New Gardener Series: Climate Smart

No matter where you are in your gardening journey there is one thing you can never account for, and that's nature, which includes that wonderful, woeful and annoying thing we call weather. As growers we all know we need rain, but it safe to say since early October we have had enough rain to fill all the reservoirs of the world. We have had plenty of wind, and the last one, laughingly called Desmond, in a vain attempt to some how blend that groundbreaking sitcom with gales in a jaunty pork pie hat did a lot of damage to many of us North of Birmingham. This is a perfect example of how sometimes things don't go our way and the damage left behind can often be overwhelming, destructive and in all cases, heartbreaking. It is easy to give up but we hope you read on and realise that we can never give up what we love.

Learn to adapt in the garden

Compared to many we got off lightly at Pig Row, we actually went out to check our glasshouse before the storm and found that in the last gale it had torn one of the bolts of a side panel. It doesn't bear thinking about what could have happened if we hadn't caught this one, and it shows the importance of regular maintenance checks of greenhouses over late autumn and winter. We have sadly lost our arch which was made by our friend, Rupert, back in the summer of 2012

Weather can damage a garden

It simply couldn't stand up to another gale and was snapped in two. This isn't the end of the world, we had it for three summers and it was only ever a temporary structure. Now the hedges are taller we can start to train them into an arch. Heck, we could even take what is left of the arch and rebuild it. When one door closes, another one opens, unless you are in a dead end corridor, then jump out the window and hope for a soft landing. We have over the years of growing in allotments, community groups and in our small garden at Drovers lost more to wind then we'd care to remember. The was the year our new fence decided to take off and Andrew with a neighbour wrestled it back into place with some long screws and four letter words. Those wonderful pop up greenhouses, with the plastic covers, we have seen one of our's become a wonderful swirling kite in the air, seed trays and seedlings cast to the four winds. We have even seen a trailer laden full of bare root plants get picked up at a blustery community planting day and tumble down a hillside, unfortunately as it dug deep scars into the earth it didn't miraculously plant the bare rooted trees. In all cases, we picked ourselves up because when nature strikes it is not personal, this planet is unaware of our existence, it will carry on whether we are here or not, and maybe that is why we should start to respect it more than we do.

Learn to respect your garden and your planet

It's easy at this point as a gardener to jack it all in, the wind has won and we do hate the wind on Pig Row. Give us rain, give us snow, give us sleet but please stick the wind where the sun doesn't shine. It's easy to think that about the planet too, that it's big enough and bad enough to protect itself. We are sure this is what ant's thinking about the kettle full of boiling water that is approaching their nest. Regardless of whether you believe in all the arguments around climate change, whether you dismiss it or accept it, there is no denying that we are polluting our world, see Bejing, see New York, see London, see Manchester, Paris, Washinton DC, Mumbai, Johannesburg, see any major city in the world and then see the city from the outside, sit on a fine hill above the sound of cars and humans bustling through their little lives, and watch for the cloud that hangs over them, the fumes, the dirt, the pollution. We depend on the weather to blow it away, and when the air is still, and hot, people die. 

We're not arguing climate change, we're arguing common sense

You know when Arnold Schwarzenegger comes into the argument that things are bad, he's a Republican, they're not a party known for accepting or even discussing climate change, yet for several years he's been putting forward common sense approaches to how we treat and live in our world by simply stating that we don't have to change the way we live, we have to change the way we pollute, we need to eradicate it:
I have a final question, and it will take some imagination. 
There are two doors. Behind Door Number One is a completely sealed room, with a regular, gasoline-fueled car. Behind Door Number Two is an identical, completely sealed room, with an electric car. Both engines are running full blast. 
I want you to pick a door to open, and enter the room and shut the door behind you. You have to stay in the room you choose for one hour. You cannot turn off the engine. You do not get a gas mask. 
I'm guessing you chose the Door Number Two, with the electric car, right? Door number one is a fatal choice - who would ever want to breathe those fumes?
We can't believe we're quoting Arnie but if we don't do something soon, none of us will be coming back. New gardeners, old gardeners are at the forefront of this change, we do not and cannot use DDT anymore, certain weedkillers are no longer available to us but beyond this there has been a growing organic movement, way before John Seymour, Monty Don, Bob Flowerdew there were gardeners turning away from chemicals. Glyphosate, found in many weedkillers has been deemed by the WTO (World Trade Organisation) as 'possibly carcinogenic'. You may shrug at that and think you will take your chances, but the same thing was said about DDT back in the 1950s. We know weedkillers are indiscriminate, they kill things we need in the garden, from bugs to bacteria. We don't have to talk about climate change but we do have to talk about being climate smart. You do it every day in the garden, it has to some extent become ingrained in you, you probably have: compost bins, water butts, home made feeds (comfrey, manure), a pile of manure for spreading or green manure for planting. You are embracing a simple idea, to see your garden within a cycle of preparation, growth and preserving. We all know soil is important, so we protect it. We need to do the same for our climate. Sometimes things don't go our way, and as gardeners we adapt, alter our ways. Sometimes we give up, sometimes we want to give up but if we jack in our plots, our gardens, our dreams of growing, then we send a powerful message to our children and those around us. We tell them that it is okay to give up, to not adapt, to not face the challenges that are coming our way. We choose door number one, as Arnie says, and that isn't smart. We are adults, we are humans, we can adapt, we can be climate smart.

New Gardener Series


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