I presume that gardeners everywhere work on assumptions and habitual practices. For example, in Hobart the prevailing wisdom has always been that tomatoes must not be planted until Show Day in October. For a range of vegetables, a set of months/dates are fixed in mind as the best time to plant – if the best crop is to be grown. But the weather is changing. The climate is changing. So what does this mean for gardeners?
Recently I visited a garden and the host remarked a few times that we need to make new and different decisions based on the changes to our daily temperatures and rainfalls. Somehow I didn’t quite take this in. Then another guest told us that she had planted broad bean seeds a couple of weeks ago – in February. My attention was now seized. Instantly my head spun; in my (limited) experience broadbeans need cool weather and colder soil to germinate; the sort of temperatures that we have always believed were typical of around May each year. To contemplate sowing these so early in the year seemed fool hardy in the extreme. The guest continued talking and explained she lived in a southern Hobart suburb on the side of the hill where the afternoon sun doesn’t reach all corners; already she had noticed some of her soil was now very cool.
The message to me was clear. The time has come for me to really look and think about what has been and is happening to the plants in my garden. That I have spring bulbs already thrusting up their green stalks after a few days of cool weather (in a suburb which I have routinely thought of as one of the warmest suburbs in the Greater Hobart Area) in the first week of March, needs to be taken seriously.
Over the coming months I have the sense I will be learning a new language of the climate changes that are affecting my garden. With the autumn cools arriving earlier than normal, will this mean the high point of Spring might not be late August and September but earlier in the year? Or is there a chance that autumn and winter will extend for a long period causing dormancy in more plants for an extended period? Of course I don’t have the answers.
However I am encouraged to continue the process I have undertaken over the past year. That is to grow plants which love to seed and spread their seed, and then to let whatever germinates wherever it germinates. Vegetables and non-edible plants growing side by side. Currently I have profusion and diversity.
Not only does this mean that lots of ground is covered and weeds are not prolific, the bees have many different varieties of flowers to access, and birds such as the European Goldfinch have an endless supply of food as flowers go to seed. Over the coming months I will sprinkle new seeds here and there, and perhaps germinate a few inside the house before planting out the seedlings. Perhaps this approach will give me a hedge against climate change. What are you doing?
And a final word on change- for now. As I walked along a tree-edged public path that last week was aflush with rich deep green leaves, yesterday the trees were aflame with aging leaves. This was a startling change in a short time; as the day and night temperatures have dropped in the past days the trees have reacted speedily.