The Turning Of The Seasons

I really like years when there are distinct seasons, there’s a certain rhythm to it that brings contentment.  I think it brings contentment because life is cyclical, everything that we do is based around repeating patterns. Each day repeats with its 24 hours, each week, each month, each year and each birthday.  Imagine if we didn’t have a concept of time, how would we measure our existence apart from the changing from day to night and the wrinkles on our faces.

Childhood Memories

I think like most people, when I look back at my childhood I remember long hot summers that never seemed to end and long cold, snowy winters.  Perhaps we romanticize our childhoods and it wasn’t always like that and our brains are just playing a trick on us. As I have got older it has seemed that the seasons have all blurred into each other, Winters seem mild and wet and Summers full of rain and inclement weather.

The bizarre weather of 2018

This year has been a strange one, it was preceded by what seemed like a very long Winter, it wasn’t particularly cold here, we didn’t have a metre of snow but it was windy and everything dried out and we lost quite a few plants in their dormant phase.  Spring didn’t really appear, we went from Winter to Summer in the space of a couple of days. I still can’t get my head around a temperature change of 10 degrees celsius or more in a day, how does that work?

A long, hot and very dry summer

This summer has been gloriously hot but far too dry with next to no rainfall here for 3 months resulting in hours of watering and ultimately a dry well. Suddenly the weather changed from the upper 30’s to the lower 20’s. It’s like there’s a mad scientist or bond villain with the ability the change the weather in a heartbeat.  If that is you, stop it now, OK.

A return to bio rhythm please

What we all need is a return to natural patterns of weather.  Lets have a cool misty Autumn where the air is filled with the aroma of fermenting windfall apples and smoke from bonfires when gardeners are tidying up their gardens.  Let us have a cold winter where frozen leaves crunch under our feet and rose hips glisten with frost in the morning.  Let us have a slow and gentle awakening of nature in Spring, let crocuses and daffodils poke their heads above ground at the end of February and then flower for weeks in April. Let leaves on trees and hedges delight us with their slow awakening and please let that first green of Spring be a green that is unique to that moment, innocent, pure,full of hope and expectation.

But it’s not all bad

Ok so it’s been a crazy year for the planet, for people, for wildlife, for nature but for those with water it’s been a great year for fruit and a fantastic year for roses.  Everyone I talk to about gardening say, “hasn’t this been a good year for roses?” and in fairness it has, roses love lots of sun and that is just what they got.  I chose this year to create a new rose garden and it’s done really well, so maybe it’s me that has the crazy weather controlling technology (who would have though that behind my mild manner lurks an evil genius?)

My guide to success with roses

People often ask me what the secret to growing fantastic roses is and I’m happy to tell them, it’s not a trade secret after all. Here’s what I do, I feed them when the first leaves appear and then again when the first set of flowers are finished but most importantly I give them lots of water everyday.  Like most plants, what roses need is plenty of water and sunlight.  Roses need a minimum of 4 hours sunshine a day in the summer if they are going to thrive.  Then when Autumn comes roses need a break, they need to go to sleep and rest, kind of a cyclical pattern right?  Which brings us right back to where we started, bio rhythms and seasons.

Looking forward to Autumn days

So this week I will be getting my Wellington boots out of the cellar, dusting off my old clothes that can get muddy, torn and even singed by sparks from the many bonfires I intend starting.  I will leave some piles of wood, twigs and compost as a refuge for wildlife though.  If you have a vegetable patch or an allotment, enjoy the fruits of your labours and if you have some spare produce give something to somebody who hasn’t been bitten by the gardening bug. Let’s convert some new people to the wonderous world of gardening and nature. #make the world a better place.

 

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Time for environmental revolution

It is snowing again at the Moosbach Garden, it feels like it has been snowing for months and I have to admit that I’m feeling a little bit like a caged animal. Bramble, my 4 legged confidant and helper is feeling likewise.  You might suspect from his name that Bramble is a labrador or sheepdog but he is in fact a black cat.  I recollect that he acquired the name because deep down my life partner wanted a dog.

Bramble definitely has ideas far above his station, he is the son of a farm cat but I think in a previous life he was a lady of leisure.  He has literally fallen on his feet and he’s going to milk the situation for all he can get.   He likes a delicate head massage and is especially fond of lying on his back under a warm lamp, so far he hasn’t demanded additional Spa treatments but it’s coming – trust me.

I’ve been reflecting on nature and the environment these last few days and it strikes me that the more I garden the more I think about the impact we have on the planet.  When I first came to live in Germany I was stunned by the large numbers of bees, bumble bees and butterflies that there were.  When I lived in the UK I was used to the fact that declining insect populations were inevitable but it’s not the case.  Many people think that the individual cannot play their part in turning the tide of declining populations but it’s simply untrue.

