Gardening in Portugal – It’s raining!

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A local river, swollen from the recent rains

 

It’s raining,  solidly now, for a week. Heavy, stair rod rain at times, light kiss your cheek rain at others.  How the garden needs it! The last rain we had was way back in May and I can almost hear the trees and the few plants that I already have in the garden sighing and giggling  in delight.  I’ve  been running in and out of the house like an excited  child with only my socks on. Foolish me.

Which bring me to thoughts about water, such a precious resource, and the problems of having both too little and too much of it in this climate.

For those of you who come to the Algarve only in the summer months, you would be very surprised to see it at this moment. My view across the valley is completely obscured with mist and I can  almost imagine myself back in Wales. After a week of rain the parched and yellow fields are blackening as the stalks of the undergrowth, cut down by the farmers against fire and  so that their carob and almond trees don’t get robbed of water, start to blacken.  I know I must go into the lower part of the garden where I have large piles of dead chrysanthemum coronarium and wild chard and bring them up the steep driveway to build lasagna beds in my vegetable garden. But I will have to wait for better weather, because for now it is wet, slippery and inhospitable in the garden, the red clay mud sticking to my boots wherever I walk.

One very important aspect of living on a slope is drainage. A veritable torrent of water can rush down our driveway when it first rains. The above is a photo of our  local river last Autumn, which is bone dry in the summer! The parched ground means that at first rain, the water runs off, taking any gravel with it in its path and gulleys can open up in the banks, creating mini gorges. Mediterranean plants do not like their feet in water too long, so thinking about where to site the lavenders, cistus and santolinas is important. This Spring we had about two months of continuous rain, then four months of drought. So we have planted the fruit trees at the bottom of the garden so that they can benefit from the water run off during the long, dry months of Summer.

Our house was new built and although not to our specifications, we were able to get the builder to put in a large tank or cisterna as they are known here in Portugal, as part of the build. This collects all the rainwater from the roof, which is very helpful in the summer months. I shall write more of cisternas and how the Portuguese have used them and managed water for centuries in another post.

 

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A Nora, a well system developed by the Moors

Our grey water also feeds our trees through a simple filter and gravity system. It feels good in the Summer to know all the shower water is going to plump up the lemons and oranges (although the trees are  not big enough to bear fruit yet)

But I’m  waiting impatiently for the rain to stop. I have a new shed and I’m itching  to get some seeds in to catch the Autumn vegetable slot. My beds are not very developed yet, but I hope to have some success with cabbages, turnips and other Autumn vegetables.

More of the shed next blog. My husband, hereafter known as Señor Faz-Tudo, put one together for me last week. We painted it grey but only one shade. I just need another 49 sheds of grey now!

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