Early Autumn is the time to prepare for the rains in central Portugal.
The problem with rain is that it comes down so heavily in the autumn that it can take us by surprise, it can completely swamp a garden, and even destroys newly made lawns or beds. Spring rains are generally lighter and follow a wet winter, but autumn rains are often very heavy and thundery.
I remember standing outside my kitchen a couple of years ago during a heavy storm, watching our gravel path being washed away by the river of water, it gouged out the earth underneath and left some areas of the garden with trenches up to 5cm deep, all in just 30 minutes. The rains usually start at the beginning of October, so it is a good idea to be prepared for them.
If you have a new garden, or have recently made changes to the garden, try to imagine what will happen in a heavy downpour. Most Portuguese houses do not have roof gutters, so the rain pours down onto the paths, then races away downhill. The earlier you catch the water the better. Controlled drainage is the key. In more temperate climates, like the UK, a large amount of the water will soaks into the soil before it does any harm. However in Portugal at the end of summer, the ground is bone dry, especially if it is the notorious red clay that is common in central Portugal, and it will absorb virtually no water at all during the first heavy rains.
If you haven’t yet experienced a good Portuguese drenching, then don’t underestimate the enormous power of the rain water and the damage it can do to a garden. Keeping the grass slightly longer in October will help slow down the water when it reaches the lawn. It is surprising how quickly a village stream or river can fill up when the rains start.
It is important to keep road gutters and edges clear of leaves to help the water to flow away and to prevent the leaves being washed into the drains. We can all do our bit by keeping the roadways outside our own houses free of fallen leaves, as unfortunately autumn brings lots of them at the same time as the rains! The arrival of the autumn rains after a long, hot summer can cause problems but is also a blessing to many gardeners in central Portugal. Farmers will now start preparing the ground for sowing winter crops and the non-irrigated areas of the garden finally get a drenching.
You have time to consider collecting the rainwater for use on the garden when it starts to dry out. There are many ways to do this from plastic tubs under down spouts and drain pipes to concrete water tanks. If you need help sourcing materials or you need advice you will find help in our Business Directory pages.