There is no doubt the last few weeks have been a challenge. Here in Bristol we have regularly seen 30 degrees of heat and in the city, with added pollution and air quality issues there have been days when stifling is the only word to use to describe the heat.
But are we surprised? Climate change is a real thing and we all know that we need to look at the way we garden, and the way we grow in order to ensure that our gardens are sustainable and manageable in whatever climate chaos might be on it's way. But what does that mean and are we as gardeners really changing the way we garden? Or are we hanging on to dreams of traditional cottage garden borders that are probably going to become nigh on impossible in the years to come.
Recently the lovely Peter Gibbs and a team from the RHS hosted an interesting evening in Bristol looking at how climate change is already affecting us. It was a fascinating insight into what could be to come. Already our active growing season has increased by 4 weeks since the mid 20th century and we all have seen and possibly commented on the relatively warm autumns and early winters we are having. Rarely do we see a frost now until mid November and in the city we rarely see a frost at all. The average yearly temperature in the UK has risen by 1 degree since the mid 20th century and is expected to rise another 5 degrees by 2080, meaning that temperatures such as those we have had this summer may very well be the norm. Terrifying or exciting, however you feel about these facts, that's exactly what they are. They are facts and we need to make sure that we adapt in our growing.
This is where I find permaculture principles really useful, although I do like to just call it common sense! Ensuring you store the maximum amount of water possible over the winter and early spring, that you use your grey water as and when possible and that you look after the soil in which you are growing, feeding it with great compost and manure, using good mulches to keep moisture in and really thinking about how you are setting up and managing your garden space, wherever that might be, is going to be vital as we move forwards. Choosing plants that will manage is also going to be a challenge, particularly if we end up as suggested with periods of very wet and periods of very dry, which inevitably will mean that dreams of Mediterranean type planting will be a thing of the past and we may need to look at the more hardy tropical types, and protecting much more against wet than we might traditionally do. That said this summer has seen passion fruit fruiting as early as July and outside and a hugely rich bounty from globe artichokes and the currants, gooseberries and strawberries, proving that sone crops will relish the heat and sunshine whilst some will struggle.
As always it will be about experimentation and finding what works in your corner of the world, whether that is as a part of a community or in your own garden or on your own allotment. But what I personally think is important is that we have this conversation and share what works and what doesn't work with others, be that through blogs, vlogs, social media posts or just open and honest conversations with other gardeners. And why? Well there are still nay sayers. There are still people who genuinely believe this is not happening and that they can ignore it, and as the responsible, ecological gardeners that so many of us are, we need to change that rhetoric and ensure people know that although it may not feel like there has been much change, over the last 20-30 years the shift has been significant. As gardeners we can lead that conversation and support others to learn more, so let's make sure we do that, in a positive and upbeat but definite way!!
Below I have popped a link the the RHS Gardening in a Changing World report which is well worth a read. It's also worth keeping an eye on the Royal Meteorological Society website as they often hold events around this subject. And I am looking forward to looking at how we can all support each other and learn from each other about this subject as we move on in to an uncertain future, in our wonderful gardening community.