Climate change is at the top of political, environmental and scientific agendas worldwide. However, they may be combating the bigger picture, but no-one is considering the effect it is having on horticulture and gardening here in the UK. Maxicrop take a look at what the changing climate means for our gardens, and how we can best adapt to the constant changes.
The general effect of climate change will be seen on our seasonal weather and expected temperatures. Summers will become hotter and drier. Lawns will become malnourished and brown, bedding plants and vegetables will require far more water, trees will scorch and lose their leaves prematurely, and hosepipe bans are likely to be far more widespread.
Winters will become warmer and wetter. You may have noticed there has already been less frost and snow, as well as heavier downpours and more frequent rain. This will continue to increase, and our gardens will suffer from storms and flooding from the excess downfall.
Spring is coming around increasingly earlier, at the moment at a rate of 2-6 days earlier each decade, and summer will become longer, and extend into what would have been autumn, at a rate of 2 days later per decade.
The impact on gardens
How will the changing climate affect our gardens? Our gardens are special ecosystems, and they combine many different plants and materials such as water, wood and concrete. Fortunately, plants in gardens are much more adaptable to climate change than those in natural and semi-natural ecosystems, where the fight for survival is tough. Unfortunately, anyone tending to a historically important garden which is required to look the same in 2050 as it did in 1750, there will be issues faced, and the National Trust is already aware of this. For home gardeners, the majority of the plants in the garden today will survive the change in climate, but are not necessarily safe from the changing weather.
What can we do?
There is plenty that we can do to help our gardens stay healthy and gradually adjust to the changing climate.
Be adventurous: Play around with new ideas and exotic plants that you haven’t thought of or been able to manage in the previously cold UK climate. Olives and bananas are fast becoming a popular crop choice in the changing climate, as are Albizia and Strelitzia flowers. For more exotic plant ideas, check out Climate Change Gardening. You can provide more shade for summer using Pergolas and similar structures, so that the garden can still be enjoyed even when it is too hot to work in. If some plants succumb to recurring droughts or new pests, simply pick a new plant to try and grow. Trial and error is the best way to find what will work best.
Be greener: Start (if you don’t already) to store rain water so when droughts and hose pipe bans occur, you have a natural and sustainable alternative water source. Opt for plants and soils that store carbon. oUse Organic and permeable materials rather than concrete for paving, as concrete causes large amounts of carbon to be emitted into the atmosphere in its manufacture and transport, and offers nothing in return. Deep cultivation of the soil to add organic matter, organic mulching, and growing woody plants all help to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (and also help the soil absorb and store water). Use of an organic fertiliser product like Maxicrop will protect your plants all year round, as it helps soil to store moisture in dry periods, and also prevents plants from getting ‘wet feet’ (too much water collected around their roots) in periods of heavy and frequent rain.
Think ‘sustainable’: When buying gardening tools and working in the garden, aim to avoid powered tools such as hedge-trimmers and lawnmowers. Use sustainable tools such as shears that can be continuously sharpened and hand propelled mowers. For small lawns, push mowers are a great alternative to powered equipment. For large lawns, opt for a cylinder mower as they use far less fuel than a rotary.
Be flexible and adaptable: Rather than trying to control problems, a more effective method for gardeners is to avoid them. By keeping your garden in a strong and healthy condition all year round, and with an assorted variety of youthful plants, you will help guard against disaster as, if one plant fails, the gap can easily be filled.