On 4 July this year, 101.8mm of rain (that’s over 4 inches in old money) fell on Aberllefenni in mid Wales. That was not only more rain than I had down here in Sussex in the whole of July – it was more than I had in the whole five months from mid-March to mid-August combined.

Yes, until the last week we’ve been gasping down here, and there have been some plant casualties in my garden as a result.

For example, most of the leaves on my one and only Guelder Rose (below) turned brown and shrivelled. I had planted it in the hope that it would lure passing Bullfinches to the juicy red berries. Well, there will be no such feast for them this year.

Gone, too, my sapling Aspen, despite watering - it burnt to a crisp in the heatwave (below).

And almost all the leaves on my Alder (below) have dropped early. It is no accident that the three species that have struggled all like rather damp conditions.

To add to that, my annual flower mixes became quite desiccated and didn’t put on the showstopping performance I had hoped for, my pond levels have been desperately low, and as for the lawns, well, you wouldn’t have needed any green on your palette had you done a painting of them.

However, in sharp contrast, the June and July rainfall was well above average in many parts of the west and north, so I bet my problems seem quite alien to any of you in those parts. I presume most of your wildlife has needed to fish out their swimming costumes instead.

It all brings into focus the challenges we are likely to face in the future. The climate predictions for future decades for the UK are pretty clear:

  • More extreme rainfall events, especially in the north in winter
  • More periods of drought, especially in the south in summer
  • Higher temperatures everywhere, such that the 33 degrees I wilted in last week will become much more frequent, and more parts of the UK are likely to become frost-free in some winters
  • And increased storm events, with damaging winds.

For all of us with a garden and outdoor space, it will require us to change what we do and how we do it, both for ourselves and for wildlife.

Here is a 7-point simple checklist of things we will need to do in the future, and probably ought to have started already. Tick off with pride those you are already doing!

  1. Collect as much rainwater as possible: Hold onto the precious water when it comes to then use in dry periods. If you already have a water butt, could you add another in series with it using a connector hose? Of course, it will also help reduce mains water usage, which will help protect wetlands.
  2. Create a rain garden: This rather new concept involves diverting excess water that flows off your roof into a temporary ‘basin’ in the garden rather than filling up the drains, so that it can gently percolate away over time rather than cause flash flooding. I’m putting one in this winter.
  3. Mulch your borders: Adding layers of compost, leaf mould or shredded bark over flower beds helps retain moisture in the soil, and well as regulating the soil temperature so that it is warmer in winter and cooler in summer. It also improves soil structure, adds nutrients and helps reduce weeds so is an all-round winner.
  4. Choose plants that will cope: In the south and east, drought-tolerant, Mediterranean plants may become the norm; in the north and west, you may need more plants that can cope with having their feet in water. Many more gardeners will be able to grow frost-tender plants. This winter I’m putting in a Mediterranean Garden in my garden.
  5. Shade: In the recent heatwave, all I wanted to do was get out of the baking sun. Many of our garden birds seemed to have the same need, and only there were the Blackbirds and Robins able to probe around where the earth hadn’t been baked hard. Planting trees is good for so many other reasons in the garden, but this is an extra one if you need it!
  6. Let the grass grow longer. The mini jungle of a meadow is better able to cope with the weather extremes than a lawn that has been repeatedly mown within a millimetre of its life.
  7. And acceptance: Maybe the big change for us all is to accept that things are not as they were – some trees, shrubs and plants just won’t survive, grass will turn yellow, and we need to adapt rather than fight the change.

Of course, there is one other thing we all need to do alongside all of this list, and that is do everything we can to limit the climate change in the first place. The good news is that most gardeners are already playing their part – if you grow lots of plants that absorb carbon, if you travel less because you are always in the garden, if you reduce food miles by growing your own food, and if you consume far less 'stuff'  than most because you're too busy gardening to go shopping, well, we salute you vecause you are already a climate champion!

Anonymous