etc. Fortunately an increasing number of home buyers are seeing the benefit of retaining the best of the natural features and native plants and filling in and planting or sowing native plants in the other areas.
Although few and far apart there are fortunately some excellent companies in Spain that can help you in this respect. The best we have come across are near Ebrodelta and for plants and based in Cordoba for seeds of Spanish wild trees, shrubs and plants.
In the garden we visited today the owners wanted a low maintenance low cost garden with minimum plant losses during the hot summer months or cold winter months with hard frosts for a few weeks each year and every few years a heavy fall of snow.
Our immediate advice was;
* Go natural.
* Save all that you can.
* Keep the largest healthy trees and thin out the best of the young self seeded trees and shrubs.
* Rebuild the fallen parts of dry stone walls, clear grass from the holes and plant up the holes with native drought and frost resisting plants.
* Fill in the holes between rocks in a rocky outcrop with a gritty nutrient rich compost and plant up more herbs.
* Create internal vistas with sitting areas in various strategic locations.
* Where nature had been inevitably spoilt by building activities a large natural rock terrace incorporating an interestingly shaped swimming pool and an underground water tank to collect both water from the terrace and the roof of the house during heavy rains.
* Lay out a winding path around the garden visiting each interesting feature using local natural stone chippings over solid black plastic sheeting in open areas and bark chippings under trees.
* Incorporate some fruit trees into the layout for the blossom, colour, shape and crops - olives, cherries, pomegranate, walnuts, almonds and apples and pears were the owners first choices and made sense in the microclimate of their garden.
* Develop a hard wearing grassy area by strimming existing wild grasses and levelling by adding a layer of raked lawn compost during the winter months.
* With only shallow soil in the non natural areas build a couple of raised beds filled with a rich compost to start growing vegetables as quickly as possible. So many people miss out on the benefit of ecological home grown vegetables for years by delaying this activity for a few years until the garden is finished .
Hopefully these thoughts make sense to those Olive Press readers needing to do something about still wild areas of their gardens.
Our books 'Your Garden in Spain - Planning, planting and maintenance', 'Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain' and ' Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain' will also be useful to you. If you do not have a good bookshop nearby buy by email from the publishers on or 952-485838.
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe October 2010.


plantes del port 17th september 2010

plantes del port


The Grup de Recerca Científica Terres de l’Ebre is a non profit organisation. Its staff is made up of people of different skills: botanists, geologists, ethnographers, linguists, and nature photographers. They work and live in several towns of the “comarques” of Baix Ebre, Montsià and Baix Maestrat. Many are (or were) school teachers. There are Ph.D.s among them.
Campanula-speciosa-2The aims of the group are the research and divulgation (public understanding of science) in matters linked to the nature or ethnography of the territory “Terres de l’Ebre “and the neighbouring “comarques” Matarranya and Baix Maestrat. The results of these researches (like the discovery on 2006 in Mount Caro of the plant Atropa baetica that normally grows in Andalusian and Moroccan mountains) are published in scientific magazines of the Barcelona universities.
The second objective: divulgation (public understanding of science) is implemented through different courses (to primary and high school teachers, forest workers or simply amateur people) and the publication of books like this of Plantes del Port.
The Port (or Ports de Beseit is a massif (1.442m at its highest point: Mount Caro) sited near Tortosa and surrounded by the villages of Alfara, Paüls, Prat de Comte, Horta de Sant Joan, Arnes, Beseit, la Pobla de Benifassà, la Sénia, Mas de Barberans, Reguers and Roquetes. Plantes del Port is a botanical book which refers to the plants that grow there. The work took 3 years to compile.
Paeonia-offcinalisVolume I appeared in 2008 with a prologue by Rafel Balada, Director of the Parc Naturals dels Ports. It studies the trees, bushes and ferns of the massif. Volume II (prologued by Emili Laguna, Silver Leaf Planta Europa Award) trates the Dicotyledons herbaceous Plants and Volume III (presented by Josep Vigo Emeritus Professor of the Botanical Department of the University of Barcelona) explains the Monocotyledons herbaceous plants. All of them are wild plants.
Technical dichotomycal keys help the reader to determine the family, genus and species of any wild plant you can find in these mountains. In each plant appears its common and Latin names as well as its possible medicinal, gastronomic or another uses. A photo can help to recognize the species. There are many Very spectacular pictures included in the Orchids chapter.
The complete works incorporate references to 1400 species (1600 taxa), with more than 3000 photographs distributed in 1300 pages in full colour.
It is a great work, indeed.
The Group is now collaborating on the next book “ Geologia del PORT ” ( Port’s Geology ) that will be ready in April 2011
Its web page is
You can order the books from their web site above and also find a list of where you can purchase the books but they are available from most book shops in most towns.
To find the headquarters of the Parc Natural dels Ports please check out the google map here and on our web site,0.499105&spn=0.000861,0.002401&z=19

oficines del parcs

oficina natural parc

plantes del port


© Is Catalonia encouraging the next generation of gardeners? By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe Practical gardeners living in Spain for 25 years Sept 2010

school gardenA new school term is starting but will there be gardening clubs or experiences?
Many expatriates living in Spain rank gardening as their number one hobby and say that their love of gardening, especially growing things that they could eat, developed before the age of ten as a result of watching and helping grandparents and parents and experiencing team work in the school garden. But what about today’s young generation?
Luckily an increasing number of expatriate schools in Spain - but sadly few Spanish ones - now have Gardening Clubs and in some cases provide work experience in the school garden for all pupils as an integrated part of the educational curriculum. School gardens of all shapes sizes and styles can support the learning about science, nature, environmental and ecological issues, nutrition of plants animals and humans, mathematics, art, creativity, problem solving, project work and team work. But to date there is no organised support such as that from Slow Food International in many countries and the Think Organic charity previously known as the HDRA in the UK.
school gardenBut Spain has one important thing on its side – the weather and most importantly two springs Spring and Autumn. The weather from September through to Christmas except for the times of autumn rains is wonderful for persons of all ages to enjoy gardening except in inland areas that have early frosts.
Success factors
Looking at the school gardening activities we know about, there are seven important success factors.
1. The support of the Head Teacher.
2. The garden designed as a learning experience not just a way of keeping pupils out of mischief during one lunch break a week.
3. The allocation of an area of good deep soil, constructed raised beds or large containers and good composts as growing mediums.
4. The selection of easy to grow seasonal plantlets and seeds with the inclusion of flowering plants, vegetables and soft fruits to give pupils a choice and or breadth of experiences.
5. A focus on growing things naturally and ecologically without the use of potentially hazardous chemicals.
6. The support of teachers from a range of disciplines. The links with science are obvious but we visited a school recently where there had been a competition for the best decorated plant pots and healthily growing flowering plants.
school garden7. The interest of the School Canteen chef to adapt the menus to incorporate produce from the vegetable garden and place flowers from the flower garden on the tables.
8. A greenhouse or large room with a panoramic window and growing shelf so that gardening activities can continue in bad weather and pupils can learn about the germination of seeds and the growing of new plants from cuttings.
9. Team competitions such as growing the tastiest tomato, tallest sunflowers or a busy lizzy Impatiens flowering plant with the most flowers.
10. In some cases active support from members of a local gardening club.
Our gardening books can help
Each of our books includes a chapter on children’s gardens with some practical guidelines of what could be done at home or at school.
The relevant chapters are as follows:
‘Your Garden in Spain’ – Chapter 3.8 – ‘A children’s corner’.
‘Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’ – Chapter 1.4 – ‘Encouraging children to grow and eat vegetables ’.
‘Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain’ – Chapter 1.4 – ‘Encouraging children to grow and eat fruit’.
‘Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style’ – Chapter 9.8 – ‘mini-vegetable growing is great for children’
Looking ahead
Whether pupils eventually stay in Spain, go back to their parent’s home countries or set up else where in the world we hope that Spain’s school gardens have encouraged them to be lifetime gardeners.
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe September 2010.


Summer Watering. By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe Practical gardeners living in Spain for 25 years August 2010

water meDuring the summer months watering is the most vital regular task in most gardens and on most apartment terraces, balconies and windowsills.
But there are things that can ease the task and cost.
Reducing the basic need for water
Plant only or mostly drought resistant plants.
Encourage deep roots by deep weekly or twice weekly deep watering rather than daily shallow daily watering.
Slope paths and terraces so that any rainfall runs into flower beds.
Don’t plant new plants during the period June to October.
Mix Terra-Cottem into soils and composts – savings of more than 50% can be achieved!!.
Prepare soils and composts to improve their water absorption and retention while avoiding water retention and water logging.
Don’t plant in the garden or containers in full sun at middle of day.
Reducing water losses
Ensure that any irrigation system or watering can does not have leaks.
Don’t water in the heat of the day.
Hoe the ground between plants in the evening so as to absorb overnight dew.
Mulch between plants with stone chippings, crushed volcanic rock and for larger shrubs wood or bark chippings.
Line containers with waterproof paints or plastic sheeting.
Buy impervious containers.
Install blinds and awnings on terraces and retain/plant trees in gardens so that most plants can live in semi shade/dappled shade for the hottest part of the day.
Water in the evening rather than the morning or heat of mid day and not the morning..
Aim for the ground cover of all planted areas.
Recognise variations in watering needs.
On page 119 of ‘Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style’ we included a chart indicating the difference in watering needs of various sizes of containers planted with thirsty or drought resistant plants, kept in full sun or semi-shade and in hot summer or cool winter weather.
The following are extracts from the table.
...20 cm pot of thirsty plants in full sun on a hot summer day 300ml water every two days. A ten litre window box in similar circumstances will need a litre of water every two days. In the winter a litre a week will be sufficient.
...Move both containers into a semi shaded position and watering needs will be reduced by 30%.
...Drought resistant plants will on average need only a tenth of the above amounts of water when planted in containers and even less in the garden.
Clodagh and Dick’s books
The quartet of books can be obtained most conveniently if you do not live near a book shop by mail order from the internet bookshops of Bookworld, Amazon and Santana Books . Note that the latter has a summer offer on some of the books. © Clodagh and Dick Handscombe July 2010.


Summer Planting for Apartments. By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe Practical gardeners living in Spain for 25 years. July 2010



Plants don’t get any less expensive nor the summers any cooler so ensure that you don’t waste money on unsuitable plants or the loss of plants due to poor positioning, planting and care this summer especially if living in an apartment or town house.

Last month we introduced you to our latest book ‘Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style’, the fourth in our series published by Santana Books. In this book we purposely listed the plants with photographs and descriptions under the following headings.


1. Plants that love the sun and are not thirsty – these include an interesting collection of succulents, cacti and aloes.

2. Plants that can tolerate continuous sun but are thirsty so considerably more care is required – these include the easiest annuals for Spain and collections of perennials, climbers and bulbs.

3. Plants that are best grown in semi shade - and there are many such plants to choose from such as hydrangeas, fuchsias and stephanotis.

lady of the night4. Plants that can live in more shaded positions most of the time if there is reflected light such as aspidistras, Christmas cacti and Cinerarias.

5. Northern European house plants such as the Peacock plant and Peace lily that can be coaxed to survive in semi shaded terrace positions.

Each description includes a clear indication of the plants thirstiness, salt tolerance in case you are near the sea or salt pans, frost resistance if in the inland towns and peacock plantvillages and whether perfumed such as the Lady of the Night, Carnations or French Marigolds. By the way plants are listed in the descriptions by botanical names but there is also a plant list by English names with the page numbers of the descriptions. So experienced and beginner gardeners will be able to trace plants speedily.
Veer away from these lists and your investments in plants are immediately at risk.

And there are other risks to be taken into account. Firstly the compost in which plants are supplied is often good for growing plants under mass production conditions in stephanotishothouses but dries out too quickly under typical home garden and terrace conditions.

Secondly many types of compost for re-potting plants are not ideal so it is best to make your own blends using a mix of a peat based compost, worm compost and sand. A good garden centre will be able to advice on the best brands to use.

As we said last month many apartment blocks could do with more colourful balconies for the enjoyment of residents and passers by.

Please do your bit to re-green the Med.


Apartment Gardening Mediterranean StyleThe book can be obtained from high street bookshops such as Bookworld and Carrefour and if more convenient by mail order from www. or The later also take telephone orders on 952-485 838.

If you wish for autographed copies for presents contact us via our web site


trading centre june 2010

trading centre mapAn ideal outlet for selling anything ( household or other) unwanted or no longer needed without the hassle of having perspective buyers coming to your home.

At the trading place we will not be buying goods, but providing an outlet for both buyers and sellers at a convenient location for both.

We are hoping to specialise in second hand machinery i.e. generators, inverters, power tools, gardening equipment etc...All electrical and mechanical goods will be checked by us to ensure that they are in working order.

Any goods too large for the shop (i.e. boats, trailers, cars etc...) can be advertised on a notice board with photos.

