CLIMATE ACTION IN THE GARDEN
This evening we kicked off our #ClimateAction 2021 programme with a 'Climate change savvy grow-your-own' webinar with writer and gardener Kim Stoddart.
Kim is co-author of The Climate Change Garden, editor of Garden Organic magazine 'The Organic Way' and columnist for The Guardian and other magazines including Grow Your Own and Country Smallholding magazines. She runs courses on resilient gardening from her small-holding in Pembrokeshire.
It's no longer gardening as usual!
Kim set the scene for the changes we are already experiencing as a result of the climate emergency: more frequent and extreme weather events, unpredicatable weather and seasons and changing pests and disease combined mean that many of current status quo practices are no longer suitable.
Some of the plants and varieties familiar in UK gardens may struggle to grow well amidst changing climates and more extreme weather events - for example in wetter winters or drier summers.
Learning from cottage gardening
Kim encouraged us to move away from the perfectionism promoted by Victorian approaches to ornamental garden - which requires a lot of work - and to move more towards a cottage garden approach that works with rather than against nature. Cottage gardens tend to include edible and ornamental perennials, annuals and biennials, providing forage for pollinators as well as food and aesthetic delight for people.
Building resilience: slow it, spread it, sink it
Reflecting on her personal experience of flooding, Kim shared the permaculture approach to water in a garden: 'slow it, spread it, sink it'. Trees and shrubs, longer grass and gravel pathways can reduce susceptibility to flooding by slowing the flow of water and spreading and sinking it.
Raised beds, perennial planting and reduced digging reduce risk to flooding, whilst mulching beds with compost and promoting ground cover throughout the year supports moisture retention and reduce susceptibility to flooding.
A mixed planting approach which support biodiversity, promotes pest control and builds symbiotic relations between plants and fungi.
Kim advocated integration of perennial plants and perennialisation of plants we might not consider perennials - such as chard, kale and purple sprouting broccoli.
Tune in to the natural world
Creating habitats for wildlife within the garden can also help bring natural predators into the site. Bug hotels, wood piles, dead wood and ponds can all help create a welcoming environment for beneficial creatures in the garden.
Soil: the soul of the garden
We ended the webinar turning to the compost heap - Kim gave us some top tips to 'supercharge' a compost heap with comfrey, nettle, borage and seaweed which help with the breakdown of compostable matter and help bring key minerals and nutrients to the compost. Aim for 50:50 brown and green waste.
A final top tip - get your hands in the soil and listen to what the garden is telling you it needs!
This webinar was made possible by The National Community Fund Wales.