Trying to prevent weeds in the Mallorcan garden

The Boss deals with the intricate task of cutting the membrane to fit the space.

The Boss deals with the intricate task of cutting the membrane to fit the space.

Weeds are just plants that you didn’t want. I’m not sure who said that, but it has stayed in the recesses of my mind – only to come to the fore again after the recent heavy rains on Mallorca. The plants – those we’d wanted – perked up considerably after a soaking, but there are also early signs of the plants we don’t want, that will blight our garden from autumn through until early next summer. The soil that was baked brown and rock-hard all summer, now has a just-visible green mantle: weeds. Oh joy.

But more annoying than the weeds growing around the plants we do want are the weeds that grow in the gravel path. And this year we’re determined to stop the blighters coming up.

Beach babies

Which is why I’ve been bringing out my inner navvy (who knew?). The Boss and I are in the process of renewing the path that leads down to the powerhouse – and I’m wielding the shovel.

The original gravel we put down was the Mallorcan sandstone known as mares. It was relatively inexpensive and therefore our first choice, given that we had plenty of other bills to pay at the time.

However, being sandstone, in the course of a few years that gravel had turned into . . . a beach! The cats loved it – rolling around contentedly in the stuff. The humans, meanwhile, were repeatedly treading it into the house. Something had to be done.

A material girl

So The Boss and I are in the process of scraping away all the sandstone, removing signs of any weeds-in-waiting, then laying down sheets of green material that I hope will prevent the weeds growing through (whilst allowing water to drain through). Then we’re covering these sheets with new gravel – proper stones this time.

It’s hard work. I’m currently the one wielding the shovel, moving stones from the back of the trailer to the ground. The Boss is on slightly lighter duties; he unfortunately sustained a hernia during a previous DIY exercise and soon goes into hospital to have all his bits pushed back into their correct place. I’m not complaining about the work: all the twisting and turning, wielding a stone-laden shovel can only be good for the waistline, can’t it?

The people in the DIY shop were very confident in the weed-proofing powers of the  material we bought. I didn’t like to tell them that, six months after proper tarmac was laid down on the lane past our finca, weeds were sprouting defiantly through the black stuff . . .

Putting a damper on things

With apologies to Jane Austen . . .

Our new zinc guttering in place . . . well, you’d hardly want to look at a patch of damp-blackened wall, would you?!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when you attempt to make improvements to an old Mallorcan finca, something will come back to bite you. We’ve experienced this so many times, and it’s a truth that ensures that the finca owner will never have time to twiddle their thumbs and be bored. Cross one job off the list and another (or, if you’re really unlucky, several) will have to be added.

Something’s brewing

Even as we were breathing sighs of relief that we would no longer have rain leaking through the roof into the house – and would have a warmer winter because of the addition of insulation – another problem was brewing.

During our roof repair project, we had some significant rainfall on a few occasions. Fortunately, the new roof lining, insulation, and a layer of concrete had already been applied, and only the tiles and guttering were missing. So although no rain fell through the roof, it did cascade straight down the walls because of the lack of tiles and guttering.

Our walls of made mostly of marès stone – the attractive honey-coloured local sandstone that’s a feature of many iconic buildings on Mallorca, including La Seu, the beautiful cathedral in Palma. It looks beautiful, but has the disadvantage of being extremely porous. And so our walls soaked up all that cascading rain . . .

Hiding behind the sofa

In the past few days I’ve been noticing a distinct smell of damp whenever I entered the house.  And for good reason: the water soaked up by our 60cm-thick walls has, in places, succeeded in reaching the internal walls. A few black spots are peppered here and there in a couple of rooms at the back of the house – which gets no sunshine at this time of the year. And this morning, when I moved the sofa in our sitting room, I was greeted by a large swathe of damp-blackened wall.

The post-project clean-up outside will have to wait: we have an appointment with a bottle of bleach, a sponge and some rubber gloves . . .

Ah, happy Monday!