Why climate-change gardening means breaking all the rules – The Guardian

Early in 2010, I moved from a home with a small, tidy back garden in Brighton to a wild smallholding more than 200 metres above sea level in Llandysul in Wales. Concerns about the climate crisis were at the heart of my move: I was living at sea level, near an underground river, and worried about flooding. But more than anything, I longed to live somewhere I could be self-sufficient.

After considering the options – Spain (extreme heat) and New Zealand (attractive but too far away) – I decided on Wales. Water shortages were unlikely, I thought, and property and land were affordable. So I left behind my old life to turn my passion for organic homegrown food into a full-time career – writing, running courses, making public speaking.

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Early in 2010, I moved from a home with a small, tidy back garden in Brighton to a wild smallholding more than 200 metres above sea level in Llandysul in Wales. Concerns about the climate crisis were at the heart of my move: I was living at sea level, near an underground river, and worried about flooding. But more than anything, I longed to live somewhere I could be self-sufficient.

After considering the options – Spain (extreme heat) and New Zealand (attractive but too far away) – I decided on Wales. Water shortages were unlikely, I thought, and property and land were affordable. So I left behind my old life to turn my passion for organic homegrown food into a full-time career – writing, running courses, making public speaking.

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Gardening in this part of west Wales is very different from gardening in Brighton – the land is more suited to livestock than crops, and it has been a steep learning curve. No casual outdoor growing of tomatoes, aubergines, peppers and chillies in this cooler, wetter climate. No protection from the strong winds, no respite from the relentless rain (and, in 2018, a drought). And no fruit trees so high above sea level in a wind-ravaged spot, or so I was told. As a result, I had to adapt all my gardening techniques.

Today, I try to replicate the natural world where I can. I encourage weeds and local flora, let plants self-seed, and use wild areas for biodiversity (natural pest control) and protection against the elements. My approach is organic and sustainable, but ultimately it has evolved around a free-spirited instinct, and no following of rules.

My experiments have taught me that many traditional gardening practices no longer fit into our changing climate. They create scenarios in which you are fighting, rather than working with, the natural world and the resilience that can be found within it. By letting the natural world take the lead, I have created a garden that is healthier, more productive and lower-maintenance. Here’s how you can start to do the same.

Learn to connect

Photograph: Getty Images

Machinery or tools can create a disconnect. My first spring in Wales I bought a rotavator to prepare my veg patch for planting, and watched in horror as it churned everything in its path, earthworms included. I now do my weeding by hand, avoid digging, and leave plant roots in the ground so as not to disturb the soil and microbial activity within.

That said, do what feels right. I plant and dig out potatoes, jerusalem artichokes and ocas by hand because it’s fun and …….

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2021/dec/04/why-climate-change-gardening-means-breaking-all-the-rules

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