We will also be providing a “WANTED” service whereby if there is something specific wanted that is not available you can post a notice and we will notify you if and when it does become available.
Opening hours Thursday/Friday/Saturday 10.00am till 1.00pm. Will be extended as we get busier.


FIND US AT C/ LA MINA, 13 EL Perelló




Riverside Gardening June 2010

marrowThis month we make a 180 degree switch from productive "gardening in the sky" along the coast to gardening on the riverbank inland. At the time of reading the March edition of “The Olive Press” we were preparing part of our mountainside allotment for planting pumpkin, squash and courgette seeds. When Dick read the advert for Riverside Lodge he remembered the trick of Norfolk champion marrow and pumpkin growers burying a pike caught in the fen drains under a layer of horse manure and soil to provide all the nutrients required for giant veg. His immediate thoughts were why not a giant catfish instead of a pike especially as the River Authorities would like some of the illegally introduced catfish removed from the Ebro. With thoughts of a giant pumpkin he set of for two days fishing with Mary and Mike at the Riverside Lodge. Unfortunately the only catfish hooked broke the line but a sizeable native carp – returned to the river to get bigger, made up for the disappointment.
So this year’s squash etc will have to feed on a hole filled with a mix of home made compost and composted chicken, sheep and goat manures soaked in a comfrey tea. If you are living inland especially in a river valley the ingredients should be available and unlike us who have to flood our allotment weekly from an Arab style channelled watering system, continuous water can be available from a pump from the river or shallow well.

dick and pikeAlso unlike the rocky valley sides the now largely abandoned Ebro valley floor is a sandy loam, rather easier to work for growing flowers, herbs, fruit and vegetables than the hard red clay we started with. The only real constraint being the cold winter months and frosts from the riverside mist and the hottest days of summer. But if plantings are restricted to frost and drought resistant plants much can be achieved and recognise for example, that broad beans will be best planted in the autumn rather than the spring.
As a result of the good cooking and fishing and a request from local readers of “The Olive Press” Dick is returning to inland gardening country early in July and will be giving a talk and question and answer session at 15.00 on Tuesday 6th July at the Riverside Lodge. More details from Mary on 605 422 890 and Dick plan’s to bring some comfrey plants for local vegetable growers.
If any club or group on the coast would like the same during the morning or afternoon of Thursday 8th July contact Dick on
Dick and Clodagh’s books are available by Mail order from and 952-485838 as well as book shops.
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe May 2010.

gardening books in spain



SJM Crystal Clear Curtains advertorial May 2010

crystal clear glass curtains

What are Crystal Clear Curtains?
The question most often asked of us is "What are Crystal Clear Curtains?" The simple answer is that they are exactly what their name implies - They are panes of glass (curtains) that fit together without intrusive framework providing undisturbed views around your home.
Crystal Clear Curtains are mounted on powder coated aluminium roller tracks top and bottom and have the additional benefit over conventional framed windows in that they can be fully closed, fully open or opened on a panel by panel basis.

crystal clear glass curtainsThe unique aspects of any Crystal Clear Curtain system, are the various opening possibilities it offers, the opportunity to incorporate different locking systems and the slimline look that is achieved through minimizing the visible aluminium. The desire for a fully retractable door in the middle of an enclosure, is something that no other manufacturer has been able to satisfy. However, the introduction of the brand new “flying door”, has done exactly that! The technical aspects and functionality of this amazing innovation are transmitted to all Crystal Clear Curtain systems.

The Crystal Clear Curtains system compromises of only high quality materials and is the strongest system available:

crystal clear glass curtainsBecause we use only high quality materials and work with industrial standards, our system will withstand wind velocity of up to 200kph.

The Crystal Clear Curtains system is secured by internal locks rendering the system intruder proof .

The main requirement is a ‘ceiling’ or a structure to which we can attach the upper aluminium profile.
Crystal Clear Curtains can be designed to fit almost all terraces, balconies and partitions. In fact, we have solutions for almost any application. Private homes to restaurants arches and curves, corners, angles, tinted or frosted glass available- just ask!
For All Seasons
With Crystal Clear Curtains you can enjoy your terrace, patio or balcony all year round, whatever the weather! Bask in the summer sun with them fully open, close them a little to avoid the Spring and Autumn winds or close completely to shut out the noise of the outside world when entertaining friends in your new winter room.

crystal clear glass curtainsReduce Dust and Dirt

Now you don't have to spend time cleaning your terrace, our glass curtains banish dirt and dust, leaving you with more time to enjoy your new room.

Reduce Noise Levels
Glass Curtains will reduce noise levels by at least 60% so you can fully appreciate the tranquillity of your terrace and be free from neighbourhood noise.

Additional Living Area
For less than the cost of an extension and without the fuss, we can quickly and efficiently install your glass curtains to provide you with a completely new multifunctional room.
For more information please call SJM Crystal Clear Curtains on 964 412 118 or 690 274 754



eve snaith metal work


Doulton NoScale ® - Technology NO MORE LIMESCALE

CALCIUMCONVERTERLimescale causes all sorts of problems for homeowners and business people in hard water areas. Not only is it highly destructive to appliances, potentially decreasing the lifespan of boilers, washing machines and dishwashers by several years, but it can also increase their energy consumption dramatically. 1mm of limescale deposited on a heating element can increase the energy consumption of that appliance by around 10%. The "Vortech™ Inside CalciumConverter" is a revolutionary type of catalytic water conditioning media which changes the structure of limescale in the water in order to stop it depositing in pipes and on heating elements. Our installations have proved highly effective, saving customers money, time and effort.
In brief the catalytic media in the system triggers the crystallisation of the dissolved temporary hardness minerals (calcium & magnesium) into nano sized crystals which are held in suspension in the water flow. Once crystallised these nano particles are unable to deposit on heating elements and pipe work, so preventing the harmful effects of hard water. Since the system does not use salt it avoids the problem which traditional water softeners have that they increase the sodium content of the water.

limescale removerFurthermore the minerals which are known to be beneficial to health are not removed from the water. Environmentally friendly: * No Salt. which can save users hundreds if not thousands of euros per year, not to mention the hassle of ordering, carrying, and adding heavy bags of salt to their systems on a regular basis. Unilke traditional softeners, the CalciumConverter does not require backwashing, which can save users thousands of litres of water per year. As well as the cost saving for those on metered supplies, this water saving combined with the absence of salinated water being flushed into the sewerage system has huge environmental benefits. Call Purewater Spain for more information 977 059 364


Plants for apartments and village houses. May 2010

apartment gardensThe opportunity
As discussed last month apartments and village houses offer greater gardening opportunities than many people realise. Terraces, roof tops, balconies and window sills can all be brightened up and made healthier living spaces by planting an assortment of plants in pots, window boxes, troughs and planting tables. There are many photographs in ‘Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style’ to show you what can be done in even the smallest spaces up to a large penthouse roof.

The success factors
The basic success factors are as follows.

pots of plants1. Improve the microclimate of your planting areas by installing blinds to shade plants from the hottest sun.

2. Select flowering plants that do best in sunny, semi shaded and shaded areas. There are 120 recommended in the above book listed and illustrated for each type of growing conditions. It is very easy to loose unsuitable plants especially in the summer months.

3. Buy non porous containers and if possible ones with built in water reservoirs. It is amazing how many types of containers exist today. So many that we designed the container chapter in the book as an A to Z.

4. Mix a rich water retaining but good draining compost.

5. Neither over or under water frequently as these are the greatest causes of fungal and insect problems.

6. Use ecological insecticides and fungicides if necessary to ensure an unpolluted living space for yourselves and neighbours.

window box
7. Use perfumed climbers on walls and trellises to provide natural aromatherapy and privacy.

8. If planting annuals make seasonal changes to keep the appearance of your property bright and cheerful for passers by as well as your family and visitors.

9. Whether a full time resident or only an occasional holiday maker there are plants suitable for every one.

APARTMENT GARDENINGHopefully this summer we will see more colourful apartment blocks and village houses. The photographs shown in the book are practical ideas achievable by anyone with no previous gardening experience in small spaces and not unachievable photographic filming sets.
April to June is a good time to plant up before the hottest days arrive.
‘Apartment gardening Mediterranean style’
Clodagh and Dick’s new book is now available. The ISBN number is 978-84-89954-86-1…For convenience you can obtain the book by post by phoning 952- 485838 or via the website The price is 14.90 euros.
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe March 2010.


PRODUCTIVE GARDENS IN THE SKY. By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe Practical gardeners living in Spain for 25 years april 2010

flower boxbalcony

terraceWhile living in Spain we have had an inland villa with a large covered terrace and a small beach apartment so have had scope for experimenting with what is possible on a large and small scale and in recent years have had much fun and success with the latter. And one day age will catch up with us so it will only be small scale gardening that we do.

What we will do then is to have a main living terrace planted up with drought resistant flowering plants and herbs. Things that withstand the summer sun and cold winter winds. Then a small terrace will be planted up with fruit trees. Correctly pruned and potted up ten fruit trees can be accommodated in only six square metres of space as illustrated in our new book ‘ Mediterranean Apartment Gardening’ dedicated to small scale gardening on apartment terraces, balconies and window boxes. Likewise a dozen vegetables can be grown in pots in only one square metre and four square metres using window boxes on walls and large pots and grow bags on the floor. Combined with a growing table in a corner an amazing diversity of healthy organic vegetables can be grown. If you want to go even smaller go for A4 vegetable gardening as described in the book - growing micro vegetables and sprouting seeds. For instance 150 grams of one of twenty possible veggies can yield a kilo of finished sprouted seeds each week for adding to salads and making delicious spring rolls.
Yes living in an apartment or small town/village house does nor stop you having an attractive and productive living space. And in many ways it’s easier than constructing and caring for a villa garden or 12,000 square metres of abandoned olive or almond trees. The space is small so the time required will be minutes versus hours a day. If you have covered terraces you can still work when it rains and of course on open and covered terrace one can work at all times of the day and night as they are lit.

penthouse gardengarden

potsSo do try and brighten up the apartment blocks of often bare and untidy terraces so that the coast line is again as green as it was before we helped cover the millenniums of greenery with concrete. The book includes our plan for a ‘Dream penthouse terrace’ should we win the national lottery.
By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe is published by Santana Books as are their earlier books ‘Your garden in Spain’, ‘Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain’ and ‘Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’. Each is packed with their wealth of ideas and experience from having gardened in Spain for 25 years. © Clodagh and Dick Handscombe March 2010.

apartment gardeningCOMPETITION: Next month we will be sending The Olive Press a copy of the book as a prize. It will go to the person who sends The Olive Press the nearest guess of the number of pages in the book. At present we don’t know as final mods are being made before it goes to the printer in 10 days time.


“Increase your battery and inverter life " advertorial by Sol-Luz-ion- March 2010

batterysMany owners of fincas which have no electricity decide to buy a big generator, a good inverter with a built in charger and a big set of batteries. So far so good. But what about solar panels? Too expensive, too difficult to fix on the roof, doesn’t look nice, can be stolen... so better with no solar panels. Maybe a wind turbine? Too much noise, not nice, to expensive, can be broken by strong winds... so better with no wind turbine either. It works alright just with a geny, batteries and inverter/charger.

Buyers are often told that these batteries last 20 years. But in fact they have a lifetime of +/- 2000 cycles. So just calculate one cycle per day and you see that the lifetime of the battery is only +/- 5 years.

A good set of batteries may cost 4.000€. Buying new batteries every 5 years means that every cycle costs more than 2€ (only in batteries cost). But you must also count what your generator costs and that is not only diesel. It needs oil changes, filters and other parts, repairs and after all the genys lifetime is limited. A big geny might cost you more than 5.000€. And the more and harder the charger has to work, the earlier it needs to be replaced or repaired if possible, because these expensive devices have a limited lifetime which can’t be counted in years. A good inverter charger may cost over 4.000€ and I have seen a lot of them burned out after only 4 years or even less.
solarAll this makes each kW very expensive. Now for geny, inverter and battery you paid 13.000€ not counting diesel, oil and repair or service, we can divide this 13.000€ by 5 years which makes 2.600,- for one year, divided by 365 days = 7.12€ per day (or cycle). If your battery can give you 10 kW in one cycle (which is a normal consumption per day in many households) you pay over 70 cents for each kW!
What is the solution? A good calculated set of solar panels or even better a combination of solar and wind turbine. If you put for example 5 panels of 150W and a 1500W wind turbine you get your 10 kW per day and your batteries will be used for what they are made for: a backup for days without sun or wind. That makes their lifetime increasing up to the famous 20 years. Also your generator will be used for what it was made: an emergency device. It will need very little diesel, only one oil change per year and may have a lifetime of 30 years or more. Your Inverter won’t get hot every day (charging empty batteries is the hardest job for it) and may live ten or more years without any repair.
studer inverterNow let’s calculate again: adding 10.000€ for panels and wind turbine we get 23.000€ but these can be divided by 20 years now (maybe only 10 years for the inverter but 30 for the geny) the result is only 3euros per day (or cycle). And remember, if you can’t spend so much money all at once, you can start buying one or two panels and add more later. Just make sure the cable size and regulator is the right size from the first day to allow for more panels.
Call Sol-Luz-ion for more information
on 619 500 202




untidy garden→→tidy garden


pruningRecently even people who have dropped their asking price by even fifty percent don’t get a sniff and when sales are achieved it is often a well thought out and maintained garden that tips the scales. But is that surprising? No for two reasons. Firstly the main reason many people think of coming to Spain is the possibility of living outside for most of the year. Secondly many gardens are not designed for outdoor living and do not look appealing especially in the winter. Recognise that a well thought out garden can result in the exquisitely designed decorated and furnished house only being used for a few hours a day from Spring to Autumn and for entire days only on the colder wetter days of winter. So we highlight some of the garden related things you can do in February/March to present your property as an attractive proposition.

