by Dick Handscombe, well known gardening author in his almost 30th summer in Spain.
At the time of writing in mid-June, we have had no real rain for nine months and the 14 day forecast again indicates that no rain can be expected.
In the mid 1980’s a similar thing happened, but then by the end of the decade May had many storms and there were eight continuous days of rain in June! Are we experiencing the natural effects of sun cycles, or is the effect of genuine long term global warming affecting Spain! This is difficult to know, for although many coastal areas and nearby valleys and high plains are becoming desperate and there daily photographs of potato, olive, grain and squash fields drying out with little survival of 2014 harvests, even if storms come in July and August, it might be too little, too late. While we suffer droughts, parts of inland Spain have had record heavy rainfalls, especially in the north and I cancelled my annual carp fishing trip to the River Ebro in Cataluña and Aragon as the river bursts its banks almost every week.
Today I went to collect bottles of spring water for drinking and making paellas, but ten had stopped running and the last one, whose two to three centimetre diameter normally runs full bore throughout the year, is down to only a quarter of its normal flow. Although it’s an economic disaster that 90% of agriculture in our valley is now abandoned and there is no house building, this is currently fortunate, as if they were both active we would have a major disaster on our hands.
Many readers of our books and articles have been asking how our garden is surviving to be both beautiful and productive with a minimum of watering. The answers are simple; the garden was designed to collect and distribute water to where most needed. The soil was improved before planting anything and most of our plants have a high degree of drought-resistance, most are mulched and most of the garden is only in full sun for half the day or less. Roots are coached to go deep and the garden has no general irrigation system.
A couple of years ago the papers from a workshop were published in a hurry as my first Kindle book ‘Making Waterless Gardens a Practical Reality Worldwide’. This was not an idea booklet, although it helped a good number of expatriates. I therefore set about correcting and expanding this into a 90 page book which was published as a hard copy and internet book entitled ‘How To Use Less Water In Your Garden – A Practical Guide To Waterwise Mediterranean Style Gardening’ early in May. The book can be purchased via Amazon Books and will be, shortly, with other internet bookshops. The book includes some 300 practical ideas and a listing of 250 of the most drought-resistant plants that we have experienced in our garden and those of friends.
By the way, a couple of months ago I emphasised the importance of strong boundary fences and walls to keep out marauding wild boars, goats and rabbits. With less and less natural water, the problem is becoming even greater, with goats even drinking out of a swimming pool while the family swam! If you persist with heavily watering unfenced gardens, orchards or vegetable plots, don’t be surprised if marauding wild boar and other wildlife turn it over totally overnight.
Parallel with this, rabbits are taking to eating anything with fleshy leaves and roots.
© Dick Handscombe