Although in northern climates we consider November as a winter month, here in the Mediterranean we are still enjoying an Indian summer as quoted last week. Tuesday the 3rd of this month is Saint Martin’s day and these few late summer days are attributed to him as ‘el veranillo de San Martin’. So let’s take advantage of these few late summer days by preparing for next spring and what winter there will be. Yes there is always a little winter, not quite as harsh as in the north but we are always advised to prepare for the worst.
By the worst, I mention here the winter winds that blow with real force from the north over the mountain range giving them the names of Tramuntana (across the mountain) and of course the famous cold artic wind that we all learnt at school blows down the Rhone valley, across the Gulf of Lions and hits Minorca full on as well as quite a lot of the north and eastern side of Majorca, the Mistral. Take a look at the mosaic in the centre of Puerto Pollensa church square and there you will find the names of all the winter winds, just a little geography lesson but quite interesting.
So, you may well ask, what has the winter wind to do with gardening in Majorca? Here we are told to really look after our trees especially if they are young ones. Be sure to bank up a little extra soil, well heeled in and then sturdy supporting stakes secured around the trunk to avoid ‘wind rock’ that can kill any young tree by rocking its roots loose and in other more mature trees break branches or even blow the whole tree over. It does all sound rather dramatic but a real Mistral wind will blow for several days, it is said to be usually an uneven number of days, three, five or seven days which can really do some damage. Take a look at some of the north east facing coast line and a lot of Minorca and you will see just how many of the trees have been bent over by the wind. So it is up to you to try to keep the trees in your own garden in an upright position.
Some ornamental trees that are still heavy with leaf can be helped by cutting them back to avoid them breaking branches just where you don’t want the to. It wont be too long before you are aware of the local Municiple gardeners drastically cutting back the trees along our pavements and in the town squares. You may well notice as well that some of the vinyards will be coming under the knife or pruning sheers. The grape only forms on new wood so it is essential to take the vines right back to the main trunk every year just leaving a couple of buds for next years growth. Naturally a vinyard has miles of vines to cut back so will surely be starting soon, probably your own grape vine in the back garden will take only a short while but all the same, it must be done to ensure a good crop of grapes next year.
Planting up in the vegetable garden can still be done with all those spring vegetables that will germinate in the still warm earth. I have mentioned balcony gardening and one fun vegetable to try in a pot is the runner bean as we know it, they are called that, or green beans or scarlet runners because if their scarlet flowers. You will need a fairly large flower pot, plant the beans evenly spaced all around the rim and then put long canes or such like supporting sticks for the beans to climb up, make this a wig-wam shape tied tightly together at the top. You can even use long lengths of string anchored around the rim of the pot and taken up to something high to be tied together in this same wig-wam form. When the beans are ready to harvest you will probably only need to pick two or three off at a time for a nice plate of fresh green beans. The support is the main thing beans need both in a pot or in the garden to encourage them up off the ground.
Whilst still on the balcony lets make sure there are some ornamental plants that will survive the winter. Spider plant /Chlorophytum is probably one of the easiest pot plants ever. Once you have one established it can look wonderful in a hanging basket or just overflowing any pot it is planted in and does wonderfully well in the gaden. The clump of long grass shaped green leaves with a creamy/white stripe all along it really looks a picture with the long stalks where the little clusters of leaves grow on but the most insignificant tiny white flowers. The little clusters when they touch the ground often take root forming new plants. Their roots are thick and fleshy allowing them to become a real perrenial that goes on for ever with tolerance to the warm dry summer weather. I am told it is not an outdoor plant in northern gardens but here I can assure you it will fill any spare corner of the garden always looking good and can even be totally forgotted and still survive.
· Planting up in the vegetable garden can still be done with all those spring vegetables that will germinate in the still warm earth.
· On the balcony lets make sure there are some ornamental plants that will survive the winter. Spider plant /Chlorophytum is probably one of the easiest pot plants ever.