Sustainability NOW: Climate Change Gardening

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22nd May 2020

Kim Stoddart, co-author of The Climate Change Garden Book, and who uses the Maria Thun Planting Calendar, shares her insights

What is Climate Change Gardening?
It’s fundamentally about how we can afford our gardens greater resilience against more frequent extreme weather patterns – be they floods, hot dry summers, freak storms, etc., and how we re-set our gardening compasses to deal with the sustainability issues facing the 21st century.

Resilience and connectivity – cornerstones of the biodynamic approach – are themes running throughout your book. How important are they?
They’re key. The secret of creating a resilient garden is to be a resilient gardener, to re-connect with Nature, and to be prepared to be inventive and tear up the standard rule book to find adaptive/novel solutions!

Where does biodiversity fit into climate change gardening?
It’s essential, both below and above the ground. A soil rich in organic matter and humus, full of microbial life has in-built resilience, retains water better, and provides the best conditions for healthy nutrient-dense resilient crops. Creating as much biodiversity possible above the ground – letting it go a bit wild as your video shows, making sure you have trees, shrubs, a pond, nectar-rich flowers, habits for wildlife, and so on – is the best defence to help ward off pests & diseases and to ensure sustainability

You also use the Maria Thun Calendar; do you find that helpful?
Very much so. I’ve been using it for 10 years now, it makes sense to me, and is easy to work with. I use it as a tool to guide my gardening practices. I’ve even experimented with sowing on unfavourable days, for example, just to see – and found growth was stunted, so avoid those days now.

Summer is fast approaching, what’s your advice on watering?
Capturing, conserving and using water wisely, making sure it’s targeted at the base of the plant so that the water soaks deeply into the ground, and only watering early in the morning or evening rather than getting out hose pipes and relying on sprinklers, is the way forward.

Mulching around plants after you’ve watered; growing edible crops in raised beds; and copying nature, using ground cover so the soil is covered which stops it from drying out, really helps, too. I’ve experimented a lot and found it’s much better to give crops one good, deep drink rather than lots of sips of water- the plants become more resilient.

What about edible crops?
Climate Change gardening is an opportunity to experiment with crops like edamame beans, lentils and chickpeas, but also to incorporate hardier perennial crops such as Jerusalem artichokes, seakale, oca, rhubarb, asparagus, sorrel and tree onions.

Heritage varieties may fare better than more commercial, modern varieties in the extreme weather future. Adopting a pottager – peasant gardener mentality and mixing up your crops, dotting them here and there; and experimenting growing crops for longer – letting lettuce reshoot after you’ve cut it to produce new leaves and then let it seed, and treating Swiss chard and kales as perennial crops, for example – are all small changes with big rewards.

Has climate change gardening enriched your gardening life?
Massively – it‘s transformative and has taken my gardening to a whole new level. Helping my garden to be resilient has made me much more resilient and given me more personal confidence – I automatically repair, re-use, re-cycle, save seeds, and am not afraid to try new solutions – and is immensely empowering and fulfilling. I have also learnt from the past and pre-Victorian, medieval methods, rather than expecting your garden to be picture- postcard perfect. Being rigid in the way we garden, and trying to control Nature is a recipe for vulnerability and disaster where climate change is concerned.

Above all, I look to the natural world to be my guide and have found the more you look the more you learn, I truly believe the future for gardening is working in harmony and developing an ever-deepening connection with Nature. It’s also hugely therapeutic and brings much greater well- being for us as gardeners, our gardens, and the planet we all cherish so much.

What next?
I’ve heard a lot about the BD preparations, especially the soil activator/ horn manure and plant ‘strengthener’/ horn silica, and feel they could be a real aid to improving resilience, so looking forward to trying those next!

The Climate Change Gardening Book has a wealth of advice and practical solutions; it includes sections on design, planning, vegetables, fruit trees, polytunnels, working with wildlife, the flower garden, and much more. It provides accessible hands-on advice to help you become a climate change savvy, resilient gardener of the future with little to no fuss at all.

Find out more about Kim’s online climate change gardening courses here.

For more on therapeutic gardening, see Kim’s article in the Lancet here.