Help! My garden is out of control. In short, I have lost the plot. About six weeks ago it rained for a whole week nonstop. The weeds loved it. They looked very pretty dotted around the garden, in fact you can scarcely call them weeds, some of them, such as Chrysanthemum Coronium, Borage, Mallow or wild Delphinium, you would pay money for in a garden centre. Then we had lots of lovely visitors for a few weeks, so we spent our days lazing around, commenting on how pretty the weeds were over a glass of Alentejo red. Then we went to Spain for a week, to admire Moorish gardens and exclaim at the Sierra Nevada. We came back to mayhem.
To some extent I like weeds, see my previous post here:
But the weeds are unruly and unfettered. The dandelions blow fairies all over my vegetable garden; the rye grass, so pretty in the evening sunlight, has no respect for the needs of the fruit trees growing amongst it and greedily robs them of water and nutrients; the thistles tower above my newly planted shrubs and to top it all, Senor Faztudo has hay fever of the worst kind. So he is sneezing and coughing and spluttering and I am wringing my hands and wailing as the roses disappear amongst the triffids.
At times like this it’s hard not to panic. It’s been bone dry for six weeks. The soil has turned to dust. My cabbages and kohl rabbi and broccoli have stopped growing because it’s too hot. and Señor Faztudo is muttering about the cost of a turnip. He reckons they have cost us about five euros each in water. “Yes, but they’re organic”, I reason. He looks at me darkly.
I make a cup of tea, sit on my favourite piece of the wall and try to count my blessings. Which are many. For one, I have this beautiful garden and time to devote to it. Parts of it are looking good already after a year. Quite a few things are still alive and some are even thriving. The gravel mulch technique works well, with little water.
My herb garden is taking shape. We have eaten broad eans, peas, turnips and greens from the garden all Spring. And the chickens have laid an egg each every day. True, the carrots were contorted into all kinds of twists and turns and for some strange reason and beetroot, one of the easiest vegetables in the world to grow, won’t form roots, but the Jerusalem artichokes my sister sent me from England are three feet high and the globe artichokes are doing well. We lost one of our mango trees and yet another Bougainvillea bit the dust, but we won’t let that get us down. Mostly.
Some days though, it’s hard in the garden. The sun beats down on your head and the dust gets up your nose. The ticks which inhabit the tall grass crawl up your trouser legs and your cherished seedlings, which you’ve nurtured through a long winter shrivel up. I am writing this blog in the hope that in years to come, I will be able to look back at the journey of making this garden and celebrate the the trials as well as the tribulations.
I have cheered myself up by visiting the local Chinese supermarket. They abound in the Algarve region and are similar to pound shops in the UK. They have everything for sale and my intention was to buy some organza bags, the sort you put wedding favours in, to protect our fruit from mediterranean fruit fly.
Ceratitis capitata, the Mediterranean fruit fly, causes huge damage to a wide range of fruit crops. It is native to the Mediterranean area, but has spread to many parts of the world, including Australia and the Americas
Adult medflies lay their eggs under the skins of fruit and the eggs hatch within three days, the larvae developing inside the fruit. Last year, as soon as the peaches on our young trees became ripe, they were all ruined by the fruit fly. I am not prepared to use pesticides, so have bought the bags to tie around the fruit in the hope it will keep the fly out.
I must say that as I tied the pretty bags to the peach tree, I aroused considerable curiousity from passers by. Several of the Donnas walked back and forward a few times giving me sideways glances. I expect they think I am indulging in some sort of weird Welsh tree dressing custom, but the proof of the pudding will be in the perfect peaches. I have left a few unbagged as a control. It has recently come to light that bees are dying in the winter due to the use of pesticides, so I am hoping that by doing this and having such splendiforous weeds in my garden, Iam doing my bit for the bee populations in the area.
Around the garden, the area outside the front door is looking pretty, with some Malope “Trifida Vulcan” grown from Sarah Raven’s seeds given to me by a friend and many of the cuttings and succulents donated by a neighbour with a beautiful gardening have rooted. I hope I can nurture them through the fierce heat to come.
I have very little shade in my garden yet and this is proving to be a problem for new plants. We have planted many young trees and shrubs and I can’t wait for them to grow to provide more shaded areas. It’s confusing to me to have to put succulents in the shade to help them grow faster in the hottest months, and certainly ivy leafed geraniums and true geraniums cant take full sun. and thrive. Someone described July and August as a fifth season, when everything goes to sleep and this notion has been helpful to me.
So, back to the grindstone. I think it was Rudyard Kipling who said “Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful!’ and sitting in the shade.” But Gwynnie doesn’t seem to know that.