the Prickly Pear

the Prickly Pear.

16-05-2021ALAA BADARNEH - EFE - EPA

As we move well into this lovely month of May we can’t help but think of the flowers both the wild ones in the countryside and those in the garden.

Along with this a delightful little poem comes to my mind from my childhood.

The kiss of the Sun for pardon

The song of the birds for mirth One is nearer God’s heart in a garden

Than anywhere else on earth.

Forget the occasional rainy days, we need them in any case as they make the grass grow greener and encourage newly planted seeds to germinate in the warm soil.

Yes there is still plenty of time to sow seeds for both the vegetable garden and for the flower beds, in fact many of these seeds do far better going directly into the soil where you want them than in a seed tray to be later transplanted.

We can bear in mind that frosty nights are not a threat here, there may be the occasional drop in temperature or cooler night but nothing like freezing and the soil itself seems to keep an even temperature.

the vegetable garden

I frequently handle the soil with my bare hands when I am working and am quite surprised at just how warm the soil can feel. So continue to plant up the vegetables you most like to nurture in your own garden, many of them will germinate in about eight to ten days, the slowest of all to germinate are the root vegetables like carrots as well as celery.
It is all a matter of patience and keeping the slugs and snails away from the tender new growth.

The ornamental garden need not only depend on annual flowers but an interesting collection of succulents and cacti can fill any corner be it directly into the garden or in pots on a terrace.

Both of these really thrive here both with the temperature and the summer lack of rain due to their fleshy stems and leaves that hold the moisture in during the long hot summers.
This does not mean that they never need watering but certainly need less than many other plants. Something else in their favour is that they take root so easily from a simple cutting or even just a leaf snapped off and popped into the soil.

There are those like the Aloe family that have medical properties and I would almost go so far as to say they are a ‘must’ for any garden or terrace. The sap from the snipped off end of a piece of Aloe is a wonderful stimulant for itchy mosquito bites so always keep a potted Aloe on hand.

They actually grow wild just about everywhere which is a good enough indication that just about anyone can nurture this Succulent, in fact it has now become an important crop grown commercially to be used as the basis for shower gel, deodorants and many body creams and lotions as well as for medicinal purposes so rest assured, you can use it directly from the plant in the garden if the dreaded mosquitos get at you whilst outside working.

Succulent

Some succulents will root easily stood in a pot of water but most take root popped directly into the soil where you want them, you can make an interesting mixture of colours and textures, all sorts of different greens, yellows and even reds - and that's just the stems and leaves.

Their flowers are a different story altogether, some very insignificant little clusters of blooms on their stems, others like the large bloom on the Epihylum cactus and they are all so easy to grow that it is worthwhile adding a few succulents and cacti to the garden or terrace.

Many of the Cactus family have very sharp prickles so be careful where they are planted especially where there are children around because much of this growth can be at face height.

Having said that, they are a fun addition to the garden that even have fruit like the Prickly Pear growing on what looks like Micky Mouse ears.

Both of these families of plants can be considered Mediterranean plants that thrive outdoors all year round where as in a northern garden would need to be moved indoors during the winter months, even the coldest of winters here they keep growing and need very little work once established other than cutting back from time to time if they become too enthusiastic.

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