Drought Protection

It’s supposed to be dry tomorrow. Meanwhile, today, the rain continued in an irritatingly sporadic kind of way. What better time to be given an insight into French water engineering for allotments?

The Marais Poitevin has what appears to be quite rich soil in between its plethora of canals and drainage channels. I readiy confess to hate gardening but it looks good even to me. In addition to many of the water-surrounded fields being used to raise a few cattle, the area is also littered with what we would call allotments, though the plots here are at least twice the size of our English plots. Many of the locals can frequently be seen tending their vegetable patches in pursuit of the French national love of good food. Quite frankly, so many people here seem to be growing their own that I’m a little surprised that the local grocery stores sell anything.

Having just suffered four days of rain, it is also hard to believe that watering these vegetable gardens could be a problem but, I am assured, a problem it is. Fortunately there is a ready solution to drought in the form of the network of canals covering the countryside. Linda, having recently taken on a plot of land, was keen to prepare for the hot summer weather [Ed: bring it on!] and today, in her company, we drove around a few suppliers learning a lot about French irrigation techniques in the marais.

The done thing here is for keen growers to invest in a petrol-driven water pump. Linda’s neighbour, having many years experience of such matters, was adamant that she should invest in a 4-stroke rather than a 2-stroke pump, though we’re not entirely sure why. From one side of the pump – the suck side – a pipe with a filter is tossed into the nearest handy-dandy canal. The other side of the pump – the blow side – feeds a pipe delivering the canal water to a series of spray heads supported on stands. The spray heads are smaller version of those that can be seen automatically swinging back and forth in farmer’s fields. I may not be into gardening but I do like a bit of plumbing and I’d love to be around to help set up the watering system. Great fun! We’ll be moving on by the time Linda’s 4-stroke pump arrives, though.

The land rental is dirt cheap [Ed: sorry, couldn’t resist it] at €22 p.a. and the water is free but the irrigation kit ain’t cheap. So far it’s looking like about €600-700 so I hope Linda remains keen on market gardening for a few years.

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