At Windmill Community Gardens, we aim to help gardeners think of how to grow in a sustainable way in a changing climate. That's very simple to say, but not quite so simple in practice. When people talk about "Global Warming", many obviously have the idea that this means the UK can have wall to wall tropical planting and vineyards. Since Tracey, our Project Officer, did a wee bit of climate science at University, she arrived telling us, "It's probably not anything like that simple, and I wouldn't be betting on outdoor pineapple plantations if I were you!"
The problem boils down to this: climate modeling is very difficult, because the climate is so complicated. There is definitely a warming trend, and it fits fairly neatly into the time when we started to really burn fossil fuels big time. However, we won't be able to prove beyond all doubt who or what is to blame until we have lots more years of data. In the meantime we have a consensus amongst the vast majority of climate scientists that humans are the main driver of changes in the climate. And we have lots of things we can do to reduce our use of fossil fuels, which not only have the potential to reduce human impact on the atmosphere, but also can mean we need to spend a lot less money and create a lot less waste and pollution. Frankly, it should be a win win situation. If climate change really is human-driven and we stop driving it, we benefit from less flooding and climate chaos and save money on energy use. If it turns out that 97% of climate scientists are wrong, but we've made the changes anyway, we'll still have cleaner and more efficient industry and less wasteful use of resources, along with more areas of preserved or improved wild land and less people dying from pollution.
In the meantime, models suggest that rain is likely to be less frequent, but more likely to fall in big lumps when it does (does that sound familiar!?) In the UK, we may well continue to have milder winters with the odd cold snap, but disappointing summers which are mild and cloudy, rather than hot and bright. It's certainly not a given that barbeque summers will become the norm.
At Windmill, we've taken the view that we need to plan for lots of different weather possibilities, so that means we need to do some experiments ourselves. Watch this blog for updates on some that we're trying at the moment.
The first is that we've planted Desiree potatoes in one bed where we won't be watering it at all, as it's supposed to cope well with drought and still produce good yields. We'll be comparing them to Desiree's in a watered bed. Having said that, this year’s rain may mean the experiment won’t tell us much! We've also been trying different sowing regimes for carrots and parsnips. Today, Ellis and Dan set up the experiment. In each case we have 1 row of seed in the ordinary soil, 1 row in sand and 1 row in ordinary soil, but with a plank put over it after watering. The idea of the last one is that it keeps the soil constantly moist without constant watering, which should help germination, though again, this may not be the best year to try this!
Before we set up the experiment, we'd had a good morning's weeding, which brought a few surprises. Rosy was amazed that a site we'd weeded 4 times already still had a root around 60cm long hiding in it, and Dan and Ellis discovered a parsnip in the orchard, although we definitely didn't plant any there!
|Rosy with the mega-dandelion root|
|Dan and Ellis with the Mystery Parsnip|
|Mark helps Rosy with the cabbage bed|
|Pigeons not allowed!|
|Meet our snail which looks even more impressive in real life - we'll give a packet of seeds for the best name.|