Cultivating a beautiful Mediterranean garden
Gardening in the eastern extreme of the Andalucian province of Malaga, Spain, may seem like a dream come true. Lots of sunshine, no frost, and higher temperatures certainly seem to be ideal conditions to grow almost anything you please. It also means that you can garden almost year round. However, the dry summers and variable rainfall levels can make growing your garden much more difficult than it first seems. Cultivating a beautiful Mediterranean garden…what do you have to keep in mind?
This article was contributed by worx.com
Gardening in a Mediterranean climate
Most of Andalusia has a typical Mediterranean climate: hot dry summers, mild winters with unreliable rainfall, short springs and longer autumns. The weather is all influenced by the closeness of the sea. Similar climates are found in other parts of the world, such as in South Africa’s western cape, the central and southern Californian coast and Fremantle on the south coast of Western Australia. This variety provides gardeners with a wide range of plants from afar that will do well in their Spanish gardens.
The contrasting landscapes of the area support varying microclimates that can influence how well particular plants will do in a garden. Small changes in altitude, north versus south facing properties, and the availability of water and nutrients in the soil will all influence what works best in your garden. Altitude is the largest contributing factor for localized differences in climate. Just 30 meters higher or lower on a hill equates to a change similar to the differences found in properties 100 km apart on ground level. It is useful to remember that spring always comes earlier at a lower altitude than a higher one.
Along with an awareness of your property’s microclimate, broader consideration for the resources your garden will need should be taken into account before purchasing plants. This will also help you to design a garden that works best for you and the landscape. Water availability is a prime concern. In fact, having more than a single source is a bonus. If you’re relying on underground sources such as wells, it is essential that a mechanism for drawing water to your garden is in place.
Urban areas are likely to be warmer than rural ones due to concrete and buildings absorbing heat through the day. Inland areas are typically warmer in the day but drop to lower temperatures at night in winter than coastal plots. North-facing yards are cooler in winter but south facing gardens are subjected to hot, dry winds from the Sahara in summer months.
The soil profile in the hills is generally of a sticky clay consistency with high levels of lime and splintered rock. A new Mediterranean garden should be supported with the addition of sand, topsoil, and manure. Heavier clays should be lightened by adding river gravel along with manure and compost from garden and house waste. Lower-lying coastal areas are likely to have sandy soil profiles, needing loam and humus added to them to make for a better texture.
Plants to cultivate in a Mediterranean garden
The Mediterranean staples of bougainvillea, hibiscus, jasmine, and succulents will all grow well in the area. However, if you are looking to plant more exotic shrubs or flowers, shade and water will both be essential. Walkways or sections of garden lined with posts or wire frames and covered with climbing vines and plants are the perfect way to influence which plants your garden can accommodate. Doing so will also create the perfect amount of shade needed to entertain or place a garden lounger in.
For people interested in growing their own food, Spain is a dream come true. Fruits, nuts, vegetables and herbs can all be grown here. Some varieties – such as lettuce and spinach – will continue to thrive year round. Climbing peas and other flowering vegetables can be used to create attractive vine covered arbours that won’t attract wasps like the grape variety often do. Once the idiosyncrasies of your garden’s climate have been considered and tools such as a lawn mower, hedge trimmer and leaf blower have been bought, the design options and scope for planting are almost limitless.