Caption: Picture credit John Williams. Kim with crystal lemon - cucumber in her free plant gardens - another resilient recommendation for next year
Caption: Herbaceous bed and Sally
Co-author of Dalefoot sponsored, The Climate Change Garden Book, Kim Stoddart explains how to help provide protection inside and out...
This year more than any other awareness around the on-the-ground impact of climate change has been brought to widespread attention. With COP 26 in November and the COP 26 garden at Chelsea this week, combined with a year that has been extremely challenging for gardeners, it’s time to embrace the fact that it is no longer gardening as usual.
Current so-called gold standard practices are no longer fit for purpose in our changing climate, as greater extremes of weather and unreliable seasons become the new norm. What this means is that exacting planting calendars and many varieties of currently grown produce may no longer be fit for purpose in the very near future.
The good news however is that working with the natural world and building more of an innate free-spirited resilience in the gardener, does. This form of gardening is much more akin to the medieval peasant gardens of yore, massively low maintenance, biodiverse and rich for person, plate and planet.
It’s time to stop trying to so meticulously control the natural world and keep it in order and instead tune in to our inner hunter gather instincts, for greater resilience and wellbeing overall for the future ahead. Here’s how to get started:
Get free planting
Nature doesn’t work in straight lines. I’ve been mixed planting for nearly ten years now and I would never go back. This much more free-spirited method has so much going for it. Different types of produce grow together with lots of space between crops of the same variety so the soil isn’t drained of nutrients and the plants can co-exist in a more biodiverse setting. As well as being much easier to manage and effective, I’ve also found this method of growing is much less likely to experience a build up of pest or disease. This is common sense when you think about it because it’s much harder for a so-called pest to find what it is looking for when it’s mixed in with other produce.
Once your start with this naturalistic method of growing, it’s unlikely you’ll look back. Start small if you are unsure and then you can gradually build up your confidence over time. Letting go in this way enables you to create a veg patch the way you like it. Rather than mono crops, you can create patterns and colours that work with you. I personally like lots of bright-coloured flowers such as nasturtium, calendula, feverfew and poppies mixed in to the benefit of all. Gardening in this way is highly empowering.
Make your soil the best it can be
Don’t dig it, apply peat-free compost, and allow plants to grow on longer, letting stems die down in the soil naturally and you will allow the natural resilience within to proposer and thrive to the benefit of plants growing within. We are at the tip of the iceberg in our knowledge and understanding about the importance of soil health but suffice to say, there’s a whole world below ground packed full of earthworms, microbial activity, and fungi such as mycorrhizal , and the more you encourage it in, the more robust your growing efforts will be.
Making your own compost, getting close up and personal with your soil, to look, touch, feel all provide greater understanding and help build confidence and innate ability to make decisions outside of the conventional plot.
Make best use of free resources
Why not make your own leaf mould, by leaving piles around your garden (which rot down more quickly than dedicated bins and bags), this is great for wildlife over winter and a fantastic natural soil improver and mulch for you. It can also be used as a 100% seed compost for extra feel good growing points all round.
Repair the tools you have before storing away over winter and they could last you a lifetime. Use wire wool and oil secateurs before storing away. Plastic pots can be used for many seasons to come so turn this idea of single use on its head entirely and it will make you feel incredibly good.
Make, mend and do where you can, turning old items like windows into instant cold frames for use on raised beds outside and transform your winter salad growing efforts instantly.
Let plants self seed
Even if you aren’t seed saving, allowing extra plants to flower and seed is great for pollinators and biodiversity on your plot so embrace it with gusto and see how your outside space comes truly alive.
About the Climate Change Garden Book
Kim Stoddart has been writing about climate change gardening in publications such as the Guardian since 2013. She writes columns on the subject for Grow Your Own and Country Smallholding magazines, as well as editing The Organic Way magazine for Garden Organic. Kim is the co-author of The Climate Change Garden book and teaches regular on this subject.
See www.greenrocketcourses.com for more information on courses or The Climate Change Garden book.