Stop Press: Just launched - My new eBook - Beginner's Guide to Growing your Own Vegetables in Cyprus
Cyprus may have gorgeous weather most of the time but gardening here is not easy. While we have generally mild conditions in the winter months, the intense heat of summer literally fries many plants, making a productive vegetable garden a real challenge.
Now I'm not the most experienced gardener, but I love going to Cyprus garden centres to see what plants are available and, when I moved to the island, I really wanted to try my hand at growing vegetables here too.
I've learned a lot over the last 15 years through lots of trial and error, so here are some tips from a local, relatively inexperienced gardener...who, by the way, has managed to crack growing cherry tomatoes as you can see:
My Cyprus cherry tomatoes
Here are some top tips having used a local Cyprus gardening centre to help us "landscape" our newly-built house 15 years ago:
Plants in Cyprus grow ten times faster than anything you may have grown in the UK.
The common Cyprus shrub, by which I mean anything "bush-like" that takes your fancy in your local Cypriot garden centre, will need ENORMOUS amounts of cutting with a pair of heavy dutypruning shears. And believe me, pruning hard woody branches takes forever!
Take the beautiful purple solano bush (see picture further on), for instance. I have to prune these bushes at least six times a year or they would literally take over the place!
Do NOT just buy plants that look pretty and colourful. Check whether they need lots of water AND check to see how big they will grow.
Most Cyprus holiday property is filled with colourful bougainvillea and other Cypriot shrubs which grow like wildfire, need lots of irrigation water and soon make your holiday home in Cyprus look like a jungle.
Which means you need to employ a gardener if you want your holidays in your Cyprus villa to BE a holiday and not a week filled with household chores and gardening each time you visit!
We employed a local Cypriot gardener to recommend plants for our plot. He chose Cyprus plants that did not need much water once established and also plants that would not grow too big. Even then, I had to spend a fair bit of time in the garden to keep all the plants under control!
Growing vegetables here is also very difficult. I have found that large tomatoes need shade as well as sun in high summer as it's simply too hot and the best time to grow green vegetables is during the winter months.
My best attempts at growing vegetables in year one were my chilli and pepper collections - they don't mind the searing summer temperatures at all and made my amateur gardening attempts all worthwhile. Now I'm known locally as the chilli queen!
Fast growing shrubs means you will end up with a LOT of leaves in your garden in Cyprus. So you may need to get hold of a leaf blower or just get some exercise picking them all up. Personally, I'm lazy and I leave most of the leaves on the floor so they turn into natural compost when it rains!
Tip: Most gardens in Cyprus are landscaped using small white/beige stones called chakili between the plants. Fallen leaves DO make the stones look very dirty after the winter rains. Another reason to avoid using too many leafy shrubs in your Cyprus gardening!
Based on what our gardener planted originally for us in our new garden, here are my recommended Cyprus shrubs that are easy to grow, add colour and do not need much water once they have become established:
Solano shrub vibrant purple flowers
Solano - Gorgeous purple bush giving colour ALL YEAR round.
Oleander - These pretty bushes are commonly seen along the roadside near towns. They come in various shades of pink and white. Be careful not to get too close to the bark from these bushes. The sap is poisonous!
Rosemary and Lavender Both these herbs grow quickly and give colour and a wonderful aroma in all gardens in Cyprus.
Hibiscus - In vibrant reds, yellows and oranges, these plants add style to any garden and are especially colourful at the start of spring. I have an orange hibiscus which provides yellow flowers in winter!
Geraniums! My all time favourite flower in Cyprus. They are SO easy to grow and, like many Cyprus plants, you can easily break a piece off, stick it in the ground and presto! you have another 5 plants!
As my knowledge of Cyprus gardening grows, I will continue to add pages to this section together with pictures of my plants and my attempts at vegetable growing.
Update (Sept 2011): - This year I'm planning to have a go at the Cyprus "good life" by growing as much of my own produce as I can! I've been given some inspirational organic gardening books, my favourite being Jane's Delicious Garden and have been studying them in detail...I'll keep you posted by adding pages and gardening pictures as I go :)
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