A sleepy garden.

Happy new year and decade! How did that happen? It seems like only five minutes ago that we were all busily preparing millennium parties and waiting for all the computer systems to crash at midnight! Yet another Christmas season has been and gone and after a few wonderful days in Scotland with the children, I took Benny up to the huerto as it must have been feeling rather neglected. I planned to do some weeding and to be cheered by the abundance of bean plants, peas, kale, cabbage and onions that had surely come on in my absence. The weather here is perfect for being out doors , blue skies and sunshine with a top temperature of around 17 C. Not dissimilar to a Scottish summer day! However it goes down to around 3 or 4 C at night . Higher up from us, there have been frosts reported! In my ignorance, I assumed that the autumn rain and day time sunshine would be enough to bring on our winter crops. You might also remember that my huerto buddy and I ignored the wisdom of native gardeners and kept our summer crops going right up until October. It seemed such a waste to pull them out and throw them on the compost heap .

Meanwhile, our Spanish neighbours had done just that , turned over their plots, fed them from the very successful compost bins and planted their winter crops in September! After the Autumn storms and torrential rain, the soil was wonderfully workable but also much cooler! The September planters got the remaining summer warmth plus the rain. By the time we winter planted,everything had slowed down! When I went up last Sunday, the garden was not asleep like my garden would have been in Scotland at this time of year but it is most definitely dozing! There is kale and some chard to pick, even a few peppers hanging on from the summer and plenty of lettuce… it seems to like the cold nights. However all our other winter planting is coming along very, very slowly. We have three tiny broccoli heads, tiny pea shoots and the habas ( beans) that usually take over are toddling along, not even flowering yet! I am sitting in the garden writing this with the sun shade up and still puzzling over how it can be so warm during the day and yet the growth is so slow. My plan to weed didn’t even happen, the weeds have fallen asleep as well!

I think that this is a humbling reminder of how I am not a native and how much I still have to learn about growing in this part of Spain. Many of you will have bought salad, tomatoes and peppers from supermarkets this winter, they very likely will have been grown here in Murcia but not out side. The eyesore poly tunnels that cover much of the coastline between us and Almeria are the reason for the availability of what is normally out of season produce. Cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli all do grow well out side but only it would seem , if planted in September. Lesson learned. This year we will try to copy the locals even if our tomato plants are still fruiting. It will be hard but then we may be more successful in keeping produce going all winter.

Benny had a nice mosey around the huerto, the air was fresh and clear, the sky a perfect blue and of course the sun was shining. I will just have to be patient and hope the garden wakes up before it’s time to clear out the winter plants and start all over again with the summer ones!

Marigolds and lavender still going strong in the huerto, it’s winter but not as we Northern Europeans know it!

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