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A gardener’s sixth sense

Since I started gardening in Egypt, I’ve developed a sixth sense for burst pipes.

In fact, I think there’s a kind of vibrational link between myself and the irrigation system. When I got up around 7 o’clock this morning, I knew there was a problem: something sounded wrong, somewhere at the back of the house. And that usually means trouble not so much at t’mill, as the old English expression goes, but among the raised beds.

Dead right: not for the first time, a pipe at the corner of raised bed 1 had burst its closure collar sending a spray of water at least 3 metres (say, 10 feet) into the air, way above the level of our newly downsized hedge.

The Indian laurels and kumquat trees were getting a soaking; part of the raised bed was being sprayed with a jet of water like a fountain at Versailles.

Compost bin lids were awash, but only the lids as none of the bins is open to the air. Happily, when we moved them back into place last Sunday we raised them above the ground on brick bases, so my precious compost sailed through the drama relatively untroubled by the storm around.

Not so a bucket of clay removed from the raised bed the same day. After leaving the bed without irrigation for a fortnight, most of the soil and sand, which had formed two separate layers, was dug out on Sunday . Then we gave it the hugelkultur treatment: Piles of dried tree branches, stems of basil and honeysuckle, and dead leaves from the herbaceous borders were placed in the trench before re-filling with mixed soil and sand.

One bucket of pure soil was left out: Full of lumps of clay-like earth, jammed with roots from the Indian laurels, I was leaving them to dry out before bashing them up, removing the roots and returning the soil to the bed.

Well, it’s going to take a while for that lot to dry out, now…

Oddly enough, the bed itself isn’t too badly affected. This could be on account of a generous top-dressing of dry compost and horse manure, which acted a bit like a layer of blotting paper and soaked the water up. The flood may even have been useful, sort-of, watering the bed after the hugelkultur treatment and before we get it going again.

Well, that’s what I like to think. But I rather hope there aren’t any more surprises in store. Although, on that note, there was another one this afternoon in the air above our house: A flock of European bee eaters, passage migrants between northern Europe and East Africa, very likely doing a recce above the hives on our roof. They are my favourite birds of passage, but I’m so attached to our bees and so grateful for the honey they produce, that I feel guilty every time I welcome the birds’ arrival.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. I have never seen those birds. Do they attack bee hives? That would worry me too. Amelia

    September 21, 2016
    • You don’t need to worry Amelia they catch as many flies as bees and only in the air, they don’t seem to dent the bee population her.

      September 22, 2016
  2. I have never seen them attack a hive but have often watched them swoop down on the bees on the wing – even collecting a bee from the wall of the house on one occasion, with pinpoint accuracy. They are lovely birds: turquoise-green and orange with a flash of black kohl around the eyes (very Egyptian!) Again, with a gardener’s sixth sense, I hear their calling even when they are high up above us, and I know they are on their way to our garden. I think we have to leave this to nature: they are not resident in Egypt and I doubt they do much lasting harm. My husband, the beekeeper, is less sure!

    September 22, 2016
  3. It is nice to think that the birds we enjoy watching all summer pass over you on their way to East Africa.

    September 22, 2016
  4. Yes, the annual migrations are fascinating: we don’t get so many migrating birds over Cairo (as far as I know) but they certainly fly down the Red Sea. I’d love to visit the national park in the far south of Egypt, or Sinai, to do some bird-watching in autumn.

    September 22, 2016

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  1. A gardener’s sixth sense | thejasminegate – WORLD ORGANIC NEWS

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