Humans have enjoyed a reasonably kind climate on Earth since the end of the last ice age, but this period may be coming to an end, as climate change makes for unpredictable and extreme weather events, As a self-reliant vegetable gardener I have to ask myself how I will handle the new situation. Okay, to be realistic, at sixty three I am likely to be gone before the worst happens [unless there is reincarnation] but there are still problems in our time, and everyone has responsibilites to hand on the best possible world to future generations.
Britain is likely to be divide into two, roughly along the Tees-Exe line, an imaginary line separating lowland from highland Britain, South East from North West. South East is likely to be droughty, while pressures on water resources are rising, so the sprinkler may not be the solution.In fact, hosepipe bans are likely to be common. So what is there to do. Water conservation measures are going to be needed. These involve capturing rainwater in butts, but this may not be enough to maintain some gardens. Mediterranean style gardening may become more necessary in parts of the country. This involves paved courtyards with plants in pots. The plants selected for growing may have to be more drought tolerant, such as succulents. In places the lawn might have to go. Lawns are very water intensive, and much treasured lawns may not survive a droughty climate.
But North and West of the line we are likely to suffer stormier winters and more extreme weather events. It is this that is likely to hit me, as I am from South Lancashire. Floods can occur in unpredictable places after massive storms deluge certain areas, as we have seen in Cumbria and Cornwall, and several other places. Against such a flood there is little that a gardener can do, but there are means of dealing with less extreme events. Gardeners can defend against the strong winds that take away garden structures. Wind breaks do not need to be solid and they can allow some wind through. Certain kinds of mesh bring down wind speed to forty percent of what it is on the windward side.This is often enough to save a greenhouse or polytunnel from damage. Placed in strategic lines across the garden at ninety degrees to the prevailing wind direction much damage can be avoided.A wind break lowers wind speed for ten times its height, thus a break of one metre gives five metres protection.
At the last allotment committee meeting that I attended the issue was raised again that the rules that limit the number of greenhouses that we can have on the allotment are redundant, as they were formulated in the 1930s before climate change was noticed. Many gardeners are now talking about the need for protected cultivation in the form of cloches and saying that there should be no limitations on the number of structures, as the unpredictable weather that we are having is making gardening difficult. These little structures provide some protection against the wind that does so much damage. Certainly the main issue on my allotment is wind. Put simply, the wind comes in from the Irish Sea across thirty miles of flat Lancashire countryside and we have no natural defences against it.Garden cloches may well be useful, but they will need to be well secured.
Raised beds give some protection against limited groundwater flooding, as they enable to plants to keep their heads above water.They are unlikely to prevent the damage from an extreme weather event, of the kinds that we have seen in Cumbria and parts of the South West. All that we can do is our best to protect our gardens and carry on,knowing that anyone who works outdoors must contend ith the climate.