Having the space, weather and leisure time means that many expats take up gardening when they arrive in Turkey. But Turkey can be distinctly arid and hot for six months of the year, so you need to choose your plants carefully. Read our guide to creating your perfect garden in Turkey.
Turkey has a colourful array of flora. Yet many expats are stumped as to how they can recreate their British garden in Turkey due to the hot climate. Here are a few hints and tips.
What should I plant?
The Ottomans, forerunners of the Turkish Republic, were keen gardeners, and particularly loved carnations, lilacs and jasmines, as well as cypresses, boxwoods, and myrtles. That tradition continues today. The national flower of Turkey is the tulip, but crocuses are also hugely popular, while rose petals and rosewater are often used for their healthgiving properties.
With some 9,000 species of wildflower in Turkey, more than in the rest of Europe combined, you may not need to plant very much at all. For inspiration for your gardens, take advantage of local flower festivals held on the Aegean coast. You’ll always find a gardener to chat through your options.
For edible crops, fruit trees such as figs and lemon, or almond and olive trees, are low maintenance and look utterly gorgeous. They’re also very shady.
Where do you buy plants, compost etc?
Most expats will find their plants of choice at their local market or the local garden centre. Ask about the plants, when they flower, and where best to locate them, before buying them. If you order more than, say, 100TL’s worth of plants (£17.50) they will normally deliver.
What will a gardener cost?
If you need a gardener, either because you’re a danger to the local flora, spend a lot of time away, or just can’t be bothered, you have several choices. You could ask a friend who lives here permanently to keep an eye on the garden. Many of us live in flats and will appreciate the opportunity to get out in the garden (and the shade of your lemon tree). Or you can advertise locally or via social media. The cost of a gardener varies, but around 200TL (£35) a month should suffice to keep the gardens looking good throughout the year. How about giving the work to a local youngster?
Where’s the sun?
Take the time to see where the sun and the shade fall during the day on your garden, and for how long. Plants such as cacti that thrive on a lack of water will want sunny arid areas. However, pick the wrong plant and you could have a wilting one on your hands and a big waste of money.
Where do I start?
No matter how big or small your available plot, clear the ground and prepare the topsoil as best you can. Choose a particular area and dig down to find out how good or bad the soil is. For example, a heavy clay soil could be a no-no for one particular specimen as against another. It is also a good indicator of how the soil will hold or lose the water that you feed you plants over the summer.
Next, improve the soil. If indeed you are facing a heavy clay soil, get some sand to loosen the clay up to help improve irrigation. Otherwise head to your local garden centre for the best remedies to improve the soil.
How do I water when I’m away?
For holiday homes, most people either go for a low maintenance rockery, or use plants that don’t require much watering. A remote or automatic irritation system is likely to be a minimum of 1,500TL (£260) so very few of us use them. Most opt to have a friend popping round to keep an eye on the house as well as the garden instead. Turkey actually experiences heavy rainfall in winter, so do invest in some waterbutts to catch as much as possible.
One of the most popular choices among foreign residents is to go the rockery route. Most will spend upwards of 100TL for a tonne of chippings to be laid over the garden area. A similar amount will get you the plants in pots to add colour. This type of garden is great if you’re only there for holidays, or for those wanting a low-maintenance approach.
How friendly are the wildlife?
There are several species of poisonous snakes, quite a few scorpions and the odd black widow spider. These are rare in the touristy parts of Turkey. Even in the most rural areas, fatalies are extremely rare. The sight of a foot-long centipede may be rather alarming, but ant attacks on your sumer fruits are likely to be your biggest worry.
Turkey is, don’t forget, considerably closer to the site of the Garden of Eden that the UK is. So take inspiration and create your very own cool, green paradise.