Saturday 28 September 2013

Irrigation, Irrigation, Irrigation

We had to leave the patio garden unattended for a few weeks in the hottest month of the year and it was with a certain amount of trepidation that  I wondered what would greet us upon our return.

Last year, despite my novel attempt to create a suitable irrigation system,  using the eternally dripping outdoor tap, we returned to a parched, desert like collection of patio pots.

Patio Summer 2012 with improvised watering system
Since I was able to plan better this year for our absence I decided to try out a controlled watering system. This consisted of a water timer, distribution hose and many in-line and end of run drip feeders arranged so as to provide water to all the established pots plus a number of extra containers made from some old plastic crates, lined with thick polythene bags and filled with a mix of soil, donkey pooh and compost. These were necessary to accommodate all the seedlings and cuttings I had raised over the spring/early summer.

Conscious of the need to minimise water usage the water controller was timed to deliver two ten minute feeds in the early morning and early evening. I ran the system for a week or so before we were away trying different watering regimes but the one adopted seemed to keep the plants ticking over with the minimum of water.

My real worry, apart from the village water supply being interrupted in order to ensure that adequate water be supplied to the main tourist centres on the North Coast!! was that a well meaning neighbour would note that the tap lever was left on and kindly shut it off!!

All my fears were unfounded. We returned to a truly lush oasis amongst the baked landscape. All the herbs had survived magnificently with many of the local varieties, used to coping with the drought, roaring away with just the little water they received.

Patio Garden Summer 2013 with irrigation system

Mints running wild

2013 Chillies better than ever
An added bonus on our return was that the grape vine had produced far more bunches of ripe, very sweet simply delicious eating grapes. There were too many that needed harvesting immediately and way exceeded our fresh grape consumption limit! The Head of Household Management hit upon the idea of turning the surplus into "spoon sweets" which are recognised in Crete as a symbol of hospitality.

Our bonus yield
This was in contrast to our plot of land which is now totally parched, stripped bare by the marauding flock of mountain sheep that seem to be capable of pushing down dry stone walling to gain access to the plot, opening a large gate made from an old pallet that was wired shut and wedged with a large boulder, and moving several rocks holding down the metal sheeting covering the water storage tank etc etc!!

Scorched plot after a hot summer
A number of the fruit trees that had been struggling appear to have given up the ghost although I will see if using some of the stored water I can keep them alive until the Autumn rains arrive.

The good news on the plot water front is that the spring water, despite the long dry summer is, for the second year in succession still running albeit at a reduced rate.

If yet another lesson was required in the importance of irrigation in this climate, throughout the long hot summer, then the summer of 2013 certainly illustrated the difference between watering or not watering!