More variable and sometimes extreme weather conditions in the UK are some of the expected effects of global climate change. This year alone, we have seen heat waves followed by snowstorms! This changeable climate makes caring for garden plants a more interesting and challenging experience.
Here are our tips to help make sure your garden is prepared, whatever the weather:
1. The key to success in most circumstances lies in the soil. With container plants as well as those planted in the ground, a good root environment is critical to the survival of plants. This means:
- Make sure there is enough air in the soil – avoid over watering (which squeezes air out of the soil, depriving roots of oxygen and encouraging the growth of fungi and bacteria) and try and aerate the soil if possible.
- For container plants, use a potting mixture with a coarse texture or add some grit to the mixture.
- Consider using coir in containers and hanging baskets. I have experimented with coir fibre (available in big, compressed blocks, which you soak and break up) and found that root development in containers is exceptional. Not only that, as it is chemically pretty inert, you can manage fertilizers more accurately too.
- For flower beds and shrubberies, there is nothing better than a good layer of mulch on the soil – garden compost or bark chips are ideal. This will suppress weeds and, more usefully, help retain moisture and keep the soil a little bit warmer.
2. Check the weather forecasts. This seems obvious, but you may be surprised at how often people are caught unaware by things like strong winds blowing plants over or an unexpected frost killing delicate plants.
3. Lawns can be a chore – sometimes they grow too fast and need cutting very frequently, other times they go brown and look as if they are dying. There is also an increasing trend towards American-style lawn care services that promise perfectly green swards all year round. But these often rely on excess watering and fertilizer use, together with large inputs of herbicides. How about some alternatives?
- Raise the cutting height of your lawnmower – the grass will stay greener and you will save energy / fuel as the mower is under less strain
- Consider a grass-free lawn. Recent experiments conducted at the university of Reading have shown that grass-free lawns can increase biodiversity, need fewer (or no) inputs of fertilizers and chemicals and can look spectacular too.
- Use lawn seed mixtures that incorporate clover (especially so-called “micro-clovers”) as these will provide nitrogen to the soil – reducing the need for fertilizers – and also stay a nice, deep green for longer in times of drought.