Rain in Spain can be very frustrating . There is often too little or too much but for gardeners there is no reason to have to pay for irrigation water if steps are taken to catch rain when it falls.
As television and newspaper photographs showed during the recent autumn storms – the Gota Frias – the incorrect channelling and blocking of natural waterways can flood roads and towns and cause damage to properties that were originally safe from seasonal heavy rains and new hotels and urbanisations that now form unintended urban dams that protect the beaches but flood holiday homes.
Similar phenomenon can occur in gardens on a lesser scale resulting in the loss of valuable plants, top soil and next summers irrigation water.
So what can be done to store rain water and prevent damage to plants.
- As a minimum fit roof guttering and down pipes to a number of barrels but preferably a large water tank (deposito in Spanish). Several decades ago most new houses were built with a deposito under the house or terrace to provide both domestic as well as irrigation water. The advent of piped chlorinated water for everyone resulted in developers/builders economising by leaving out the deposito even in houses with large cavernous under builds.
- Route solid paths to a collection tank at the lowest point of the garden from where water can be pumped to irrigate the garden.
- Build low dry stone walls on the upper side of flower beds and rockeries so that excess water is held back to gently seep into the soil once the rain has stopped rather than gorge out channels across the beds or rockery taking favourite plants, soil and even rocks with it.
- Lay down stone chipping rather than solid terraces and paths in the lower parts of the garden so that water can soak into the soil rather than be channelled over the boundary onto neighbouring properties.
- Build a sturdy dry stone walled raised bed in front of the lowest boundary to keep water on your property.
- Most importantly improve your soils before planting to ensure that it can absorb and retain water as well as allowing excess to drain away.
- Enlarge and add additional holes to the base of flower pots in which plants that don’t like to be waterlogged are to be planted. Once saturated lying pots on their side to drain off excess water is too late especially for young plants whose immature roots can soon rot off.
- Resist concreting over the whole garden except for the pool. You may not flood but the neighbour may!
- Don’t infill natural waterways/barrancas that for millions of years have channelled water from mountainsides to dried river beds during storms. Even with strong foundations walls and terraces built over the top collapse. In a neighbours case the day they moved in!
Such actions will not only help your garden survive inundations and reduce water bills but also be environmentally responsible. Environmentally friendly in reducing the need for water purification plants and the long distant water distribution pipes that are already blighting once rural views from select properties.
Clodagh and Dick have gardened through over 20 years of dry spells and gota frias. Their experience is shared in their three latest books: Your Garden in Spain; Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain and Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain. See our Gardening in Spain Books section They are invaluable to new and experienced gardeners and make excellent Christmas presents.