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Of burst pipes – and striking gold

Yesterday, the irrigation system blew its top.

Inside the house, first I heard, then I saw through a bedroom window, a great plume of water rising over the back of the garden to roughly roof-height. This was impressive, if disconcerting. We don’t actually have a fountain in our garden, and if we had one, I think it would be on a scale rather more modest.

Just for a moment, I felt a twinge of nostalgia: I was reminded of Jeddah’s Corniche, and its magnificent off-shore fountain. Then I remembered this was our back garden and the nearest raised bed was directly within range. Predictably, horrendously a few dozen lettuces and onions were in danger of disappearing under water. This would not be the first time that the raised bed in question had been flooded, and I knew the damage would be awful – to the structure, the soil, the plants, the wildlife within.

I truly believe that watering systems are the biggest headache for all cultivators of gardens and tillers of the soil in the Middle East. In Qatar, the over-watering once got to such a stage that we had algae growing in the beds behind the house, and slugs – yes, slugs! – slithering down the path. This was the consequence of employing a gardener whose idea of watering was to turn on the tap, leave the hosepipe in place, and disappear.

Since coming to Egypt, the problem has been weak links(!!) in pipes, and water pressure that is sometimes high enough to burst them wide open. Yesterday’s mishap was in a bed where the irrigation pipes are close to the main supply, but disconnected. The pressure blew our primitive closure clean off.

I foresee further trouble ahead. The Engineer had issued strict instructions about the onions – minimal water for several weeks and from now on just once a week. Drowning the precious aliums clearly wasn’t part of the plan. So, weakling that I am, I shall escape overseas for a while in order to avoid the inevitable public enquiry and dressing-down.

In my hurry to turn off the system, I forgot to take a photo of the impressive water plume – but here’s the aftermath. More damage to the wall of the bed, of course:

On a positive note, we have struck gold with the compost! Beautiful, crumbly, dark ambrosia for the plants has emerged from Bin number 2:
It has been spread among the raised beds, tucking in the spinach, lettuces and herbs, and additionally around some of the transplanted calendulas in the borders.

Yet here again, there’s another story. In spite of my best efforts to cover the base of the bin with slabs of stone before filling the container, roots of the Indian laurel trees that form the garden hedge had found a way in. So a significant part of the compost had been hijacked and held firmly in place by a magnificent root system that had no business to be there. No wonder the trees near the compost bins look so healthy…

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