I do believe that governments have a part to play in eradicating the use of harmful chemicals and plastics but it is also true that individual action has an equally important role to play.  When I grew up  I was used to the fact that if you had unwanted weeds in your garden then you popped down to your local garden centre and purchased weed killer.  I think it has become a culturally acceptable way of dealing with a problem, regardless of the environmental impact, it’s advertised as an easy solution. We live in a world where we are presented with so-called easy solutions but not what the long-term consequences are. There are always consequences.

Here in Germany it is not part of the culture to use harmful chemicals and quick-fix solutions to eradicate weeds and bugs or not to recycle as much as possible.  Most drinks that you buy in bottles here come with a deposit and it is a normal, everyday occurrence to see people returning empty crates to supermarkets or beverage shops.

We all complain about it but it’s time to start doing something other than moan.  Get rid of all of your weed killers and start digging weeds out by hand, plant more companion plants that deter unwanted insects and bugs and stop using cheap plastic pots in the garden.  You can still use plastic pots if you want  but instead of buying those cheap, thin plastic pots that break after a year or less buy something of a better quality that lasts for years, this is both cheaper in the long-term and more environmentally friendly.  I was looking at buying seed trays the other day and was horrified at the array of cheap thin Plastic seeds trays that won’t last 5 minutes and will be relegated to landfill.  I remember as a child a relative who was a gardener for a big country house who grew all of the plants for the large garden from seed in robust seed trays, raked up the leaves in the autumn and made leaf mold compost.  So I say let’s stop doing what is easy and start doing what is right.  Look at what is environmentally sustainable and play your part in making that happen.

It is amazing how quickly the changes that you make take effect, given a chance nature and wildlife will recover.  Remember, when you create a garden you are creating a living ecosystem. The more plants that a garden has the more insects it has and the more birds it has.  It’s all about the food chain and I believe you can suffer a few plant casualties in order to restore natures balance.  Since we have been developing the Moosbach Garden a nature revolution has been taking place. Admittedly there were already a good number of bees, bumble bees and butterflies here but now there are more, there are more insects in the garden and therefore more birds and in greater diversity.  We also have more geckos, more frogs and more hedgehogs, more of everything. We have been here 4 years, that is such a short space of time but the change in a large one.  Species of wildlife that weren’t here when we moved in have come back.  Apart from the obvious feel good factor of knowing that you have helped restore the natural balance of things, you get blown away by how amazing  and how beautiful that insect is. What a privilege it is to encounter that dragonfly or marvel at the industrious droning of bees happily collecting nectar whilst pollinating flowers.  That is something we should protect for future generations, for ourselves, for the planet.

Here’s my list of things to do from now and forever:-
  1. Stop using any weed killers, pesticides or poisonous chemicals in your garden
  2. Investigate alternative methods like companion planting and weeding by hand
  3. Stop using cheap plastic pots and trays, either use terracotta pots or invest in more expensive, more robust, reusable trays and pots that will last for decades
  4. Recycle more garden waste, make your own compost, make leaf mold compost
  5. Collect the seeds from your own garden, store them and use the them following year, swap seeds with neighbours and other gardeners
  6. Grow some fruit and Vegetables using nothing but soil, natural fertilizers and home-made compost. There are very productive fruit tree varieties available now for small spaces as well as for larger gardens.  If you have space look at growing older varieties so that they are not lost forever.

There are many things that we can all do now, today, that have an immediate impact on our present and on our future.  As consumers we have the ultimate power to influence large corporations and government.  If we all went back to using a milkman who delivers milk in glass bottles and who collects the empties that are then reused, how long do you think it would be before the big supermarkets stopped stocking plastic bottles of milk?  For as long as we continue to buy produce contained in plastic they will keep producing it.  Next time you go shopping look at what you are buying.

Here’s my list of shopping do’s and don’ts :-
  1. Don’t buy anything in plastic that you could buy in glass or isn’t going to be recycled.
  2. Look at how much packaging there is on a product, what happens to that packaging after you’ve consumed what is in it, make an informed choice
  3. Buy produce that has been grown locally, reducing the environmental foot print, buy produce that’s in season locally and support local smaller producers
  4. Buy smaller quantities of food that you know you’ll use and that you won’t end up throwing away
  5. Take your own material bags for packing your shopping
  6. Cook more meals from raw ingredients, break the cycle of convenience food and live additive and preservative free, it doesn’t take as much time or effort as you think.

I think most of us agree that there is climate change and that something radicle needs to happen, it’s time to stop hoping that the governments of the world will make it happen.  Governments are influenced by large corporations and big business – it’s a fact. So be the change and be the change now.  We all need to take responsibility for ourselves, our choices and our wonderful planet.

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