Ten practical tasks for February/March

puppy bedAs with the interior of the house potential buyers will be attracted by a tidy uncluttered garden that suggests that maintenance will be manageable with or without the help of a gardener.
So as a minimum ensure that the following are done and maintained so that a good image is presented at all times to unexpected potential buyers.
1. If you have a lawn ensure it is regularly cut once it starts to grow .
2. Ensure that the swimming pool and jacuzzi are kept pristine even if you normally give it little winter attention.
3. Keep all paths and terraces swept and edging plants trimmed neatly back. If the surfaces look a little dirty and mossy clean them with a pressure hose.
4. Re-point damaged surfaces and the facing of garden walls, and repaint garden walls.
5. Prune back straggly plants and deadhead plants that continue to flower.
6. Complete the major winter cutback as soon as possible explaining to potential buyers that you are doing it to improve the shape sizes and spring/summer flowering potential of plants. What to do is explained in Chapter 6.9 of ‘Your Garden in Spain’.
7. Tidy the garden shed, clean tools and remove smelly out of date and or leaking chemical products.
8. Check that the watering system is working effectively. Turn of unnecessary tubes and drip jets and stop leaks.
9. Clean up potted plants and their pots/containers.
10. Tidy the area around the compost heap.
Beyond a tidy garden recognise that some potential buyers will look for simplicity and minimalism and others a more complex holistic style of garden. In many cases wanting to grow healthy ecological fruit and vegetables.
We hope the above ideas speed your property sales.

Clodagh and Dicks books
‘Your Garden in Spain’, ‘Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain’ and ‘Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’ can be obtained from book shops and internet sites including in Spain, Amazon worldwide and W.H.Smith and the Royal Horticultural Society in the UK.
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe January 2010






Special individual designs for photo creations/ photo collages from your own photos or from our own photo shoots for special occasions. As well as specially designed greeting cards.
H-E D Design
Welcome to our Studio
I am a Dutch lady who lives with her English husband in Cataluña, Spain. Due to the fact that it is very hard to find birthday cards, or any other cards, here in Spain I started to make my own to send out to family and friends. My friend Elly had sent me a photo editing program to work with and after exploring it for some time I started more and more to enjoy working with it. I am really grateful she sent it to me. As I take a lot of photos for the club where I train with our dogs; club members started to ask if I could take photos and do something with them. You can see some samples of my work here plus there are many more on the web site. On this part of our website you’ll find some examples of what I have made. Note: We are not Professionals, making photos and creating images as well as building websites we do as an hobby. .... Marion

Contact details and prices
Image designs:
All sizes up to A4 (29 x 21 cm) from € 15,00(+ €5,00 when sent by postal mail)
A3 (30 x 40 cm) from €20,00 ( + €5,00 when sent by postal mail)
A2 ( 42 x 60 cm) from €45,00 ( + €10,00 when sent by postal mail)
If you Like a different size then the standard size
(bigger then 42 x 60 cm) prizes will be different:
100 x 100 cm from €75,00 ( + €10,00 when sent by postal mail)
Photo reportage:
Within a radius of 50 km from Les Tres Cales
Half a day (4 hours) : €80,
Full day (8 hours): €120.
Outside a radius of 50km from Les Tres Cales:
Half a day + travelling costs
Full day + travelling costs
Prices are including I.V.A.
Our postal address:
Holland-England Dogs
Calle Mistral 426-1, Les Tres Cales,
43860 L'Ametlla de Mar, Tarragona
Our Email address:
web site: our business card in the business directory of the magazine.

holland england dogsholland england dogsholland england dogsholland england dogsholland england dogscongo


I.P.S. Independent Power Systems
in association with Matrix Secure JAN 2010

me securitylockcar security

Affordable security for your power system and other valuables.
Anyone who has invested in alternative power for their home will appreciate not only the inconvenience of any loss but the financial consequences of theft.
New technology now allows for an affordable way to not only protect your valuables but to recover them in the event of theft.
A small G.P.S. security tracker weighing just 40gr. can be secretly installed to your invertor, generator or other valuables. If these items are removed a signal from the tracker via SMS alerts a control who will immediately start tracking the item via satellite. The control will also inform the police and give the exact co ordinates of the stolen item. Tracking is in real time. This application could be used to secure other personal items i.e. cars and trailers, safes etc.


For further information please contact:
977 490 370 or
visit our showroom in El Perello.




January is a good time for the annual garden cleanup and also to start to prepare your soil for Spring plantings. This is important for flowering plants, herbs, flowering and fruiting shrubs and trees and vegetables whether grown in the open garden or in containers of various types and sizes.

terracottemImprovement entails adding sand to open up heavy clay soils, composts and peat to improve the water absorbing capacity and humus content and well rotted wet or dried animal manures to enrich the soil. Bags of worm compost, compost including sea weed from the Eco Parks that are springing up around the country are also excellent soil improvers . If you have a very poor soil add 40% by volume of the above additives to 60% of the original soil. Something we learned on a study tour to Cuba a few years ago.

Mix up soil mixes for containers on a similar basis. Typical mixes are given in each of our books.
If you do this the critical development of root balls will be accelerated, green growth will grow steadily and healthily and you will not need to resort to the use of fast acting chemical fertilizers to maintain plant growth. This has two benefits, Firstly you will not need to store potentially hazardous materials which is especially important if you have children and pets in the household.

Secondly you will not stimulate unnecessarily fast weak growth that is susceptible to attacks by pests and diseases.


There are two other soil additives worth considering namely neem powder from Trabe and Terracottem soil conditioner . The first acts as a gentle fertilizer and controller of snails and slugs while the second has the power to improve the moisture holding capacity of the soil by 200% reducing the extent and frequency of watering required.

donkeyIf you have inherited a fully stocked garden that struggles to survive the summer we suggest that you improve the soil around the plants down to the depth of the bottom of the root ball to improve their chances of long term survival and continuing good crops of flowers, fruit and vegetables.
Luckily the soil is currently in good condition to carry out the above tasks. Do them manually using mattocks rather than spades and forks if you have a relatively small area of soil to prepare. If a larger area reduce the back aching work by buying a small rotovator or hiring the village mechanical plough. Or perhaps you are lucky that your village still has a working mule or donkey for hire. A way of preserving rural practices, minimising the compression of the soil and with luck getting some free manure in the process. Offer to give the animal a good feed before it starts to work – this might increase the extent of the manure bonus!

*There latest three books are ‘Your Garden in Spain’, ‘Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain’ and ‘Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’. You can obtain them from bookshops and via and

© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe. January 2010




water buttswater buttbedding plants

We are always on the look out for interesting new gardening products. For that reason we visited this years edition of Iberflora Spain’s major gardening professional trade show. Some of the products we found most interesting are described below. Some can already be found in the more forward thinking garden centres and horticultural shops. For others you will need to wait until next spring.


grow bags

1. Genuine Eco Grow Bags – Remember those grow bags we loved to use in England for growing a few tomato plants. Well Flora Guard are launching them in Spain and they should start to be seen in garden centres by the beginning of the year. Look out for their red bags specially prepared for fruit and vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and aubergines and the green bags developed for the growing of leaf vegetables such as lettuces, Swiss chard (acelga) and herbs.

pasta de podacat and dog spray

1.Neudorff’s Pasta de Poda – An ecological sealant for the bare cuts when you prune large branches and trunks of trees and large shrubs to prevent fungal spores from entering the wounds and causing rot to set in. The idea of the product is not new but it is now in a handy tube with a hard plastic brush applicator on the end so you do not need to use and throw away a paint brush each time you do some pruning.

2.Neudorff’s Repelente Spray de Perros y Gatos – a combined spray for keeping pet and feral cats and dogs of your flower beds and pots and for spraying the gate posts to deter passing dogs and inhibit the entry of cats. Unfortunately it requires a weekly treatment.

growing table3.Water Butts
– If you don’t yet have a water butt for collecting rain water from the roof have a look at the products of Garantia on We have never seen such a collection. Their collection includes plastic butts disguised as Roman columns, wine fermenting size earthenware jars, stone walls and stone planters with plants growing on top. They are not yet available in many garden centre but we were told that you can order direct via or 972-913767.

4.Growing Tables - A Barcelona based company called Sabater sell growing tables for cultivating vegetables and herbs on apartment terraces.


5.Earth retaining organic mattings – if you have an earth bank that is difficult to stabilise or wish to stop the erosion of the banks of a natural pond it would be worth investigating the range of natural fibre matting manufactured by Bon Terra Iberica

6.Creatively pruned olive trees – several stands had creatively pruned olive trees for architectural purposes rather than high yields of fruit. Shapes included thin columns, low spreading and Japanese bonsai effects with wide spreading branches and occasional platforms of tightly trimmed leaves.

bonsai olivefiskars pruners

7.Fiskars ergonomic pruners – again Fiskars demonstrated their useful range of Secateurs long pruners and saws. Just the thing for your winter cut back as well as your topiary efforts with an olive tree.

*See our books ‘Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’, ‘ Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain’ and ‘Your Garden in Spain’ You will find them in bookshops and Carrefour and for convenience if inland they can be purchased by mail order on 952-485838 or from or or


your one stop convenience shop-advertorial oct 2009

Little Britain 24-7 is your one-stop convenience shop aiming to please by enabling you to purchase those popular brand named items that you miss from home at competitive prices quickly and easily without even leaving your home. We are an independent family run and owned company located just off the N340 between L'Ampolla and L'Aldea and are NOT associated with any other English food retailer in the area. "Customer Service" is everything to us so we will ensure that the service you receive from us will be both professional and personal to you.
With over 2000 different products available to choose from we supply everything from your favourite biscuits and cakes, cereals and home baking products, crisps and snacks to English Beers and alcopops, cooking sauces to diet and slimming foods, vitamins and health supplements, non prescription medication i.e. Beechams Powders, Lemsip etc to household cleaning items and quality English printed greeting cards and magazines. Should you require something which is not on our on-line catalogue then please contact us and we will endeavour to meet your requirements.
little britainYou don't even have to pay on-line - simply place your order prior to the cut-off dates- the 7th or the 21st of each month and your goods will usually be available within 7-10 working days. We will then contact you to arrange a convenient time to deliver your order and collect payment.
We also attend various boot sales, friendship groups and commitees around the area of L’Ampolla to display our goods. Should you have a club or society that would be interested then please give us a call on the number below and we will be more than happy to attend.
There's also a chance to win a discount off your next order in the monthly prize draw when you spend over 50 Euros in the same calendar month. Terms and conditions apply.
We have many delivery collection points throughout the Tarragona region (some subject to a small delivery charge), however should you wish to order from us but find that your locality is not listed, please contact us. Little Britain 24-7 are able to take your order 24 hours a day 7 days a week. With no minimum order requirements, simply place an order using the on-line ordering system via our website and email or alternatively if you do not have access to the internet call on 696 894 134 to discuss your requirements.



