The essential essence of water.jpg

The essential essence of water


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Stuart Merelie, owner of QM Crazy Golf, Garden and Leisure Centre, shares his passion for correct and sustainable landscaping in the Algarve and is The Resident’s permanent garden and landscaping correspondent. This week is the fifth in a series of six entitled Stunning gardens without water.

In the struggle for achievement,  it is easy to forget the simple things. Without water there is no life. We should pay it the maximum attention.

Welcome back to school – how was your end of year? I was lucky enough to be surrounded by Sultans, fed by Ottomans and toasted with Raki.

I was in Istanbul, in a Turkish restaurant and I was looking into the eyes

Experts attempted to turn land in Jordan into a sustainable agricultural site.
Experts attempted to turn land in Jordan into a sustainable agricultural site.

of a beautiful young woman called Kumru.

Turkish legend has it that Kumru was a raven haired blue eyed woman, whose beauty was so legendary that Anatolyian artisans captured her beauty in a mosaic nearly 2,000 years ago.

It was recently unearthed near Copadonia, in Central Turkey. So possessed with this mosaic, our host Emre recreated the mosaic on his restaurant wall and named the restaurant after her.

Four out of the last five summers have been the hottest since records began. More and more land is now being reclassified as desert – and this is in Europe!

Water is the precondition for the presence of life on planet earth. To be useful and life supporting, water needs to be of adequate quality and quantity, reasonably oxygenated and free of toxic material.

By fresh, we normally mean water that is free of soluble salts. At one per cent suspended in water, we call it “brackish” and at 3.5 per cent or over, it is termed “salt water”.

In the average garden, this renders the water hopeless – or from my point of view of a landscaper, an interesting challenge.

I have personally witnessed two or three gardens where the water from an individual borehole has turned saline and the entire garden has died.


In our developed world, we are finally starting to recognise water for the precious commodity which it is. Many towns are now struggling to supply an adequate source of good water.

The consciousness of our need to preserve supplies is becoming as high as it always has been in desert areas and the developing world.

It is good to know the rainfall in your area and the pattern of the seasons. Where I live, close to Estoi, we average 450mm per year.

However, the eminent author David Mahoney, who lives just north of Loulé, gains nearly double this!

Use this rainfall with the construction of swales and trickle beds to slow down the water. If your land slopes, open a network of small trenches to divert the water to deeply water good trees or watering in newly planted fruit trees.

Experts from the Permaculture Research Institute, led by Australian Geoff Lawton, worked with local farmers to take a saline 10-acre parcel, in Jordan, and turn it into a sustainable agricultural site.

Geoff went in and had a look and thought “Oh, no!” This is the end of the earth.This is like as hard as you can get. This is hyper arid with a completely salted landscape. Four hundred metres below sea level – the lowest place on Earth.

It was two kilometres from the Dead Sea and about two kilometres from where Jesus was christened.

The place hardly got any rainfall and temperatures in August can go above 50°C. Everybody was farming under plastic strips – spray, spray, spray! They were putting synthetic fertiliser on. Overgrazed with goats! Just like maggots eating the flesh off the bone, down to the bones of the country.

So he designed up a system that would harvest every bit of rainwater that fell on it.

Fig, pomegranate and guava trees and date palms. Winter barley and organic onions were also added.

Their strategy involved the construction of water-harvesting swales (to catch every single drop of water that fell) and strategic placement of pines and fruit trees, with thick organic mulching.

In the dry months, precipitation can be increased by making greater areas for condensation, and the interception of airborne moisture such as is available. This is a natural function of trees.

Structures such as my corrugated tin roof have a fantastic capacity to form condensation – where it doesn’t drop into the guttering to fill my water tank, but drops on to plants below and they gain free irrigation.

It’s all about capturing what nature gives us free, every drop of it, ideally mixed with a little Raki!

With 23 years experience in garden design and construction, Stuart is available for design, consultation and construction of all types of landscaping. He lives near Estoi and is developing a low energy farm which will soon be open as a hostel for like minded souls with residential courses in low carbon construction and lifestyle. For inquiries, please contact Stuart on 917 814 261.