Gardening In The Time Of Climate Crisis (and Brexit)

Survival Guide Updated

Re-reading last year’s ‘Gardeners’ Guide to Brexit, now that Brexit may become reality, I am struck by its relaxed tone.

Maybe the calm voice reflected the tranquility of life away from the turmoil.

But this year’s summer heat now demands an even sharper Climate Crisis perspective and greater urgency brought on by Boris.

Urgency

Last year’s advice appeared in October — too late in the gardening calendar for early Autumn planting and a reminder that happy horticulture happens only with long-term preparation.

Clearly the Brexit Brigade has no clue about the cultivation of ecosystems and not much awareness of evolution. Rewilding of the economy was surely not part of the pirates’ plot — or maybe, sadly, it was!

Those working in the City may not be looking forward to taking gardening leave — they’ve already shed pounds. But the real urgency is signaled by a preference for planting more than pruning. Seasoned gardeners understand the need for careful trimming to encourage growth but ‘dead heading’ seems not to feature in the creations of fantasy gardeners in Whitehall. But what can anyone expect from those who are several rungs short of a complete ladder?

Priority jobs for early autumn include preparing beds for planting next season’s onions and garlic, pruning back the fruit bushes like blackcurrants that have completed their course and picking up the fallen apples rotting under the trees. On the flower front it’ll soon be time to clear pots of old bulbs and pruning back the roses and wisteria.

Now is the time to reflect on next season’s priorities — cut flowers will become more expensive as the pound sinks below parity with the Euro and interest rates head north. And once again consider if the lawn can be cut back further to make room for extra vegetable beds. Last year’s advice on veg selection holds — seek out the exotic by checking supermarket labels for country of origin. Time also to look for extra watering capacity with roof drainage diverted into water butts. The UK’s 10 hottest summers have all occurred since 2002.

For readers with little or no garden space (and for packed-lunch commuters) there’s a great opportunity to enliven your daily bites with Micro Leaves grown inside on window sills or on balconies. If you’ve never garnished your salads with powerfully peppery micro Nasturtium leaves or boosted your butties with Rocket you have a treat awaiting. Micro Leaf Coriander, Broccoli or Lemon Basil are also recommended to lift stir-fries to gourmet level at little or no cost. Home-grown fine-dining.

Climate Action

That last point reminds us that as the climate crisis builds further it is time to think big. If you have the space, trees are great for clearing the air but the biggest buzz in farming is permaculture for small farms.

Regenerative Agriculture is certainly viable at 59°North in the Swedish Midlands, well north of mainland Scotland. Ridgedale Farm teaches us that small-scale farming is not doomed to be swallowed up by the giants and minimising inputs can be a great response to the Climate Crisis.

Back in 2018 we installed more rain water butts to avoid waste — and we just about had enough in the July 2019 heat to keep thirsty veg plots in good health. This year the shed roof will get the same treatment taking our butts up seven, each storing 210 litres.

But you can get more than rain from the roof. Solar panels can harvest the sunlight and are gradually becoming less unsightly. In the longer term any large ground area will serve our energy needs and whilst it would be sad to see huge fields turned over to solar farms that may be a more acceptable countryside development than conversion to housing.

Brick walls are also useful — absorbing heat in the day and comforting plants at night. This would be a good time to knock up some glass A-frames to bring on plants early next Spring — and hinging the top edge will make storage easier. But, sadly, with all this investment it would be wise to consider security. A post-Brexit UK will need all, and more, of the extra policing that’s suddenly been promised. Gardening gear will be at a premium.

And finally, it is fashionable to poke fun at allotment holders and their annual gluts of courgettes and beans, but feeding an overheated population will soon be a priority. The climate crunch is almost inevitable but scrapping the Brexit obsession and refocusing minds on priority domestic issues might gain valuable time. Why would anyone kill off a growing relationship?

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David Brunnen on Governance (Communities, Sustainability & Digital Challenges} PLUS reflections on life in Portchester — the place that he calls home.