A Mediterranean climate is one with extremely high summer temperatures, reduced rainfall and mostly mild winters. In Cyprus, it's a climate where spring generally runs from mid-February to mid-May, summer from mid-May to mid-October, autumn from mid-October to the end of November and winter from December to mid-February.
The area takes its name from the sea which surrounds it but there are four other areas in the world which experience similar subtropical climatic conditions. Included are much of California, parts of Western and Southern Australia, South Western South Africa, parts of Central Asia and parts of Central Chile.
There are certain differences, which if understood, will enable you to adapt gardening methods to suit the Mediterranean climate. Primarily, we need to understand Mediterranean seasons and work with them. We have to almost start from a zero knowledge base and forget, however experienced we were, our gardening experiences in Northern Europe, as it can be a real problem if we focus too much on how we did things before.
Understanding what distinguishes a Mediterranean environment is crucial. It is one in which there is a hot, dry period, when temperatures can reach 50c, with sometimes hot drying winds, little or no rainfall and a high humidity throughout the year. Rainfall is mainly concentrated during the winter period.
In Northern Europe, there is consistent year round rainfall, whilst in the Mediterranean, there is anything from between 3 to 6 months of drought.
Understanding the implications of this uneven rainfall is the key to successful Mediterranean gardening. This fact alone will make the difference between a garden in which things grow and a garden that becomes hard work.
Where there is consistent all year round rainfall, plant material easily breaks down providing humus for the soil which helps moisture retention. However, when this rainfall is concentrated mainly in the winter months, plant material does not readily breakdown but oxidises in the sun. This means there is lack of humus in the soil, as rather than rot down plant material is sun baked and if not removed can build up to create a fire risk; can suffocate new growth and wind and rain can move the plant material exposing the soil to erosion. None of these factors are good for the garden soil.
This lack of water retention means plants, especially newly planted, can be devastated by occasional hot summer winds. In the Mediterranean these hot summer Saharan winds can dry out and burn non native plants especially in soils that have a very low water retention capacity.