24 April 2013
How gardening and the weather are intertwined
How does the weather affect your job?
In every conceivable way. It alters what I do from hour to hour as well as day to day and week to week. In my own garden rain is the main concern - we have a lot and our soil is very heavy and water retentive - so we long for dry weather. In the past 20 years we have never had anything approaching a water shortage whereas we often flood.
Spring can bring varied weather. What's your top tip for gardeners and growers?
Be patient. Wait for the soil to warm up. If flowers are opening and the grass is growing then it is OK to plant. Otherwise ignore the calendar and pay attention to the local conditions. Planting or sowing too early nearly always ends in failure. There is lots of time to catch up and for gardeners Spring can extend right into June.
Does science play any part in your gardening?
Not consciously. But then I am deeply suspicious of the boundary between 'Science' and intelligent, creative common sense and awareness. I am fascinated by the relationship between soil and nutrition and plant health - I suppose that could be classed as science.
Have you seen any changes in the growing seasons over the years?
Yes of course - radical ones. Climate change is affecting gardeners hugely. Winters are warmer and wetter and summers mild and wet. In general the weather is much harder for gardeners now than it was 30 years ago. On average spring is a fortnight earlier and autumn lasts longer. And our summers have become miserable.
And finally, what's your favourite type of weather?
Baking hot, dry, bright sun - freezing cold, dry, bright sun - but above all dry!