Changing seasons - mellow autumn or weathering the weather?

Changing seasons - mellow autumn or weathering the weather?

September and there is a definite chill in the air signalling a change in season as summer rolls on into autumn. The unusually hot week of early September when temperatures here were in the upper thirties have now been replaced by cooler, wetter, windier weather. A familiar scenario that we have seen through observing our own weather, observed in past years and heard about before. 

In the UK we are used to the changeable weather of our temperate ocean climate which persists throughout the year. Our four seasons are cues for changes of wardrobe as well as where we put our efforts when gardening. 

Our climate is changing, we may be re-assessing the type and style of gardening that we will be able to do in the future. Climate is the longer term average of our weather. Weather is the conditions we experience on a day to day and week by week basis. In the UK it varies with situation - urban, coastal, country, mountain. Broadly speaking the west and northern areas are wetter and cooler, the east and southern areas dryer and sunnier, but it is more complex than that and as gardeners in Great Britain we are used to keeping an eye on the somewhat changeable weather, checking what is forecast, and planning accordingly. 

Whether it is seasonal changes or weather variability, we are used to dealing with change. Summers can be different from one year to the next and from one part of the country to the next. This year my runner and french beans have generally stalled in the period of dull, cool weather we had during most of the summer in North Wales. They didn't really start flowering until some warmth in late August. Hopefully they will produce more than the odd beanpod before the frost sets in. Update from last night and they are starting to crop well - more than enought for a meal for four

Dealing with change can be unsettling but as gardeners we do have information to hand that enables us to decide where to put our effort in and a certain resilience, produced by the weather, of understanding good years and bad years in regard to harvests and productiveness.

Forewarned is forearmed

As well as our own observations we also have sources of information that can inform our decisions. These can provide us with short term and long term predictions. The Met Office has some good resources and what influences our weather. Checking out the likelihood of first frosts in the Autumn or the last frost date in May allows us to protect tender plants, pick the last of the beans, know when to harvest our tomatoes or parsnips.Check out their website for up to date forecasting, climate change information and learn what affects our weather systems in the UK making it so variable.

As well as dealing with the changeability of our seasons and the variation and extremes of weather within them we are also increasingly aware of climate change and how this could affect what we will be able to grow, how weather conditions are likely to change and the increasing likelihood of extreme weather incidents. The RHS has updated its report on this which is available at There are useful suggestions as to how to address some of the changes required in our practices that will enable us to still be productive in a changing climate with changing resources e.g. water availability, rising average temperatures, changes to windspeed events.

In all the talk of higher temperatures creating longer growing seasons - which it could do in some areas with sunnier periods and more intenser sunlight for the plants to use it will mean only small if any change to our actual daylight hours. These are set by our seasonal leaning toward or away from the sun because of our axis of rotation. More needs to be considered as some of our current fruits, vegetables and flowers respond to periods of light, or infact how much darkness they get in order to encourage bud break and fruit set. We also have plants that need longer, cooler periods of winter in order to be most productive, or germinate. These issues need to be accounted for and provide us with yet another challenge to rise to. 

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