Winter is coming!

Thankfully, you will not see any white walkers in this post although unfortunately, Daenerys doesn’t make an appearance either but there may be a few dragons.

Dragonfly Nymph

Officially we are still in autumn but the starter pistol for winter has been fired. With the first frosts under our belt, the leaves heading south towards the ground, shorter days and……..the first adverts for Christmas have hit our screens. Along with the very predictable and very obvious EastEnders story lines that are building up for the usual miserable Christmas day showdown (change the fucking record), we are having our usual route to the beginning of the new year. Some of the lead up to the end of the year is very predictable, other aspects are less so.

After a year of extremes, July bringing us the highest recorded temperature for Cambridge of 38.7C (101.3F). In fact, this is the highest temperature for the whole of the UK ever recorded. With several continuous days of the year hitting over 30C and periods of 2019 recording high levels of rainfall, this year has been rather challenging for all and in particular, us gardeners!

We often hear of bad weather, but in reality, no weather is bad. It is all delightful, though in different ways. Some weather may be bad for farmers or crops, but for man all kinds are good. Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating. As Ruskin says, “There is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.” ~John Lubbock, “Recreation,” The Use of Life, 1894

It is still autumn but our winter weather could hit anytime from now on. In the UK, our harshest winter weather usually hits us in January/February but we do and sometimes get hit with low temperatures and snow before Christmas. Now that we are seeing more weather extremes in the UK, could the coming months see more extremes? Heavy snow and or rain, artic temperatures or record breaking mild temperatures? Or, will it be another damp squib of a winter where nothing really happens and we hit April and wonder what happened to our winter.
Here in the Cambridge area we don’t get it as bad as the rest of the UK over the winter period and for the UK as a whole, we don’t get it nowhere as bad as other parts of the world……although, this is likely to change.

Obviously the effect on our natural environment is likely and has in some cases already been effected badly in both our gardens and surrounding areas. For one, our bees have been very much affected and some bee species are under real threat. Also after last year’s long hot dry summer, I’m pretty sure that the water table in our part of the world did not fully recover, even though we have had periods of heavy rain and then throw in the summer of this year and things are looking very ominous!

So do we need a good long wet winter to help us and mother nature out with the situation we see ourselves in? Would another summer with record breaking temperatures next year break us and the garden, if we don’t see our water reserves topped up? Although, there will be some of us saying we have had enough of the wet stuff whatever form it comes in.

The weather has always caused us gardeners challenges but are things going to get a lot more challenging in the future, for all gardeners but in particular the the self employed gardener?

Since going self employed in January 2015 after leaving the position of Head Gardener of Trinity College, I have found the last eighteen months the toughest yet. Most of this has been due to the weather.

I have spoken to a number of self employed gardeners in my area and they all feel the same. One of them has been self employed for over twenty five years, has said the last couple of years have been the toughest yet.

I’m not saying the non self employed gardener has it easier. All gardener’s have their battles/challenges with the effects of our changing climate but it is the loss of income from the weather that is hitting harder than ever before.

Before going self employed you always take into account and try and budget the best you can, that you will lose time off work because of the weather but this does seem to be even more of a problem than it did a few years back. High temperatures, heavy rain, strong winds are getting more and more common which as you know, makes it very difficult to work in. Having to work in these conditions has also an effect on the gardeners themselves and then not to mention the effect these extremes on the garden.

With winter just around the corner and the prospect of more challenging weather (potentially further extremes) will the winter be a welcome relief? Or will the loss of further work days be too much for some?

There are many other challenges that gardeners face or that put people off coming into the profession…… low wages, high cost of living, normal weather conditions, lack of training opportunities etc etc.

So when naming the post ‘Winter is Coming’, I wasn’t just talking about the coming winter season itself, whatever shape or form it comes in but also is it the coming of the end for some of those who work in gardening profession because of our changing climate? In particular, the self employed gardener?

A little bit on the depressing side and I know that our ever changing climate has far more serious outcomes but bringing it down to a more common everyday issue, is this another nail in the horticultural coffin?

Would I still encourage people to enter into the horticultural profession…… too bloody right I will! I’ve just highlighted the negatives and daily challenges that we face but with the many different avenues to choose from within the profession and with proper planning, the positives do out way the negatives. The climate change issue is a very serious and worrying problem for everyone but I do believe and very much hope that mother nature will have the last word.

Oh, I did mention at the beginning of the post that Daenerys doesn’t make an appearance…… I lied!


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