SWIM RINGNow that the weather is getting hotter, it’s that time of the year when all pool owners are keen to use their pools but what about prolonging that use and keeping your pool warmer for longer. Even when all chemicals have been added and the cleaning process is completed it can be still too cold for many of us to do more than dip a toe, unless the pool is heated. So what can you do to make your pool warm enough to use at any time of day without breaking the bank? Solar Sun Rings, the most cost effective pool solar heating system. They put the heat back into your pool and keep it there.
So what are solar sun rings? They are passive solar swimming pool heating devices made from two sheets of heavyweight UV resistant vinyl. The rings float on the surface of the pool and heat the water by day and act as a blanket at night, thus retaining the heat in the water. Each ring is equipped with six little magnets which hold the rings together in a blanket on the pool. The magnets also help improve the clarity and decrease the hardness of the water. The magnets are strong enough to enable you to pull one ring off the pool and the other rings follow, but weak enough to allow the rings to separate if a child or animal falls onto them, thus avoiding entrapment. The rings weigh very little and a 3 year old child can remove 12 rings from a pool in a matter of minutes. You only need to cover between 70% and 80% of your pool in order for the solar sun rings to be effective, and during a sunny period the pool temperature will rise by as much as 6ºC in 2 or 3 days, meaning that your pool could be in the upper 20s and ‘swimmable’ whereas your neighbour’s pool will barely be in the lower 20s and too cold to use.
In the hotter months of summer when the pool water is as hot as you want it to be, simply turn the rings over and they stop heating the pool by day, but continue to conserve the heat at night. Using the rings this way also greatly reduces the loss of water and chemicals through evaporation.
So how much does it cost to heat a pool? Covering 75% of a standard 8m x 4m pool requires 10 solar sun rings each costing €45. So for just €450 you can put the heat back into your pool and keep it there! Call: 952 59 40 31

Solar sun rings

Web site:

Tel: 952 59 40 31



Mobile Homes, aka static caravans, aka modulos have certainly come a long way in the last 20 years.
CARAVANFrom the single door, 1 bedroom, 5ft x 3ft flat roof, single glazed breezy windows with a single bulb to light your way :-


CARAVANTo today’s 3 bedrooms, 35ft x 12ft pitched, tiled roof, double glazed PVC windows, spot lamp lighting in the beamed ceilings, air conditioning and fitted kitchen.

Today there is a wide range of mobile homes on the market. The most common sizes are 26 x 10ft (8 x 3m), 28 x 10ft (8.5x 3m), 28 x 12ft (8.5 x 3.7m) and 34 x 12ft. (10.5 x 3.7m). Within these dimensions the distribution of the rooms varies quite considerably. The main difference is whether you prefer a “central lounge” with the bedrooms on either side of the lounge or an “end lounge” with the bedrooms grouped at one end of the mobile.

The standard spec for most mobile homes these days includes minimum 2 bedrooms, a bathroom with shower and WC, a kitchen area that boasts refrigerator or fridge freezer, hob and oven with grill, a living area with seating and often included is a convertible bed within the seating. A gas powered or electric boiler provides the hot water and heating is generally a gas fire or electric heater.

The prices of mobile homes also vary widely. Very much like car dealers, it is better to deal with a reputable supplier who can offer you the correct quality product that suits your needs for the best possible price. ICA MODULOS SL has been operating within the mobile home industry for the last 20 years and has been supplying and transporting mobile homes to private individuals, campsites and tour operators in Spain for the last 10 years. As a general guide, reasonable quality used mobile homes can sell from as little as 4500 euros up to 20,000 euros. You can sometimes pick up a “deal” from as little as 1500 euros, but, beware “you always get what you pay for!”

New mobiles can go from 15,000 euros up to 70,000 euros.
Whatever the age or the size mobile homes are a great asset for many reasons.
· They can be an affordable primary or holiday residence at a fraction of the cost of an apartment and sometimes the mobile home can be as large as a small apartment. (Some occupy over 40m2 of indoor living space.)
· They can be used as a permanent residence or just short term, such as somewhere to live while you build your dream home.
· They can be used for storage of personal items.
· Some older models have been used as homes for pets or garden sheds.
· If you move location you can take it with you.
· You can sell it on when you are finished with it.
· You can start a business by buying them to rent to holidaymakers.

Before purchasing a mobile home it is better to consider the following points:-
· What is its purpose? To live in all year round or just holidays? If you are looking to live in it all year round you may want to look at the longer 12ft wide mobile homes that offer more living space than the 10ft. If you are only holidaying in it for a couple of weeks at a time shorter 10ft wide mobile may suffice.
· When purchasing the mobile ask if transport is included or is extra. Most of the time the transport price is extra. Moving any mobile home over 10ft (3m) wide will legally require the transporters to employ a pilot car. Thus, these wider mobiles will cost about 200 to 300 euros extra to transport. ICA MODULOS SL only uses registered and experienced transporters.
· Consider the access to the plot you wish to place the mobile on. Are the access roads wide enough and high enough. The mobile home usually comes on a rigid flat bed truck and the combined height is about 4 metres. The transporters are contracted to deliver the mobile to “the most accessible drop off point” without damaging the truck or driver and able to exit the drop off point after unloading.
TRANSPORTATION· You can save money on transport if you are purchasing two mobiles that can fit onto one truck with trailer. The maximum size for this 8 x 3.66m. Make sure you consider access carefully if you choose this option as these trailers are a lot more difficult to manoeuvre. If the trucks cannot access your plot the mobiles can be dropped off near your access road and taken by 4 x 4.

· Do you have access to electric, water and drainage? Gas appliances for mobile homes work off one orange butane gas bottle.
· Installation of the mobile home, i.e. positioning and levelling plus connection of services is something that can be done by yourself if you feel capable but there are companies that specialise in this. ICA MODULOS SL can recommend companies upon request.
· Is the mobile water tight? This is the most important aspect of the purchase. Leaking roofs and soft floors indicate problems.

· Find out some history on the mobile. Where did it come from? ICA MODULOS SL purchases its mobile homes direct from reputable UK tour operators with whom we have long standing agreements. The mobiles have all constantly been serviced and maintained by a team of trained technicians.
· How can you pay for your mobile? ICA MODULOS SL takes payment in euros or sterling in cash or via bank transfer. We also take credit cards.

DECKING· You can increase the size of your living area by adding wooden decking to your mobile to create an al fresco dining and seating area.
So when you are ready to take the plunge and purchase your mobile home or need any more information please give us a call.

For more information on our selection of mobile homes for sale please contact Shaun on 629743327 or email or visit our website at or visit our sites in La Tallada D´Emporda, Gerona or Cambrils in Tarragona.





With more and more people now focused on reducing their carbon footprint and as importantly their gas or gasoil costs, there is an increasing interest in renewable energy.
Arguably the best and most cost-effective way to do this is to install a solar-thermal water heating system.

Solar thermal means using the heat of the sun directly, rather than turning the suns energy into electricity then using the electricity to do the work.

THIS DAY IN HISTORYThere are two types of solar hot water systems, one that relies on pumping pressurized water through a closed loop between solar panel and hot water tank, or a passive system, this is a compact system which consists of a tank for the heated water, a solar collector and connecting pipes all pre-mounted in a frame. The water flows upwards when heated in the panel, when this water enters the tank (positioned higher than the solar panel) it expels some cold water from inside so that the heat transfer takes place without the need of a pump.

Both systems can include a backup heating element that is activated when the water in the tank falls below a minimum temperature setting such as 50 C.
Your solar hot water can provide 85% of all domestic hot water.

SOLAR WATERIn 2005 Spain became the first country in the world to require the installation of photovoltaic electricity generation in all new buildings and the second after Israel to require the installation of solar hot water.
A good quality solar hot water system with 200ltr. Tank can be purchased for as little as 1200€. Once installed they are maintenance free.
Water heating accounts for approx. 25% of the total energy used in a typical family home.
If you have the right D.I.Y. skills these Solar Hot Water Systems can be easily be installed by yourself saving even more money.
Most Hot Water Systems carry a 10 year warranty.

For more information call I.P.S.





"I really wanted to catch my nasty neighbour trespassing on my land. But I got everything that
walked through, including a fisher cat that I never knew I had. Really amazing product. Rabbits,
coyote, deer, but my neighbour hasn't come through yet. It WILL catch him eventually tearing down the No Trespassing signs. Proof! "

I SPYThe discreet nature of surveillance gadgets just gets more discreet by the year. This birdhouse is one of the more discreet tools when it comes to covert surveillance cameras as it looks like a real birdhouse that someone is unlikely to take it for anything else. Its an innovative way to protect the home or some other property. With this gadget, you will be in constant contact with what is happening at home.



INTRUDERPATROLInfrared security cameras for example, may be used in any house, business office, or even by police or military forces. The problem with regular security cameras is that they simply can’t capture a quality view at night. Burglars may easily intrude into your house or office and steal your most important information or valuable items. Infrared cameras are able to capture a heat that people produce. So even if intruders are trying to rob your house at night, these infrared cams will capture the image. Some infrared cameras may work only when they’re triggered. For example, if their sensors catch some heat around, they’ll automatically turn on and start capturing the view. There are additional systems that make your life even more secure. Wireless infrared cameras should be your priority when considering your house or office security. With wireless cameras you don’t need to worry about cables and all the hassles installing the system. Such infrared cameras may be used indoor or outdoor. Of course, if you’re planning to use them outdoor, you should make sure they are hidden from view & discreet.

SPY CAMERAOne of the most important and sophisticated security devices that are in use today is the wireless home security camera. Most wireless security cameras are quite small in size so that they can be hidden easily. Some wireless security cameras come pre-hidden in show-pieces and other things e.g. you could have a camera hidden (or pre-build) into a flower vase or a pot. They could also be camouflaged into the surroundings e.g. outdoor wireless security cameras might be coloured or shaped in such a way so as to blend with the surroundings.

Therefore what ever your needs inside or out let Spy Cameras capture any intruder or car on your property, friend or foe! Also ideal for filming wildlife 24/7 .



"SNAILS ARE BACK AFTER SUMMER SLUMBERS....But luckily eco solutions are around. " DEC 09


escargotAfter the recent rain snails have woken from their summer survival slumbers to escape the hot dry weather. They are now round and about looking for succulent plants to eat - including those emergent from your recently sown vegetable seeds - and new sheltered homes especially early in the morning and late evening so you may have missed them so far. And of course not only snails but snails that can lie unseen in the earth or in pots in the green house if you are not careful.

So now is the time to start to take action and continue to do so through the damper cooler months ahead.
Typical actions include using chemical slug bait pellets that kill snails and slugs on contact and the vegetable plot flower beds and green house shelves can become covered with dead snails and unsightly slimy trails from dying snails. Not a pretty sight!

cat snailouch snail

beer trapBeer traps made by sinking plastic beakers into the ground and filling them with beer and circles of comfrey leaves can also work but with the same problem of dead snails that need to be collected up.

But now there is an environmentally friendly product for killing snails and slugs - called Ferramol Antilimacos manufactured by a 150 year old German based company Neudorff and distributed/marketed by Seipasa in Spain. We met with the Product Manager recently and discovered the following facts for you.


1.Eliminates slugs and snails quickly – which it has done when we tried it out.
2.Snails and slugs disappear to die so there is no unsightly mess.
3.Safe for domestic use.
4.Not harmful to environment, pets and wildlife including birds and worms .
5.Only need to scatter 5 grams per square metre of soil and not place in small heaps.
6.Reasonably resistant to rain.
7.When finally decays mild fertilizer effect due to iron content.
8.Can use in flower vegetable and fruit gardens.
9.Naturally occurring ingredients - no manufactured chemicals.
10.Satisfies EU ecological requirements.

snail speedConvenient stockists include: Barcelona/Gava – Garden Centre Bordas ; Cambrils – Jardeneria Benages; Reus – Grup Sabater ; Tortosa – Garden Centre, La Sinia.
Remember our books for Christmas.
The Christmas present buying season has arrived and this year cost saving presents will be much appreciated. So why not go for the books ‘Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’, ‘ Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain’ and ‘Your Garden in Spain’ to the recipients to live not only less expensively but also healthier in 2009. You will find them in bookshops and Carrefour and for convenience if inland they can be purchased by mail order on 952-485838, or

A Christmas challenge for 2010 if not achieved in 2009-11-09

christmas puddingHow quickly Christmas comes round again. A time to be merry and eat well in spite of the economy. Luckily if the family are holistic gardeners and see the sense to grow not only grass and flowers much of the Christmas food can come from the garden. For us following the advice of our own books ‘Your Garden in Spain’, ‘Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain’ and ‘ Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’ the following is possible without spending many hours a week growing the Christmas fare. If they are not all available to you this year they could be next year.

Some of the Christmas things from our garden.

harvestA diversity of fresh ecologically grown fruit and vegetables.
Herbs for Christmas stuffings, infusions and mulled wines..
Flowers, plants, pine cones and evergreen garlands.
Logs for the fire.
A turkey that has enjoyed fresh vegetables as well as grains for Christmas day and partridges or rabbits for Boxing day.
Fruit herb and nut flavoured liquors and wines.
Almonds olives and vitamin packed carob pods . The latter are good to chew on a Boxing day walk. Remember they were the forerunners to Christmas.
Dried fruits for making the Christmas pudding, cake and mince meat. We have dried grapes (raisins), mandarins, lemons and almonds about to be mixed.
Fresh eggs.
Pecan, walnuts and almonds for the nut crackers.
Fresh mandarins lemons and tangerines.

lemonsEstablish a GROWING CIRCLE for 2010

Recognising that not everyone has the motivation, experience, space and interest in growing everything and that many Expats are looking for company, we launched the concept of Growing Circles in our November article on our website
No not the circles of flattened grain crops that still mystify agriculturalists but small groups of friends and neighbours each growing one or more crop on behalf of other members of the circle and swapping on a barter basis..

