River Wissey Lovell Fuller

December Gardening.

February 2020

December is upon us, plants are dormant and often us gardens head for hibernation too. Yet gardening at this time of year can be a joy, not just because it gets you outside and into nature, but because it gives you a perfect excuse to retreat from the festive fuss. Winter is a time to reflect on the growing successes (and failures) of the previous year. Our climate is changing and when the weather is unpredictable it’s difficult for gardeners to plan for the season ahead. It can help to follow good gardening practices, the things we should really be doing whatever the weather. Warmer winters will mean that many of the pests and problems that are normally killed by cold weather will survive to plague us in spring. Organic methods such as providing habitats for predators will be of great benefit. When the pests are alive, so are the predators that keep them in check. Warmer temperatures also bring new pest and disease problems for gardeners. The changing climate is already creating ideal conditions for the spread of insects such as lily beetle, rosemary beetle, berberis sawfly, and new vine weevil species. Fungal diseases thrive with wet winter conditions, so good hygiene practices will help as well. Decaying vegetation is the ideal refuge for many pests and diseases. Remove plant debris regularly from greenhouse and garden areas. Disease-spreading organisms can be carried from plant to plant by using contaminated pots, soil, tools and even human hands! Keep garden tools clean and disinfected, particularly pruning tools, and growing containers should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before each replanting. As gardeners’ we tend to take action for the events that happened the year before, so after a drought we put in water storage systems. Buying water butts and providing storage will be a good investment but installation needs to be complete in winter. There is no point installing water butts in summer - when there is no rain it is too late to start storing rainwater. Consider how you distribute stored water. Irrigation systems based on weeping hoses are very efficient and long lasting. We have the ability to be far more flexible with what varieties of plants we grow. We can vary our sowing times and sow back-ups in case the first sowing fails. Successional sowing can save the day if it the first fails utterly. Different varieties will cope with different conditions, pests and diseases. The cost of seeds is relatively low and many will last for following seasons meaning we can sow three or four varieties knowing we have maximised the chances of survival. Organic matter in the soil acts as a sponge and buffer to extreme water conditions, so improve your soil. In the event of a drought there is a larger amount of water stored in the soil to help carry the garden through to the next rain. In wet weather, the organic matter increases the soil’s capacity to absorb water and the improved structure will allow oxygen to still get to the plant roots. Plants, like animals, can literally drown if no oxygen is available. So improved soil condition will benefit whichever way the weather goes. Gardens are one of the most precious legacies that we can leave for future generations. As a gardener, you have joined the fight against global warming. Your garden is contributing oxygen to the atmosphere and providing sanctuary for birds, wildlife, and pollinators. It’s time to prepare our gardens and the young people who will manage these gardens in the future for uncertain climatic conditions. Whatever you are planning for your garden next season, Paul and I are always available to offer advice, and we look forward to meeting all of your gardening needs in 2020. Have a merry Christmas.

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