Sunday, 21 August 2011

Musings on Weather and Climate

Regular readers of this blog will know that this year has been a difficult one because of the weather. But I don't think it's just this year - take these Desiree potatoes, for example. An early maincrop potato which we dug this weekend (actually my Other Half did 90% of the work). A good crop, but this is the size of crop we used to get from both first and second earlies too. Not in recent years. This set me thinking about weather and climate change. For years we have been told that the world is getting warmer, and that here in Britain it would get warmer and drier, though recently this has changed to warmer and wetter to cope with the actual facts! Since 2005 I have been keeping brief notes on the overall weather for each growing year, so I revisited them this weekend. Up to 2006 we had what I described as "average", gradual warming in springs, some hot and dry weather in the summer, a gentle cooling at the end of the year. In 2007 and 2008 we had warmer springs, but cool and wet summers. In 2009 the pattern switched to late, cool springs (with late frosts), wet and cool summers again, but with the added kicker of a cold winter. This year we had exceptionally warm weather in April followed by an exceptionally cool May and frosts, which confused the plants enormously. The general pattern is one of cooling, not warming, with a shrinking of our growing season.
While one year doesn't create a pattern, three certainly does in my book. These Cara potatoes, another maincrop which has done very well, are suggesting to me that I should forget early potatoes as our springs are now too late and cold for them. I've not had a decent crop of earlies in years. Our summer here is most definitely over, the Swifts headed back to Africa two weeks early, the swallows are already gathering and the starlings have returned from the hills earlier than normal. The long range forecast for September and October is suggesting colder than average temperatures, so it's looking like we're in for another cold winter.
So my 2012 planning will concentrate on adapting to our seemingly shorter growing season - planting things like these bush tomatoes, which crop early (50-60 days) and are now under a cloche to ripen. They started out under lights in a nursery so I think I will have to buy some ready grown plants like this to give myself the best chance of crops. I may have to forego purple sprouting broccoli, which does not survive prolonged freezes. I'll probably increase my autumn crops such as cabbage in compensation. More cloches may have to be purchased in order to give my plants the best growing conditions.
These are my peppers, again shop bought to fill the gaps left by the late frosts. They've done quite well but are definitely on the downhill slope now. They're under a cloche to keep them warm and ripen. It feels like early September here now, I lit a fire for the first time this week to keep me warm in the evening. Never done that in August before! Still, the challenge in gardening is the constant change, every year is different and that's what makes it interesting.
Finally, I was just about to remove a rotting courgette when I noticed something underneath it. Two toads were spending the day snoozing in this nice damp spot - you can just see one poking its head out! Toads are my friends, hoovering up the slugs, so I left them where they were. Not something you see every day!

Happy gardening!

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