The idea is especially practical for groups of neighbours and friends living in:

The same village
the same block of flats - especially if all on the same or two floors
the same urbanisation – especially if all are in the same street or zone
the same gardening club – who can swap crops at weekly meetings
the same school gardening club – where groups of pupils could specialize in growing specific crops.

nutsgarden spaces

Remember that many fruits and vegetables can be grown in containers on apartment terraces and village house roofs if members of a circle don’t have room for a raised bed or traditional vegetable plot. Naturally it is also possible that a group of friends share an allotment or adjacent allotments which are becoming available in several towns and villages for young and retired people or working part of the large garden of a friend who can no longer cope with their large garden due to infirmity.
Hopefully this idea is discussed over a few glasses of warm mulled wine during the end of year non gardening season and our books are found in a few Christmas Stockings to support the idea and enable us to buy some new vegetable seeds for spring planting.
Happy Christmas, New Year and Three Kings to all. © Clodagh and Dick Handscombe November 2009.


challenges of gardening in catalunya-HEALTHY HORSERADISH GROWS WELL IN SPAIN  nov 09

clodagh and dick


By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe practical gardeners authors* and broadcasters living in Spain for almost twenty five years.

horseradishWe are always looking around for inexpensive plants that offer health benefits, are easy to grow and are more tasty than commercial alternatives. We mentioned stevia and kalanchoes a couple of months ago. We now look at horseradish.

If you have a terrace, patio or garden horse radish can be grown by anyone. All you need to do is ask a friend for a cutting or bring rooted cuttings from northern and central Europe, plant it in rich soil in the ground or in a large pot and keep it damp.

Within a couple of years you will be able to dig the plant up, cut off a sizeable root and replant the entire plant or the tops of a number of offshoots. They will soon re-shoot to produce new roots and leaves. In frost areas the plant will loose it’s leaves in the winter.

roast beefhorseradish

As well as having an appetising taste when grated and diluted with extra virgin olive oil to taste, for eating as an accompaniment to meat or with cider vinegar or lemon juice for eating with fish dishes, it has several useful health benefits when freshly harvested. Horse radish roots contain (according to many internet reports) useful levels of vitamin C, potassium, calcium and sulphur; have antibiotic anti-inflammatory, anti-water retention properties as well as being an enhancer of ones metabolic rate. The latter a traditional way of reducing the heaviness of a roast beef and Yorkshire pudding Sunday lunch and controlling one’s weight.

horseradish root

You may well say but is it not easier just to buy an imported jar at the local British product shop. It may be easier but will it be as healthy? We read the label on an imported jar the other day. We put it straight back on the shelf. It’s contents read ‘Horse radish 30%, water, spirit vinegar, vegetable oil, turnip, glucose syrup, sugar, pasteurised egg yolk powder, salt, stabiliser gum, mustard flour, flavouring, sodium meta-bisulphite as a preservative’. Why disguise the true taste of a basic traditional plant in this way?

Unfortunately the plant is rarely in garden centres so ask around amongst friends in Spain central Europe as well as in the UK. If anyone already has a large plant or two that can be split there is a ready market for you in small plants.

*Clodagh and Dick’s books ‘Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’, ‘Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain’ and ‘Your Garden in Spain’ can be most conveniently obtained from the publishers on or 952 –485838 if you do not live near a book shop. © Clodagh and Dick Handscombe September 2009.




GECKONATURAL GARDENS by Clodagh and Dick Handscombe, Gardening in Spain for 25 years.

Driving through Catalunya the other weekend there are really some nice situations for purchasing inland dwellings with a good piece of land. However this is strictly for those who don’t mind cold winters. We came for a bit of sun and therefore stick to ten kilometres from the beach although living 400 metres up. OLD MEN CARVEDWhen we walked for 52 days ten years ago from the Bay of Biscay coast west of Irun to the Mediterranean coast at Llanca just south of Port Bou we were amazed that the real Mediterranean landscape was only a half days walking thick. But the other weekend we realised the gems that a wild piece of uncultivated garden can bring.

First the land is already covered with natural herbs and trees that like the local microclimate.

LEUZEASeasonal flowers from spring bulbs and daisy type plants that fill abandoned orchards to summer leuzea coniferas which if placed in a cloth bag in a trouser or skirt pocket are a traditional cure for haemorrhoids and autumn setas – wild mushrooms - prompt one to frequently walk the plot to see what’s out and around.
Re the latter a patch of sand will soon attract sunbathing lizards and a pond in the quietest corner of the garden could well attract wild boar and deer plus resident and migratory birds.
Herbs will include rosemary, lavenders, thymes, rue, sage etc. Each being useful in the kitchen and in the natural medicine chest. Maybe you have the entrepreneurial spirit to collect and perhaps distil essential oils for your own collection or to supply a local herb based business.





Old wizened trees from years of surviving freezing winter gales add character and should not be felled. Dead branches are often the roosting place of buzzards and other hawks. And off course a cork oak with some of it’s bark stripped to reveal the orange trunk for a few months look great.

The quickest and most attractive way to turn a wild area into a garden is to clear a network of paths and terraces and leave the rest intact except for trimming back the most evasive plants.

‘Your Garden in Spain – From planning to planting and maintenance’ includes chapters on the possibilities for gardens in a wide range of situations and styles including wild and natural gardens. It can be conveniently obtained via or by their telephone 952-485838. If you want autographed copies for special presents they can be obtained by an email to © Clodagh and Dick Handscombe August 2009.





HEALTHY PLANTS FOR HEALTHY GARDENS by Clodagh and Dick Handscombe, Gardening in Spain for twenty five years. SEPT 2009


When planning garden layouts and buying plants too many gardeners only focus on whether a plant was in flower when purchased. The colour of the flowers and the size of the plant with insufficient attention to the eventual size of the plant and whether it is draught and frost resistant and whether the plant has interesting culinary and health benefits. Plants that can be used in infusions, salads or cooked dishes.

Plants of the latter sort in our garden include the following.














1.Rosemary for flavouring meat dishes and for stimulating infusions for tired brains and bodies.





2.Hibiscus flowers for brightening up the appearance of salads and for refreshing infusions made with either fresh or dried flowers.





3.Lavender for sleep inducing bunches to place on your pillow and for relaxing lavender water or oil.





4. Garlic for its anti oxidant and vitamin and mineral contents and when young for salads and omelettes and for harvesting bulbs for cooking in June or July.





5.Nasturtium plants for their spicy leaves, flowers and flower/seed buds. The later an excellent alternative to capers.





6. Begonias leaves for chewing should you have a sore throat.





7. Mint for a refreshing and distant infusion.
And three more healthy plants that we obtained during a recent weekend visit to Balaguer just north of Leida in Catalunya





8. Stevia the sugar alternative plant that has as (sweet revolution) indicates also significant health benefits for diabetes suffers and also those with anxiety and a number of other frequent problems.





9.Perilla used in shiso fish dishes in Japan and useful for food poisoning situations and respiratory problems.





10. Three varieties of large leafed kalanchoes of benefit to cancer sufferers and also anxiety and hypertension conditions among others.

More details of the benefits of the latter three plants, where your most convenient distributor is ( click on ‘Donde encontrar plantas’) and how to grow the plants can be found on the previously mentioned website which is already in Catalan and Castellano and will be in English shortly. In the meantime you can telephone Carles Esquerda - who speaks good English – on 618474390.

Plants are made available in return for a 3 euro per plant donation to Dolce Revolution. Mail order deliveries are charged at only 6 euros for 6 plants and 7 euros for twelve plus a payment on delivery charge of 2.5 euros per delivery.

Just off to finish planting our plants out in raised beds in the garden.

Clodagh and Dicks popular trilogy of books ‘Your Garden in Spain’, ‘Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’ and ‘Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain’ are published by Santana Books and can be obtained via high street or internet bookshops. currently have a special offer for the trilogy which can be obtained also by telephoning 952-485838.
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe July 2009.



CHALLENGES OF GARDENING IN CATALUNYA-COUNTRYFY YOUR GARDEN by Clodagh and Dick Handscombe, now enjoying their twenty fifth summer gardening and residing in Spain.

DOG IN A HAMMOCKAs the temperatures rise we often hear people saying things like:
‘Oh isn’t it hot after the air conditioning. I’ve been indoors for three days without going out’
‘We don’t sit out much in the summer it’s boring. There is not much to see except the pool and it’s large terrace and the wooden decking is so hot to walk on’.
‘ Oh I wish we hadn’t cut down those trees and replaced them with Australian sails – the shade is not as natural or as deep as it used to be swinging in the hammock between two thick branches of the carob tree’.
‘ I spend all my time watering the plants but the garden is not as colourful as it was in Britain’.
‘ Oh I can’t stand another barbecued dinner and it’s only June’
Luckily there are answers to all such comments to ensure that you achieve what you came to Spain for – a more outdoor life than in northern Europe.

WATER PLANTSFirstly getting used to the Spanish climate needs gradual acclimatisation. Go out into the sun early in the day and go into the shade when it gets too hot and then go back into the sun in the early evening and turn the air conditioning off or set it at a higher temperature. We don’t have it but we keep the house cool in the summer by closing the windows and keeping the persianas down and on the hottest days the wooden shutters shut.

WATERFALL POOLAny urban looking pool can be converted into a natural pool surrounding by oxygenating bog plants and some of the flowers are exotic. An interesting book ‘Converting your conventional pool’ can be obtained via .

If you plan a long stay in Spain plant some more trees this autumn. There are plenty to chose from in Part Four of our book ‘Your Garden in Spain’. This section also lists hundreds of flowering plants and most importantly indicating their drought resistances. These are the plants that require little or no watering once they are established. Plant more of these to reduce watering needs.

There are many interesting types of natural rocks old bricks and terracotta tiles that look more natural than timber cladding. See chapter 2.4 of ‘Your garden in Spain’.

If you want more interesting foods than barbecued consider a Mexican oven, Moroccan tagines or a solar cooker. The latter are becoming very popular and the Andalucian Government is currently offering grants to stimulate their use…do you have a friend living down there? Even without the twenty percent grant they are not expensive and don’t use electricity gas or charcoal.

Initially only a 1.4 metre diameter model was available but a one metre model will be available this month. We have already placed an order. Have a look at the website

Our trilogy of books are available from high street and internet bookshops including If you want to read full descriptions first have a look at first and the click through to the Santana shop at the end of each description. If you have no internet in Spain you can telephone 952-485838 to place an order.

© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe July 2009.


CHALLENGES OF GARDENING IN CATALUNYA-A NETWORK OF TERRACES AND PATHS by Clodagh and Dick Handscombe, gardening in Spain for over twenty five years. Authors of the book ‘Your Garden in Spain’ JULY 2009

julyFirm safe paths are essential features of any garden. When we paid our first visit to our new house back in 1988 the paths around the house had yet to be laid and the builder offered us the choice of a square of concrete paths around the house with either no gap or a gap for plants between the wall of the house and the edge of the path or a natural path of interesting coloured slabs of rock set in sand which would be more in keeping with the design of the house and local inland valley environment. We chose the latter as it would be more in keeping with the natural garden we planned , was no more expensive and we envisaged low growing herbs planted between the rocks. When we came out a again in June the paths were laid and light rains had settled the sand between the slabs of perfectly levelled paths. However within a week we had three days of heavy thunderstorms. The previously firm sun backed red clay soil became a thick paste. When one walked along the paths the slabs sunk titled and slid out of line and mud oozed up in the gaps. The paths were no longer easy to walk on and indeed would be dangerous for the elderly visitors expected later in the summer. The answer was to go round the pathway relaying them on a concrete base and giving up the idea of plants between slabs. This was done and some interesting curves made in the original straight line. The path has never moved and was extended to reach various features as the first half our the garden was completed. When there was time the second part of the garden was laid out more informally and paths were created by laying stone chippings on strips of black plastic. These were stable by the first rains and have never needed any relaying just an occasional brushing or raking to keep them tidy. The use of stone chippings also enabled changes to be made to the final layout of flower beds, terraces, rockeries, ponds etc. arrived at by trial and error. It being very easy to change the direction, width and curves of paths merely by racking back some of the chippings and then reshaping the plastic underlay before raking back the chippings. One of the widest main paths looked a little stunted and tended to foreshorten the garden. The solution was to gradually narrow the path from the house end to the distant end. An easy optical illusion that made the garden appear to be deeper than it is.
A very important decision before finalising the network of paths was to decide what terraces we would require to enable an outdoor lifestyle throughout the year, their sizes and where to best place them, and what surfaces to use. Terraces were planned and constructed for winter and summer eating out and siestas. The summer ones with shade and the winter ones with sheltered winter sun. The network of straight, curving and at times narrowing paths was then finalised to join the terraces and create an interesting meander through the garden and not just the fastest route from door to door and to the washing line. Stepping stones were used to provide weeding access to rockery areas.
We have related this personal story to highlight the benefits of not leaving the decisions on paths to the builder and that there are a wide range of options. These are expanded on in Chapter 2.4 of ‘Your Garden in Spain – From planning to planting and maintenance’. The ISBN number is 978-84-89954-670.
The book can be obtained from bookshops and direct from the publisher Santana Books by telephoning 952-485838 or via the ‘Our books’ section on our website
© Clodagh & Dick Handscombe June 2009





COMPOSTWe all now have to separate the organic matter from our rubbish before setting off to the municipal bins so why not start your own compost heap and keep all the goodness you’re sorting out, for your own garden?

