Garden Update: September 2015


Blogs are like London buses, none for a while and then they all come along at once! It’s time for an update on the garden, which is trying to pull through the second worst drought in Portugal in 70 years. I am so glad most of the trees were planted the first Autumn we came in 2012, because if we’d planted them this year I think they would have popped their clogs by now.
Think about this. We have only had two full weeks of rain since March 2014! Really, it’s true. And the odd sprinkle here and there which hasn’t even wetted the earth. How crazy is that? Thing is, in March 2014 it rained for a whole month heavily and torrentially, so the reservoirs were totally filled up. So we still have water in the country as a hole. But on a personal level, bore holes are drying up, new plantings are dying and crops such as grape and fig are significantly reduced.

A gravel mulched lavender

A gravel mulched lavender

So how is my garden faring? (no t in that, no!)  Well, I am sorely testing it. I have given it the minimum of water,;watering the grasses bed deeply only once a month just to keep things alive; the “tropical” garden, which has new plantings has been deeply watered once a week with a trickle hose and the fruit trees are still getting a good watering from the grey water which is filtered through a sand and gravel pit. But to tell you the truth, I feel very guilty watering my ornamental plants at all at the moment and am glad I have planted succulents and drought resistant plants which can survive these kinds of conditions. You really do feel like a wasteful person standing there with a hose watering cacti when the farmer next door to you is struggling to keep his young carobs alive. We live in a small village with many subsistence farmers. They get up with the dawn and toil all day to eke out a living for their family as their forebears have done for many years. A drought means failed crops, which means a even leaner year ahead.
Some farmers however, have capitalised on EU grants to plant orange groves in the Algarve, a source of contention this year as water courses have been diverted to fill large barragems or reservoirs, drying up the supply for those further down the river. A local swimming hole has dried up, depriving people of their picnic spot and there has been many dark mumblings and stroking of chins. The drought is really getting quite serious now and I am beginning to wonder what will happen if the winter continues dry, as it could do. Will I be able to have a garden at all if this keeps up? How little water can you have and still have a garden? Should I buy a camel instead of chickens?

Phoenix and Henrietta

Phoenix and Henrietta

However, some things are a success. My lasagne gardening has produced some lovely soil which holds the water very well and a small amount of water with the colder temperatures at night and the humidity and occasional dewfall has meant I have been able to plant cabbages, broccoli and lettuce and kohl rabbi and they are all growing really well.
The chickens are surviving, gobbling up all the vegetable scraps in the absence of anything green growing, entertaining me endlessly and driving Senor Faztudo mad. I do think the naked neck breed I was sold by the local farm shop is excellent in hot weather conditions, as they have 30 per cent less feathers. Mrs Chicken is sitting on a small clutch of eggs, since she seems to go into a complete panic if there are more than four, trampling and breaking two and rejecting a couple. Of course, she probably knows best and the eggs she has rejected are infertile, but she is not the brightest chicken I look after and that’s putting it mildly, bless her. If all goes well this time, it’ll be third time lucky and I may have some chicks next Wednesday. Phoenix is a fine cockerel, a real gentleman to his hens and a great asset to the flock and I am sure he is fertile since he has already produced lots of little Phoenixes at his last home. Much as I loved Nando, he was always falling off on the job and Mrs Chicken never managed to hatch any eggs from the hens he paid attentions to. I won’t harp on, because my next blog is going to be entirely chicken related as I want to report on “The Great Egg Hatching Drama”.


On the growing front, I had a great day out with some new gardening friends and bought some luscious succulents from a nursery near Tavira which specialises in dry gardening. What could be more pleasurable than eating lunch in a beautiful garden, full of the most inspiring plantings with other people who are as passionate about plants as you are, followed by a trip to a nursery to buy plants. (If you can tell me something that’s more enjoyable than that, I’d like to know what it is!)
Problem is, I’m just a baby where my plant knowledge is concerned and I’m going to have to come back and garden for several more lifetimes before I can learn even a fraction of what these friends know about plants. I’m not daunted though. I’m getting on quite well learning Portuguese so I must be able to get to grips with all those fancy Latin names for genuses, (Genii?) subtypes and whathaveyou!


The hippy shed needs interior decoration.

My hippy shed awaits interior decoration. When I was in the UK recently, I went to Broadstairs to see some friends and walking along the sea front, was fascinated to peer inside all the beach huts. I am now inspired to get Senor F to make some dainty shelves and cupboards so I can have curtains with pink flamingoes on to hide my knick-knacks and wotsits. But I’ll probably change my mind again before I get round to it. The imagining is half the fun, as I pore over “she-sheds” on the Internet.
Other than that, I have been tidying and pruning, clearing out the potting shed and shooing out the spiders and geckos and making cuttings for plants to fill the holes in border Senor F has been toiling over which we have dubbed “The Great Wall of China”

It seems to me our physical abilities are getting a little less every year as we get into our sixth decade and it’s a race against old age to get the garden to a point where I can wander round it pointing out this or that plant, drink in hand. But that day will come, I’m sure, and its not too far away. I’m close to having a garden!


Please talk to me. I am struggling here!

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