It’s time to prepare your garden for climate change. We keep seeing extreme weather from drought to floods, the warmest and coldest winters in living memory and storms with hurricane-force winds. The consensus among scientists is that within a lifetime Britain will have a new climate.
Gardeners have a closer awareness of these changes. We see the timing of everything shifting, plants are blooming earlier and out of season, frost patterns have become unpredictable. All of these changes have consequences not just for us but for the wildlife on which gardens depend.
So what’s going to happen next? The future is impossible to predict, especially with so many variables. But we can be sure that there will be more extreme weather.
Water – periods when there’s not enough
Drought-like conditions are likely to become more common. The soil hardens to a crust, making it less permeable for rain but also more difficult to hold any water that it does absorb.
There are many steps we can take to improve water conservation in the garden.
- The main defence against drought is adding compost to the soil in order for it to hold water and nutrients.
- Another good option is to add mulch. Try to add organic mulch such as this one produced from straw, which is great for the soil. It not only holds in moisture but adds some protection against soil temperature fluctuations. Mulching is also useful in wet weather as it protects the soil from heavy rain.
- Whenever you replace plants in your garden choose drought-resistant plants that can survive with little watering.
- Hotter drier summers underline the need to start using a water barrel to store water for the garden. You may not have a stock of quaint wooden barrels in your barnyard… So look for a recycled plastic water butt and you’re water-saving efforts will be twice as useful.
Upcycled barrel water butt from Etsy
The most common concern of gardeners in times of drought is the impact on lawns but we know that however yellow it becomes grass usually recovers from drought. However there are likely to be many periods where a grass lawn looks shabby so it may make sense to start looking now for lawn alternatives – here are 7 examples to look through.
Water – periods when there’s too much
Unpredictable downpours can cause a lot of damage to delicate plants and seedlings as well as eroding the soil. Try to plan some protection in advance such as a portable cloche.
A longer term solution to prepare your garden for climate change would be to incorporate a set of trenches into the garden to channel off sudden heavy rain.
With mild wet winters we need to prepare for the risk of waterlogged soil and slippery paths. Consider how water drains from the surface of your garden, installing new drains if necessary and replacing solid concrete surfaces with gravel.
Wet weather compounded by warm winters could mean that grass doesn’t stop growing in the winter. This is the opposite of the well-understood drought scenario. It means that lawns will require more mowing and more maintenance in wet areas. This is another reason to start looking now for lawn alternatives.
A garden for climate change is ready for storms
Build or grow windbreaks for plants likely to suffer in storms.
Keep on top of tree maintenance to ensure they’re in good health. Site new trees in sheltered locations to limit the risk of wind rock.
Batten down your greenhouse as a prime casualty of storm damage. This means regular maintenance of loose or cracked panes before a storm appears. Keep a couple of panes on hand in case they break.
Climate change predictions are likely to become more precise as the situation progresses. There will be many updates on Nature Holds the Key. I recommend you stay informed at Climate Gardens.