Anything that was once alive will break down into organic components. So if an item was comprised of 100% natural materials it can be composted, that’s what nature would be doing anyway.

Here are some common items we could compost but do whatever is practical for your lifestyle - not everyone wants to give up on the flushing toilet just yet!

Garden prunings, lawn clippings and weeds – try soaking troublesome weeds in a bucket of water for a few weeks first to go all sludgy.

Paper and cardboard – just remove all plastic windows and any laminated products first.

WILD LIFE GARDENKitchen scraps - even meat and fish will compost down into lovely goodness for your soil. Just ensure your compost pile is pet proof and put these items deep into the pile. Bones can be a problem as they can become brittle and dangerous if swallowed by the dogs.

Manure, ‘humanure’ & dog waste – is controversial but hey what else will you do with it? Make sure it is always buried within the compost. If you have space for a dry composting toilet you can reduce your water usage and improve your compost creation in one step. Manure is full of bacteria that love to break down organic items. Commercial, organic compost activators are usually dry manure.

Urine -probably best left to the boys!

Wood ash and sawdust – will add potash and bulk to your compost.

Pet or livestock bedding - from a gerbil cage or the contents of a hencoop

Other natural fibres - old woollen sweaters, cotton socks, hair or pet fur.

Remember! Anything once alive will break down into compost.
Your finished compost will smell like rich woodland soil, crumbly and dark. But before things are completely composted they can be a bit wiffy, so cover up or bury within the heap, all the smelly stuff!
Making compost is the most basic method of reducing waste and recycling.
Mother Nature’s always done it and now so should we.

The Catalan Gardener
Visit me at for more information on vegetable gardening, preserving and rural living in Catalunya.




PEPPERLiving in Els Ports we have 1.5 hectares of terraced olive and almond planting. Close to the house is the huerto, our vegetable garden where we produce enough veg to be very nearly self sufficient in all things green and healthy!

Here in the Catalan Garden we like to make things simple. Rather than remember anything we’re list makers. Below are some of the things we need to get on with this month.

Planting, Sowing, Harvesting & Other Things To Do in the Vegetable Patch in February.
Here’s a guide to what could be happening in the vegetable patch this month:

Sowing: Beetroot * Chillies * Coriander * Peppers * Radish * Rocket * Tomatoes

Planting: Horseradish Harvesting: Broccoli * Brussels Sprouts * Cabbage * Cauliflower * Celery (individual stalks) * Jerusalem Artichoke * Leeks * Lettuce * Spinach * Spring Onion

Things to Do:

Check carrots, onions, garlic and tomatoes in store
Save water - check water butts are filling - you'll want all the water you can get come the summer
Spread compost on empty beds as produce is pulled
Tidy up - keep on top of removing rotting brassica leaves to prevent pests and diseases building up.
Dig over more plots if necessary - it will be spring planting time soon, make sure you've got enough space for everything you're hoping to grow
Maintain your cold frame/greenhouse/nursery beds - you'll have lots of seeds going in, make sure you've got somewhere sheltered for them to thrive
Keep some Jersualem Artichoke tubers by, to be re-planted next month

Every year varies according to the weather and what we feel like trying / repeating so be flexible in your huerto. However the information above is the general outline of what will be happening in our Catalan Garden during February.
For a free vegetable gardening year plan just subscribe ON MY WEB SITE.
Visit me at
for more information on vegetable gardening and rural living in Catalunya.




COLLECTING CUTTINGSMost gardeners are wondering how to reduce the cost of completing the design and planting of their new garden or the maintenance of their already established garden. Well luckily there are four things that can be done with little effort or initial expenditure.


With tighter family budgets it makes sense to only buy plants that truly match the microclimate of your garden so search through Part Four of our book ‘Your Garden in Spain – From planning to planting and maintenance’ paying special attention to their frost and drought resistances, whether good in containers or near the sea etc.. If you are on the coast consider planting more perennial plants that flower year after year to replace annuals that need daily watering and only flower for half the year. If you live inland recognise that all subtropical and tropical plants are an expensive risk.



Firstly they are less expensive and secondly smaller plants often settle in the garden quicker than larger plants and can indeed catch up after the first few months or year or two depending on the type of plant. The main reason is that the root ball of the smaller plants are normally sufficient to support a newly planted plant in the garden whereas the larger – often forced plants –may have restricted roots in a pot of a diameter much smaller than the width of the plant. In the latter case the roots need to grow before they can support the next stage of growth in the garden.



If you have not done this before it can be easier than you think and your home grown plants will cost almost nothing. Chapter 6.12 of ‘Your Garden in Spain’ explains how to do so step by step.


Most packets of seeds are inexpensive and contain easy to germinate seeds for both flowering plants and vegetables.



More care is required than in raising plants from cuttings but again easy to follow instructions are given in Chapter 6.13 of ‘Your Garden in Spain ‘ and in Chapters 4.12 and 4.13 of ‘ Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’. The catalogue of includes thousands of flowering plants from around the world and sell hundreds of types of Spanish wild plant seeds just right for inland natural gardens.



More advice re the above will be found in ‘Your Garden in Spain’. We have now written five books on gardening in Spain. All have been written to share our practical ideas and experience, often learned the hard way in earlier years, to help you avoid the same mistakes. Our three latest books are :
Your Garden in Spain ● Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain●Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain.
The three books can be obtained from bookshops including Bookworld and Bargain Books and from internet bookshops. For convenience they can be purchased by 952-48-58-38. .
© Clodagh & Dick Handscombe May 2009.




aPRILby Clodagh and Dick Handscombe, gardening in Spain for over twenty five years.


Rockeries can look great throughout the year and especially this year after the mild winter. Succulents, bulbs, drought resistant herbs all have their place in creating one of the more natural parts of a garden. They can be built on natural slopes, dry stone walls, heaps of builders’ rubble or dug up rocks or using a load purchased rocks.



VINESHowever ten years ago it was easy to obtain rocks especially well weathered rocks covered with several centuries or many millennium of years of natural lichen by looking out for a site about to be cleared for building and talking nicely to the foreman or watching out for a road widening or new road scheme where terraces or a natural rock covered hillside were about to be bulldozed. Nowadays such situations are rarer as developers often clear at least the top weathered layer of rocks off terraces or hillsides before marking out the development, road widening or new road in order to sell marketable rocks to garden centres or garden `landscapers who then sell rocks at several euros per rock to unbeware gardeners and in some cases we suspect even to the owners of the plot of land from which the rocks were removed in the first place.

GROWIt is therefore important that you lay down as part of your sales agreement for a plot of land, or land plus a house to be built, that you are buying a plot of land with certain natural or historic features that you want retaining - including any rocky outcrops, old terrace walls, derelict buildings and walls or even piles of weathered rocks.

If you are moving into a new house on a new urbanisation you will probably find that the builder has tidied up the plot with a few centimetres of top soil. But what lies below? Before you decide on a garden layout go round the garden digging holes forty centimetres deep to discover what exactly lies below. If you are lucky it is all deep soil. At the other end of the scale there may be areas where you find a sheet of concrete where the concrete mixer stood or half a metre of building rubble. Before you start trying to break up the concrete or dig out the rubble mark the good and bad areas on a sketch plan of your plot.


Then work out what types of garden could be developed by covering the bad areas with terraces, areas of stone chippings laid over black plastic sheeting, raised beds or large rockeries.
Yes why not a rockery? Chapter 3.1 of ‘Your Gardening in Spain’ explains how to do so to create a great feature in your garden with interest all the year round.PLANTS





Clodagh and Dick’s latest trilogy of books are all useful in
the Spring garden. ‘Your Garden in Spain’, ‘Growing
Healthy Vegetables in Spain’ and ‘Growing Healthy Fruit
In Spain’ can purchased from a number of internet sites
including book world, Amazon and Santana and also by
telephoning 952-48-58-38. .
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe April 2009.






by Clodagh and Dick Handscombe. productive gardeners, authors and broadcasters gardening in Spain for over twenty years. Their books include ‘Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain –From strawberries to oranges and water melons’.

Spain is a fantastic place to grow your own fruit. The climate allows one to consider growing a wide range of fruit and it is possible by careful selection to harvest one or more fruits on every day of the year – even from apartment terraces. Indeed some of the easiest fruits to grow can be grown in various types of containers. For instance strawberries in a strawberry barrel or window box, a grape vine in a tub trailing along a balustrade or supported on an end wall and a perpetual flowering/fruiting Lunar lemon and early season white fleshed peach tree in large pots. With the latter not only do you get the benefit of picking perfectly ripe tasty juicy peaches for immediate eating but also the early blossom. Our tree in a tub started to flower in the middle of January while the almond blossom in the garden below was still out and the blossom has survived the recent gales.


POTTEDWith a garden one can obviously expand and plant fruit trees in containers on terraces, trained on walls or as spring flowering/summer or autumn fruiting trees anywhere in the flower beds. Naturally if you have a large property one can develop a dedicated orchard.
So much is possible but there are a number of important success factors each covered in detail in our book.

Firstly do plant fruits that you like. Over seventy are described in the book including tropical/subtropical fruits for the frost free coastal plain and temperate types that need inland frosts to fruit well. The former include citrus fruits, mangoes and avocados and the latter cherry and pear trees.

Secondly chose strong plants and if oranges or mandarins check out when they will be ready to harvest. In both cases there are early, mid season and late season varieties to chose from – some ripening in October and others as late as early June. We list some of the most popular varieties in the book.

STRANGLEDThirdly prepare the ground and planting holes in advance and ensure that the young root ball is spread out when planting. If not, strangled roots can develop that result in stunted poorly fruiting trees.

Fourthly spray with ecological insecticides and fungicides to ensure that the garden is save even when spraying for the family, pets and wildlife. Luckily such products can be made up at home or purchased from gardening shops and agricultural cooperatives. Look out for the Seipasa and Trabe brands.

Sorry space has run out to say more but the book is there to tell you all you need to know. You will find ‘Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain’ in local book shops and it can also be obtained from
or 952-48-58-38 from 10.15 until 14.00 daily.
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe February 2009.





COMFREY*Clodagh and Dick are practical gardeners with over twenty years experience of gardening in Spain. They are also authors of twelve books and can be heard on REM radio every other Tuesday around 13.10 pm and present you with practical ideas for improving the beauty and productiveness of your garden. More of their gardening ideas will be found in their trilogy of books ‘Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’, ‘Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain and ‘Your Garden in Spain – From planning to planting and maintenance. They can be obtained in high street and internet bookshops or if more convenient by phoning 952-485-838.


SNAILOne of the most useful herbs to grow is Comfrey. Not for using in the kitchen but for it’s useful garden related properties. Our seven small cuttings obtained ten years ago are now several hundred strong plants surrounding our large vegetable plot but you only need half a dozen plants to make a useful contribution to your gardening. We use the plants as follows.
1. They are grown around the vegetable plot as a first line of defence for snails. Snails love the leaves but they don’t eat much before they have had enough so we can hand collect large snails from under the broad shady leaves to put in the snail cage to be fed on rosemary cuttings for three weeks before cooking.
2. We harvest leaves three or four times a year as the roots of the plants go very deep and extract nutrients from the soil below the root level of the vegetables you grow. They are used in several ways.

SNAIL3. We place a line of cut leaves around new seed beds and newly planted plantlets as a barrier – not a hundred percent effective but it helps and we don’t need to sprinkle as much ecological snail/slug powder around.
4. We fill a small tapped barrel with leaves and let them rot down. The liquid can be tapped off and diluted as an excellent natural fertilizer for vegetables - especially fruit vegetables such as tomatoes and beans - and flowering plants in the garden and in containers. We also have an untapped barrel in which we cover the leaves with water to rot down. This produces a more dilute fertiliser in about a month.
COMFREY LEAVES5. As the leaves have a high potassium content we mulch our row of raspberries with them twice a year.
6. When we plant our potatoes later this month we will wrap each seed potato in leaves.
7. In May we will line bean trenches with the leaves and then cover with compost from the compost heap.
8. We add layers of leaves to our compost bins to speed the breakdown of the garden and kitchen waste.
9. Occasionally partially dried leaves are fed as a treat to our laying hens.
10. If you sprain an ankle or wrist a poultice can speed recovery. Comfrey used to be called knitbone as the leaves were used to speed the setting of broken bones.

