In a new series we’ll be talking to gardeners on Lanzarote, finding out how they deal with the unique conditions on this island and sharing some favourite tips and favourite plants.
Our first garden guru is Lauren Osadci, who runs the Greensleeves garden care company from Playa Blanca.
Lauren, for anyone starting a new garden, what is the most important factor that should be addressed?
The wind. Soil, watering and other factors are also important, but the wind is the one that must be addressed. It depends on where you live, of course – some places are more sheltered than others. Most gardens will have a wall that provides shelter, and you can also use other plants, such as agaves, to create windbreaks or build your own.
Once you have protection, smaller plants that otherwise wouldn’t survive can be grown. You can start with tougher species such as geraniums , which provide reliable flowers.
What about the soil on the island?
In the north the soil is good, and that’s why a lot of the agriculture on the island takes place there. But other parts of the island have poor soil, and you’ll often find soil with a lot of sand in it. Sand is made of eroded rocks and shells, which don’t provide much nutrition and this soil isn’t really suitable for many plants.
What do you use?
I’ll buy compost soil from a garden centre and generally mix it in a ratio of 50:50 or 60:40 with the soil that’s already there.
How about fertiliser?
You can buy specialist fertiliser for different types of plants, which is useful. For example, there are types high in nitrogen for citrus and fruit trees. When a plant is producing fruit it needs special care and protection, like a pregnant woman, and this fertiliser provides the necessary nutrition.
Other plants, such as olive trees, require different fertilisers and it’s worth investigating what’s on offer.
How important is watering?
Very important. I think if you have a big enough garden it’s well worth investing in a watering system. The tubes are pretty cheap, and you can instal a timer to water the plants even while you’re away. You’ll need to experiment, as water pressure can vary around the island.
What about pests?
The worst ones on the island are cochinilla and white fly. All gardeners have to deal with these, and I’ve used various treatments, from chemicals to soaps. Treatments usually last about three or four weeks.
Have you had any accidents with spiky plants?
Oh yes. My arm once went black after cactus spikes went through my sleeve, and I’ve got thorns in my hands all the time. You have to take care, especially when working on spiky plants such as Lanzarote aloe veras or when pruning palm trees – I’ll wear goggles and gloves to do this.
“My most important piece of advice before you even start would be to plan your garden according to different plant families. Many people just mix up all types of plants and end up giving them the same fertiliser and water. But different families of plants have very different requirements, and this can be controlled much more easily if you keep them separate.”
If I had to choose it’d probably be the Espina de Cristo (Crown of Thorns – Euphorbia milii). It’s a really tough, resistant plant with spiky stem and lots of small flowers – usually red, but also available in pink, purple and yellow varieties. You pay more for the rarer varieties, of course, but I save money by buying them when they’re smaller. The flowers are beautiful and always cheer me up.
You can contact Lauren at the Greensleeves Facebook page, or call 640 27 11 70.
You don’t have to be an expert to be a Gazette Garden Guru! If you’d like to share your experiences of gardening on the island, and maybe even share some pictures of your garden or plants, contact us at email@example.com.
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