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October in the garden

By Dick Handscombe
Holistic gardener and author living in Spain for 25 years.

With cooler but generally sunny weather so far and the softer soil after late September and early October rains the month will be a busy garden month for me. Busy for four main reasons.
Firstly I did little gardening during September as it remained hot and I had planned three weeks of other activity.

• A restful week of carp fishing for on the Ebro. No personal best this time but a 45lb carp matched my second best and my guiding friend Nick Shattock caught a personal best of 56 pounds. Bigger fish were hooked but lost on the many invisible old tree trunk snags in midstream where the original bank of the river was before the reservoir we fished had been flooded. The amazing night skies reminded one of how local agriculturalists used to study, prior to home and street lighting and television, the patterns and movement of the moon planets and stars to determine the best days for sowings, plantings, prunings, cutting canes, mating animals etc.. When we check the dates in our purchased lunar calendar with those of the older villagers there’s are uncannily similarity.

• A six day tour of Cantabria with a village pensioners coach party. Not only was it historically and scenically interesting for it provided a useful check on the extent of ecological fruit and vegetable growing. Although much of the traditional coastal horticulture of the warm coastal strip, which rarely goes below 4 or 5 degrees in the winter, had ceased as the land was now under new hotels and holiday home urbanisations remaining smallholders and city hobby growers were growing ecological vegetables for sale in weekly markets. But at a price – tomatoes for instance were 4 euros a kilo! But there was a great initiative in the Isla peninsula as this area has been turned into a regional park to control new buildings and to encourage the return of traditional rural activities to help the jobless situation. Red pepper growing was noiw doing well and the weekend before we arrived there had been a red pepper fiesta with markets, visits to growers and a common menu del dia with red peppers in all starters and main courses.

• A week spent polishing a long overdue book about our 52 day trek through the Spanish Pyrenees. This should now be available next month from Amazon Books.

Secondly the recent humid subtropical jungle conditions stimulated lantanas bougainvilleas bignonias and tall salvias into exceptional growth during my absence and they needed an urgent trimming to have paths clear before holding a paella party in the garden last Sunday.


Thirdly with temperatures still reaching the mid-twenties centigrade it’s a great time for entertaining in the garden for plants are full of their autumn flush of flowers and greens are brightly coloured having had the summer dust washed off. Naturally having published my book ‘Your personal guide to making Authentic Valencian Paellas’ a few months ago the first festive day was a paella party with ten friends of seven nationalities. It went down well and another is planned in ten days’ time.

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