The quickest way of establishing a clump of comfrey is to obtain cuttings. There are several UK sources on the internet. Within Spain you may come across it in the northern regions. We occasionally have spare plants in the Spring but the cost of postage means that we have to charge 20 euros for five good cuttings. Contact us on if you would like some. You can also sometimes obtain seeds from Thompson and Morgan, Victoriana Nursery and Chiltern Seeds.
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe 2009.




GARDENFebruary is very much about completing the annual garden cutback and clean up, which hopefully you commenced during January – deciding on where to plant new trees next month and progressing construction projects such as raised beds, paths and terraces to keep warm.

PRUNINGWhen pruning around the flower garden do shred as much waste as possible and add to a compost heap. We only leave out cypressus, palms, yuccas and oleander prunings.
When pruning existing trees and thinking about new ones do think beyond whether they have nice leaves, flowers and fruit and ensure that you are also using them to provide for essential summer shade and sheltered winter sun spots for both people and the more delicate plants.
Like most, you probably came to Spain for the sunny weather so ensure that your garden design allows you to enjoy it to the full.
The generally sunny weather also enables one to grow an amazing diversity of fruit and vegetables for harvesting on every day of the year. Our books ‘ Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’ and ‘Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain’ describe the possibilities in detail. Most importantly the latter includes long sections on the selection, planting, pruning, spraying and feeding of fruit trees each being important tasks for February and March.
PLANTINGWhen planting new fruit trees do improve the soil before planting to provide the nutrients essential for early growth and to ensure that the soil is free draining in addition to being moisture retentive. Many fruit trees, especially citrus trees, never grow and fruit well in expatriate gardens because :
a. their roots never spread out from small planting holes in unprepared clayey soils,
b. the young roots are burnt by the over application of strong chemical fertilizers in an attempt to stimulate new growth, and
c. young roots become waterlogged in poorly draining soils and therefore rot away.
With forethought such problems are easily avoided.
When designing a network of paths and terraces do recognise that there are many possible surfaces. We discuss seventeen in chapter 2.4 of our book Your Garden in Spain – From planning to planting and maintenance. And don’t make them all straight and the same width. With a little forethought and creativity a wander round your garden can become magical whether a wooded or mountainside site covered in naturally growing herbs. Also recognise that paths are not only to walk on but can be used to move excess rain water around the garden to where needed most.

*The two books mentioned above can be obtained from many bookshops and internet bookshops. Do a search of ‘Clodagh Handscombe’ for a choice of the latter. If more convenient they can also be obtained by mail order from Santana Books on 952-485838 from 10.00 to 14.00 Monday to Friday.
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe January 2009.





EXERCISEHopefully January brings a month of sunny if cold weather as a welcome change to all the rain we had in the autumn. Crisp sunny days are just what one needs to get into the garden to work off the Christmas excess kilos, progress the laying out of new gardens and prepare established gardens for the Spring.
HEDGINGLuckily the following ten jobs will keep us warm on the coldest of days.

1.Get on with the major winter cut back and clean up. What needs doing is explained in Chapter 6.9 of Your Garden in Spain.
2.Old olive, almond and citrus trees will need heavy remedial prunings Younger ones and all other fruit trees will require annual prunings to stimulate flowers and sizeable fruit this year. Growing HealthyFruit in Spain details what needs doing.
3.Large flowering trees often need a major pruning every few years to ensure that they are not too large for the garden while ensuring that they still give sufficient shade in the summer.
4.If you don’t already have one prepare a raised bed or vegetable plot for sowing/planting up from March onwards.
Chapter …in Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain compares …ways of constructing raised beds.
5.Unless it’s freezing January is a good month to lay down terraces or paths whether with stone slabs or chippings laid over plastic sheeting.
6.Ponds and fountains add a special touch to Spanish gardens both by adding the relaxing and cooling sound of running water and for water /bog plants with exotic summer flowers that need no watering. Now is a good time to dig one out but make it twice as big as your first plan. We have enlarged both ours to ensure that the fish can still be seen when water lilies are fully leaved.

SEEDS7.Hedges are due for a thorough trim as part of the winter cutback.
8.Compost heaps need turning and filling with shredded prunings and weeds from the winter cut back. Last years fully composted heap can now be worked into flower and vegetable beds and used for mulching shrubs and trees.






PRUNING9.Major branches cut from trees need cutting, stacking and drying ready for burning next winter in the wood stove.
WATER FEATURE10. If you are an experienced builder how about building a garden kitchen ready for the Easter Monday paella and summer barbecues.


Suspect that’s more than enough winter work for even the most enthusiastic gardener handyman! Happy gardening in 2009 from the results of your efforts.

*Clodagh and Dick have now lived and gardened in Spain for twenty five years. They have collated much of their experience and ideas for your convenience in a trilogy of books titled Your Garden in Spain, Growing healthy Fruit in Spain and Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain. They are available from many bookshops and websites and by telephoning 952-485838 if you have no internet.
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe December 2008.




VEGFRUIT TREES GROW WELL IN SPANISH GARDENS By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe, Gardeners and authors living in Spain for over twenty years.

No Spanish garden or apartment terrace should be without fruit trees or plants. Even in less than a square metre it is possible to grow alpine or ordinary strawberries in a strawberry barrel or window box, and citrus, peach, apple, pear, pomegranate, avocado and fig trees on dwarf root stocks also grow perfectly well in containers provided you fill the containers with a rich in nutrients and water retaining/ well draining soil mix. Our experimental container is doing well and the orchard is doing well.
FRUITOnce in a larger garden it does not require much imagination to plant a dozen varieties of trees or plants and be able to harvest ones own ecological fruit crops on every day of the year.
Try the following for starters – apples, almond, apricot, fig, lemon, mandarin, persimmon, peach, plum, strawberries, raspberries, and walnuts.
If you combine the above with a vegetable raised bed or patch even in a moderate sized garden this can become your daily market for the fresh healthy fruit and vegetables, increasingly recommended by medical authorities. Spanish readers will immediately recognise what we are saying –i.e. return to the back yard or small holding of our grandparents – for what we recommend does not require a large orchard. Indeed, as many inland expatriates with 10.000 metre plots have discovered, how does one cope with the ripening fruit of several hundred trees when Spaniards are feeding surplus oranges to their sheep and goats as it is less expensive to do so than pay to harvest the fruit for very low prices.

Luckily many fruit trees have multiple benefits so they easily fit into mixed gardens for they are among the best trees for spring blossom, then the colouring fruit add interest followed by the vivid autumn leaf colours of the deciduous trees and finally the early winter colours of persimmons and pomegranates appear after the leaves have fallen.
As mentioned in our earlier columns and described in detail in our popular book Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain – From strawberries to oranges and water melons there are now many natural, ecological and organic ways of fertilising and spraying fruit trees bushes and plants against pests and diseases so one does not need to be concerned about residual chemicals on the skins.
Eating perfectly ripe fruit direct from the tree bush or plant is one of the delights of gardening in Spain . Fresh raspberries from May to October, figs during August and September apples during October and in a few weeks time tangerines are regular pre breakfast snacks for us when working early in our holistic garden. They are irresistible.

Thinking about citrus trees if you are in an area where they grow select early mid and late season varieties as it is possible to then harvest edible mandarins from October to May and a mature perpetual flowering/fruiting lemon tree can supply a years supply of lemons for gin and tonics and lemon sorbets.
By the way the book includes over seventy fruits so there are plenty to chose from whether gardening on the coast or inland and at sea a thousand metres up.
‘Growing healthy fruit in Spain’ as well as ‘Growing healthy vegetables in Spain’ and
‘Your garden in Spain’ can be purchased by mail order for convenience direct from
the publishers on or 952-485838.
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe 0ctober 2008.




PLANTING UP INDIGINOUS NATIVE PLANTS By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe, Gardeners and authors living in Spain for over twenty years.




During our twenty years of gardening in Spain we have seen many changes ranging from the establishment of new airports, the motorway system, widened and hard surfaces for rural roads, an increase in forest fires, hundreds of new garden centres often with major stocks of imported plants, a ten fold increase in the number of non Spaniards living in Spain from 400,000 to 4 million and the number of holiday visitors from 4 to 40 million. The latter of course has led to the increase in urbanisations and golf courses and the clearing of areas of naturally growing indigenous plants but of course it has also led to an increase in the number of people willing to purchase and renovate old rural properties in depopulated areas. Many of these properties are surrounded by areas of native plants and for others planting them instead of struggling to establish the new imported subtropical plants that require richer soil and more water is a sensible alternative. And also of course for anyone on an urbanisation interested in re-establishing native species lost by fires, new roads and construction.




Luckily there are now nurseries stocking locally grown native plants and by chance Cultidelta one of the best is based in Delta del Ebro just on the doorstep for readers of The Olive Press. We visited them last month and were amazed at their large and diverse stocks – some 350 species in the current stocking list that we were given . Cultidelta ( ,tels 977053013 and 699906456) was established to supply trees, shrubs and smaller plants primarily to regional and local councils replanting hillsides and coastal dunes to prevent erosion but they do sell to the expatriate gardener. By the way if you spend 30 euros on a subscription (30 euros for those over 65 and 50 euros for those not yet retired) to the organisation Fundem you can obtain a 20% reduction on the already reasonable prices. Fundem is a private foundation established to purchase and replant and manage historically important rural land and properties with members subscriptions. The time to plant native plants is from now to late spring but the demand for their plants will mean that if you leave it late to order plants many species will be sold out. By March their field and greenhouses of trays and containers of plants looks empty And they start to grow for the next season from seeds and cuttings.



The only constraint is that not all plants are in individual containers. Many are in trays of 30 or 40 plants but native plants are often best planted in blocks for effect and in any case if you have 5000 or more square metres of land you will need such numbers of plants to make an impact. One alternative is to place an order with friends and perhaps through a local gardening or social club. Any expat working as a landscape gardener will find Celtidelta an invaluable source of plants.
So consider the use of a wider collection of native plants than we were able to include in the list of the 400 most popular native, naturalised and imported plants listed in our book ‘Your Garden in Spain- Planning planting and maintenance’ when making your next plantings.

It is not only native trees, shrubs and plants that are being lost but also the local cultivation of vegetables and fruit. Our other two books were therefore written to help you grow your own here in Spain. The growing of over a hundred types of vegetable and 70 types of fruit are described so there are plenty to chose from whether living on the coastal strip or in a frosty inland location. The titles of these two books are ‘ Growing healthy fruit in Spain’ and ‘Growing healthy vegetables in Spain’. For convenience if not living near a bookshop they can be ordered on You will find they also publish many other books re living in Spain.

© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe October 2008.











OLIVE OILWith Their twisted trunks and grey-green leaves a well maintained olive grove is one of the delights of Southern Catalunya. The Olive is one of the oldest known cultivated trees on earth, being grown on Crete 2500 years B.C. It is therefore viewed as one of civilised man's first accomplishments: so what better way to demonstrate how civilized we are than by continuing to care for this wonderful legacy.
Owning an olive farm and producing your own olive oil has become an increasingly popular, perhaps romantic quest for many. Being armed with some vital facts about olive maintenance and production will help you to get the most out of your trees both for visual enjoyment and in terms of producing your own 'liquid gold', ( olive oil)
The role of pruning.
Olive trees require regular shaping and pruning. This makes harvesting easier and helps to regulate production. For optimum production light pruning yearly is recommended. However the olive tree can also withstand radical pruning if it has been neglected for many years. A neglected olive tree will appear 'bushy' with numerous upright suckers and a scant fruit yield. Once pruned it will grow new, productive shoots which will produce fruits the following year. Another, perhaps overlooked reason to prune regularly is to save soil water, a critical factor in non- irrigated orchards. You should feel confidant that the person you choose to prune your trees has the required knowledge and experience. Don't be afraid to ask for their credentials or seek recommendations from their existing customers.
In general pruning can be carried out from Autumn to the first months of Spring. A licence to burn will need to be applied for at your local ajuntament (Town Hall), ask for a 'Permisso per foc'. This is straightforward and free. Burning of the olive brash is the usual form of disposal and due to the fire risk it is advisable to dispose of all brash prior to the usual cut-off period for the licence. Use of a wood- chipper is also a possibility and the ensuing wood chips can be composted and used as a mulch around trees to reduce weed growth, ( provided they are regularly topped up.) Any larger pieces of wood can be stored and seasoned for a year and used as firewood. Seasoned olive wood burns as well as oak.


