2012 was not exactly the end of the world, despite some predictions, but it was horticulturally a washout. Even expert gardeners lost crops. I watched Monty Don on Gardeners' World lamenting his carrot crop, or lack of it, and I thought that if it happens to his crops, I know why it has happened to my carrots. For the first time in my life I had blight on my potatoes, only one bed, but I have prided myself on never having blight. So can this year's 's weather happen again? Climate is changeing, and our gardens must change with it.
Some of us on the allotment were discussing the need for protection. There are plenty of cloches going up, as many gardeners are beginning to feel that where we are, the Mersey valley in Trafford, there has been too much wind and rain for our liking. We are thirty miles from the Irish Sea and pretty flat, so there is little natural protection from wind, which is our only real problem. So what do we do?
Firstly, there is a need for windbreaks, as wind is a great enemy of young plants. Strangely, completely solid windbreaks, such as walls, are not a good idea, as they force the wind over them and can cause turbulence, which can be quite destructito form a fence allow wind through, but are capable of cutting its strength by sixty percent, which often renders it harmless to crops. A windbreak has an effect up to a distance ten times its height, so there is a case for having more than one windbreak in parallel throughout the garden. Gardeners should work out the direction of prevailing winds, which is for me from the West, as it is in much of Britain, and lay windbreaks at ninety degrees to it. Strong hedges can be just as good as netting.
Ensuring that polytunnels are well protected is vital. Mine went in a bad storm last year and the frame was damaged. I repaired it with cane, and I have built in a weak spot, so that if the same thing happens again, the cane will snap rather than the metal, and I can replace that easily. One of my colleagues had matting reaching up from ground level all around his tunnel, and I am doing that this year. I was teaching gardening last year at a sepcial school on a very exposed site. We only saved the polytunnel by roping it down with strong cable. Attaching the cable to heavy bags of soil worked. It took three cables to hold down the poly, but it stayed there.
I have been building cloches for vulnerable vegetables. These consist of blue plumbing pipe bent over into a semicircle. The open ends are placed over canes rooted deep in the ground. Over them I am placing polythene and over that netting to hold the polythene in place. I am holding them together with canes running along the sides and top for the whole length of the tunnel. The ends will remain open for access for weeding.
I am considering buying a large brassica tunnel composed of netting. This is not a greenhouse or polytunnel, but it allows water and air through at a reduced rate and is quite stable. Hopefully, this will protect my carrots and other vulnerable vegetables from the possible bad weather next year. I do not want another year like this one.