Monday, 26 May 2008


We’ve had several days of very heavy rain and thunderstorms, there's been rain on the leaves of the plants on the windowsill ...

there's been rain in the gutters ...

and rain pouring off the roofs ...

so our concerns about keeping the garden well watered over the summer seem like a bit of a joke at the moment. But the hot dry weather will come and then the earth will need some help to conserve the water we give it, and we have to think about that now while we’re planting the beds.

When we were in southern Spain, from the train we saw whole fields of fruit trees and olive trees being flooded to water them, with a ridge of earth built up around the field to hold in the water until it had time to soak into the soil.

Our neighbours’ gardens here in Gabian have similar ridges and channels, around their tomato beds especially. Last year we were advised by one of them that we were not watering the plants properly – they should be planted in a dip and watered through this depression underneath the leaves. Tomato leaves, we found, do not react well to having drops of water on them – they get dead spots on the leaves where the water has touched them. Having grown tomatoes only in the greenhouse when we lived in Wales and England and used the ring system of watering into gravel beds beneath the pots, we didn’t realise this. Our tomato plants never had drops of water on them there!

And in the Orb valley recently we saw quite complicated patterns of irrigation channels formed around gardens to distribute water that was pumped up from the river.

A garden at Vieussan in the Orb valley.

In our garden we’ve been trying to recreate the watering ideas we’ve seen, although on a smaller scale. Last year we bought a watering kit – some metres of hosepipe, connections and small sprinklers to be inserted in the pipe in the right place for each of the plants. We tried out enough to water one bed of tomatoes – about a dozen plants – and it worked well, that bed produced our best tomatoes. The slow drip of water from the sprinkler soaks in more effectively than a spray from a hose, and it’s good to be able to sit with a drink enjoying the view of the garden while the tomatoes are being watered! So this year we’ve decided to extend this system so that it will now cover the cucumbers and haricot beans, which are in last year’s tomato bed, and one of the beds of tomatoes – with about 20 plants and the cherry tomatoes.

For the aubergines, peppers and courgettes we’ve made irrigation channels along the centre of the beds or radiating out from the centre. So far we’ve found these channels need a lot of attention to keep the water running freely through them to the end of the row, but we’re hoping it will get easier to manage.

keeping the water running to the pepper plants

getting water to four plants at once

And now the passion flowers are out

so, despite the rain, life is a bowl of cherries


plantgirl said...

In Utah the summers are very hot and very very dry - drip irrigation systems are incredibly useful here. After using it successfully with our square foot garden am now using it with all the other plants-really helps.
~plantgirl of

Kate said...

In Adelaide nothing is talked about as much as water and how to mange with limited supplies of it. Irrigation systems have become many and varied and people have become ingenious with their designs. I use several different systems and, in all, can ensure that my entire block and every plant in it ,whether in the ground or in a pot, will be watered while we go away for a month in mid-summer! This is always under revision as our watering restrictions become more and more severe but I can still do it, mostly by gradually changing to less water-hungry plants. Except in the vegie garden, of course where I put monumental amounts of thought into the system each year so that I do not resort to killing every member of the government that got us into this mess and won't take responsibility for getting us out!!!I WILL grow my vegetables, despite the government, if it is the last thing I do, and it may well be! Any way, the gist of the whole thing is that I have lots of experience in this and would be happy to share it with you if you would like. I will stop here for now as it is getting dark and I have to go outside and pick some things for dinner. Send me an email if you like.