Weed control.
Weeds exercise strong competition for moisture and nutrients and therefore need to be kept in check. Many growers now prefer a more holistic, nature friendly method as concerns for the environment and food quality become more paramount. To keep weeds under check you will need to have your land ploughed at least yearly. Economical use of ploughing will actually stimulate the growth of some, less invasive, wild flowers , such as the poppy. On some very stony or steeply terraced ground this may not be possible and strimming may be the only viable option if you are to avoid resorting to herbicides.
An abandoned olive grove is a sorry sight but an overly sanitised grove, regularly washed down with herbicide and without a single wild flower would be viewed by many as equally undesirable, ( particularly the wild-life that it can no longer sustain.) If a sensible and balanced approach are employed then you should be rewarded with a beautiful olive grove, a good olive crop and the pleasure of seeing abundant spring flowers and butterflies, surely a sign of good maintenance?

Pest control.
The olive fly is considered the most serious of the olive pests in this region and action may need to be taken to deter it from June when the female fly deposits her eggs beneath the skin of the olive fruit. The larva (maggot) feeds upon the fruit tissue causing it to drop off the tree. Insect control includes the use of bait sprays and the trapping of flies. ( You may have seen containers hanging from the trees, which contain the liquid used to bait and trap them.


Olives are harvested from November until March, six to eight months after their Spring blossoms appear. The insignificant looking flower is pollinated by both insects and wind. The traditional method of harvesting involves knocking the branches with long wooden poles, the olives then fall on to nets extended around the trees and are picked from the ground. Manual harvesting can be improved by using a hand held pneumatic comb assembled on a telescopic rod. A tractor mounted shaker can also be used. Caution is required however as if not used expertly there is a risk of damaging the base of the tree which can weaken the tree and leave it prone to disease.

Once collected your olives must be rushed to the mill in their crates for same day, or at most, next day pressing. Olives not pressed immediately begin to oxidise and ferment. The minimum amount required for pressing is normally 300kgs. Check out your local mill for details on pricing, containers and booking in slot before you harvest. Like wine no two olive oils are alike. Each has its own unique character, depending on the soil, climate, olive varieties, age and processing methods. Oils can be fruity or flowery, nutty or spicy, delicate or mild and can range from clear to pale green, to golden to deep olive-green in colour!
What can be more satisfying than enjoying the fruits of your labour- your very own single estate olive oil. Poured over a salad or perhaps transforming a wedge of bread into 'pa amb tomata' with a dribble of your own olive oil- enjoy!



By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe gardeners, authors* and broadcasters living in Spain for over twenty years.

Most expatriates move to Spain with the intention of a less stressful and healthy outdoor life than the one experienced in northern Europe. However that is not always achieved and at times the design and maintenance practices of the garden are often the cause. We therefore list some of the things to be avoided.

NO PESTICIDE1.Ensure the air is fresh and safe for the family , pets and wildlife. These day’s bio/eco/ organic soil improvers, fertilizers, insecticides and fungicides are available to replace the more hazardous chemical products. Each of our books gives practical guidelines in this respect. If you cannot find eco products available locally try

2.Don’t garden beyond your current level of fitness until you have built up strength and stamina in the local mountains as well as moving earth and rocks. If you have purchased an enormous piece of land for isolation, peace and a low price and it is too large just develop a manageable area around the house and leave the rest to go wild within the local fire regulations which may require you to strim it once a year.

3.Get used to working early and late to avoid the midday sun…and wear a woven straw hat which has a cooling effect. The hat will also help you become accepted by the locals.

ERGONOMIC TOOLS4.Use ergonomic tools , especially secateurs and mattocks and minimise the use of a fork , spade and pickaxe. Get help with the heavier jobs.

VEG5.Grow healthy vegetables from day one so that they can be enjoyed while the garden is carved out ..which could take a number of years! Like wise plant a few fruit trees early on for the benefit of their blossom as well as fruit.

6.Avoid the need to constantly use insecticides and fungicides by avoiding the over watering of plants, especially the more drought resistant plants (see Part Four of our book Your Garden in Spain).

BOTTLEBRUSH7.If you are allergic to pollens don’t plant pines, bottlebrush , acacia and male carob trees.

8.Plant plenty of aromatic herbs for their aromatherapeutic effects, as well as healthy culinary and medicinal uses. We will discuss this in more detail in a later article.

9.Avoid spiky plants that can cause accidents alongside terraces and paths or avoid altogether especially if children are likely to visit.

10.Ensure you retain or plant trees and large shrubs for summer shade and sheltered winter sun.

11.Wear knee pads or kneelers when doing low work. Rocks are rough, there may have been Processionary caterpillars in the spring and spiky things often await a fleshy knee.

12. Keep a container of cool water handy when working especially on hot days. Traditional earthenware water containers are useful in this respect.

13.Warm up with gentle exercise on cold days before starting to garden.
Happy gardening until next month.

Clodagh and Dick have gardened and lived in Spain for over twenty years. They now have a maturing garden and large allotment also keeping poultry and rabbits for self sufficiency. There three latest books* will be of interest to readers and are most easily obtained via the websites or or by telephone on 952485838 if you have no computer connection.
*Your garden in Spain,
Growing healthy fruit in Spain, and
Growing healthy vegetables in Spain
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe July 2008.



By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe gardeners, authors* and broadcasters living in Spain for over twenty years.


The Mediterranean coast and inland valleys and mountainsides are in general wonderful places to live and garden. The generally benign climate, the wonderful native plants and imported subtropical plants make gardening and al fresco meals and siestas possible on most days of the year. But there are risks! Many face the challenge of poor shallow rocky soils and everyone can expect maximum and minimum temperatures well above and below those communicated by many tourist boards and real estate agents and the occasional shocks of monsoon rains and summer hail storms. We once had 68 centimetres of rain in a day of which 24 fell in an hour resulting in some nearby thousand year old terraces being damaged for the first time. Last night we had for the first time in twenty years 15 minutes of tennis ball sized hail stones that have decimated our 150 tomato plants, climbing beans, squashes and raspberries. Those who were in Spain in February 2005 will remember the worst frosts for 50 years that affected gardens from the Pyrenees to Gibraltar. Ours was blackened but now that plants have recovered one would not know that such things can happen.

flowersHaving faced such challenges ourselves and learned much the hard way we are happy to help the readers of The Olive Press though monthly articles and our books*. Month by month we will look at seasonal topics related to the herb, flower, fruit and vegetable gardens as week as the benefits of livestock if you have space.

If you have a special topic you would like us to cover please send your requests to

Being now August ask yourselves how well your garden has enabled you to live a relaxed outdoor lifestyle and list the changes you need to make during the autumn and winter. For starters do you have sufficient summer shade and sheltered spots in which to enjoy the winter sun out of the wind? Have you planted easy to care for native plants totally suited to the microclimate of your garden or have you planted too many thirsty summer annuals and subtropical plants that might struggle through even the first winter? Our book Your Garden in Spain – From planning to planting and maintenance includes descriptions of some 400 practical plants including an indication of their frost and drought resistances and for most a photograph. If you have taken over a deserted orchard or piece of mountainside do make the best of the wild plants that exist as well as any features such as rocky outcrops, dried up streams and ancient gnarled trees.

Clodagh and Dick have gardened and lived in Spain for over twenty years. They now have a maturing garden and large allotment also keeping poultry and rabbits for self sufficiency.

There three latest books* will be of interest to readers and are most easily obtained via the websites or or by telephone on 952485838 if you have no computer connection.
*Your garden in Spain,
Growing healthy fruit in Spain, and
Growing healthy vegetables in Spain
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe July 2008.





•Height 3 - 7m
•Frost tolerance High Partial
•Pollination required Partial
•Evergreen/Deciduous Deciduous
•Harvest period February - April

pomegranatePomegranate, Punica granatum An ornamental shrub producing fruit with a hard, leathery deep red or yellow rind. When opened the fruit exposes shimmering translucent kernels. The juicy flesh is tart-sweet and surrounds nutlike seeds that are edible and add a bit of a crunch to the overall texture. Pomegranates store extremely well in a cool dry place and continue to sweeten off the tree. The plant itself is very hardy and highly ornamental, it has large showy flowers and is suitable for use as a feature plant, for hedges and container growing. Pomegranite shrubs can also makes an attractive and interesting bonsai specimen. A shrub or small tree to about 4 m, the pomegranate is multi stemmed, spiny and extremely long lived. Plants are usually pruned to form a short but well defined trunk allowing 4 or 5 shoots to develop into a multi branched form. Pomegranate is not fussy about soil condition, in its native environment in Northern India and Iran it is found growing in rocky gravel.

Pomegranates can be slow to get established in heavy soils. They respond well to pruning and regular high nitrogen feedings after flowering and fruiting are finished. Hand pollination of flowers helps cropping. Always keep them moist and plant somewhere in full sun. During the winter months, when the tree is dormant, prune it to shape and remove growth that goes straight up, to encourage the round, open canopy that will produce the most fruit.

Pomegranates are relatively easy to grow. They are not expensive to buy and produce many fruits. They reportedly contain up to 3 times more antioxidants than any other fruit. Antioxidants are the naturally occurring substances that quench the body of free radicals, therefore protecting vital tissues from damage. The fruit contains polyphenols, tannins and anthocyanins - all compounds that could have beneficial effects. Packed with Vitamins A, C, E and Iron, the pomegranate fruit has been cultivated since pre-historic times.







Why do people move to Spain ? Mainly to escape the rat race, enjoy the lovely weather, good food and let's not forget the wine is cheap ! After a while the reality of living here sets in and you also end up being far busier than ever intended. Therefore when it comes down to relaxing you want to make the most of it.

The sun is out, it's a perfect day, but there is a problem ! You're just too hot, flies all over your food and ones even doing the back stroke in your G&T! To add insult to injury you've just been bitten by a mosquito in a place you wish it hadn't !?

Well there is something you can do to help. We at Perfect Cool sell a range of products designed to keep you cool outside, whilst eliminating those pesky flies and other winged menaces who you didn't invite to the BBQ anyway!

So how does it work, you ask?
Our highly efficient and low energy systems use high pressure water which is nebulized into a fine mist. On contact with air it instantly evaporates producing a 10 degree drop in temperature. This keeps you cool and dry, with the added benefit of eliminating flies, mosquitoes, pollen and dust!
Why not really enjoy your outside space this summer !


Where to use it?
You can use “Perfect Cool” systems in a wide variety of situations, and in particular where the use of conventional air conditioners would not give adequate results or would be too expensive: verandas, theme parks, warehouses, wine cellars, hotels, restaurants, discotheques, beach centres, sport facilities, pedestrian precincts, events, workshops, showrooms, factories with hot environments, gymnasiums… “Perfect Cool” systems can be installed either outdoors or indoors. Our technical office can work together with you to cerate any kind of project.







back to top of page


Perfect Advertising for Solar power Suppliers, independent Financial Advisors, Vets, Security, Architects, Surveyors, Translators, Insurance Agents, Removals, Travel agents, Storage, Lawyers, Builders, D.I.Y, Plumbers, Car Repairs, Tax Advisors, Air Con, Heating, Computer, Printing, Broadband, Satellite TV, Mortgages and Loans, Estate Agents, Pool Supplies, Dentists, Doctors, Restaurants, Bars, Hotels, Leisure Pursuits…etc…etc.

Looking for a business then visit our business directory online.

Catalunya biz

Please also visit our sister site for all businesses in Catalunya



Please note this website has nothing to do with The Olive Press magazine from January 2012 which is under a different ownership.

The aim of the WEBSITE is to provide readers with various articles some serious some humorous so that there is something of interest for everyone. We have found since moving here from the South of Spain that there is a lack of places to promote and advertise any business you may have. We are therefore offering this WEBSITE as a solution.

We welcome any suggestions of what you would like to see in the WEBSITE. Any articles of local interest or details of upcoming events can be submitted.

We are glad to see people are visiting our web site regularly. Please check the classified and business directory pages as these are updated as and when during the month.
There is also additional subjects and information about living in spain on the web site.

Back to top of page


mozillaIf you have trouble viewing this web site in Internet explorer then try a new browser. Mozilla firefox is similar to use, free and more secure.

Website produced by

Copyright ©.All rights reserved. No part of the material protected by this copyright notice may be reproduced or utilized in any form, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the copyright owner. No adverts or artwork in the Olive Press Catalunya magazine or Always Mañana or Catalunya Biz web sites may be reproduced or used for print, media or web in part or in their entirety without the express permission of the Catalunya Biz. Adverts and logos remain the property of the magazine and this website. To use any artwork please contact us.

Disclaimer: Always Mañana does not accept responsibility for the contents of the articles supplied by contributors nor for the claims made by advertisers. If you wish to give us some feedback about a client, please contact us.