Archive | January 2017

What’s giving in the garden?

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(I wrote this back in November..too busy in the garden to post! More catch ups to follow)

The end of November and Thanksgiving day over the pond. A time of reflection on the harvest of the year, gardening achievements and failures and the way forward. Yesterday we went to our weekly Portuguese lesson. At this point, three years  in, we are managing conversations and the theme of the lesson was “A year of village life” One of the wonderful things about living in rural Portugal is the rhythm that the seasons give to everyday life. It feels as though we are part of something that has been happening year in and year out for a very long time, although it’s clear that this older generation is probably the last to be totally subsistent in what they grow and that the way of life will change with the next generation who struggle to pick the carobs on the trees in honour of their grandparents or great grandparents  who planted them.

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And we, having come from London with all its noise and haste, feel wistful about what we know is about to be lost. However, maybe I’m being too gloomy. An awareness is growing that the traditional methods are valuable and the Government has been looking into several initiatives to return the young to the land.  There is a growing awareness that what is here, the figs, the almonds,the very plants on the serra, have  real value. Let’s hope that awareness grows at a greater rate than the golf courses and  the orange groves, which  consume so much water and use so many chemicals.

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A week ago, I attended a “Trocas de sementes and plantas” or a “Seed and Plant Exchange” organised by some gardening friends. This is a practice that happens quite a lot throughout Portugal. It was an occasion where both the Portugal gardening community and Northern European gardeners  came together. The idea is to bring seeds, plants and something to eat and exchange. It was lovely to find that I could talk a little with Portuguese gardeners and I picked up some interesting plants, Lippa Alba, or “Cidra” cuttings, a plant used for a health giving tea, some walking onions and perpetual garlic and some seeds labelled “Salad Party” I love the idea of my salad having a party when my back is turned and am eager to see what turns up after germination! I spent quite a few weeks before the date for the exchange potting up bits and bobs to share and it was wonderful to come home with as many plants as I took and also to sample the delicious food people brought. It was a bit strange meeting people I have been talking to online for a long time and I felt I didn’t have time to talk properly to many of them, but no doubt there will be a next time and I look forward to it.

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We were also treated to a really interesting talk on seed saving, especially for the beautiful native plants from the serra, such as cistus and rosemary, by Marilyn Medina Ribeiro, a garden designer in the Algarve  whose design principles are committed to drought resistant and waterwise gardening. I learnt a lot, especially as some aspects of drought resistant gardening are very surprising to Northern European gardeners, not least that spoiling a plant in this climate with too much water is one of the worst things you can do for it! Her website is here.Waterwise Gardens

Winter in the Algarve  is the time to get on with  garden projects. The weather, especially from October to January is often dry and not too hot. (The photo below is of a dry garden outside a beach cafe taken with the winter aloes on full display) We have several ideas planned to move the garden on.  I really want the main projects finished before too much longer, so I can focus more on the planting or I’ll be planted myself before I see the results!

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So there are three projects in the pipeline. As Ive mentioned before, Señor Faztudo has promised me a greenhouse for Christmas, which I expect will be ready by my birthday halfway through next year….perhaps. He is busy banging and sawing bits of wood in the greenhouse, but  promises to make it in situ so we don’t have a repeat of the chicken coop debacle. See here:  We are also going to extend our shady terrace and put some kind of wall/barrier around out to stop any potential grandchildren, or other small people, yet to be born, from falling off the precipitous walls (actually I suspect, secretly, we are afraid of falling off the walls as we get older and more doddery, but we aren’t admitting that to ourselves) and last, but not least, I have plans to build a dry river bed to take the heavy rainfall neatly down the garden without erosion.This is the kind of thing I have in mind , only mine will be on a much smaller and less leafy scale.

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Much of this work, we will do ourselves, as we are time rich and capital poor, although we will be getting help with the patio as we know someone who will do a much better job than us. I’d better start eating pasta, so I can generate some energy for all the weightlifting of the boulders and river stones!