Learning from 2012

Posted: Monday 7 January 2013
by Adam Pasco

Given that extreme weather is something we might have to get used to, what can we learn from 2012?

Close-up of rain falling on a lawn

As if you needed me to tell you, 2012 was wet! Official figures from the Met Office have now confirmed what we gardeners probably already knew, that 2012 was the wettest ever in England, and the second wettest across the whole of the UK by only a tiny margin. That was the year 2000 when 6.6mm more rain fell, reaching a total of 1337.3mm.

April and June were particularly wet months (the wettest since records began in 1910), with a massive impact on our ability to garden. Many will have given up gardening altogether, while others like me endured, albeit in the words of baking queen Mary Berry with a very 'soggy bottom'.

So, given that extreme weather is something we might have to get used to, what can we learn from 2012? For me, the relentless rain made it impossible to sow seeds directly outside in the garden. The ground was just too wet, making it difficult to prepare the surface soil to sow into. Any small seeds I did endeavour to sow got washed away, wasting time, effort and money.

The alternative was to sow plants in pots and modular trays in the greenhouse or on window sills.  This allowed plants to be sown at the right time under cover, raising robust young seedlings for planting out later. In fact, regular showers actually helped when planting out, watering in plants naturally.

However, I did put cloches to good use to provide extra protection from battering rain until some delicate seedlings were established. The main plants that suffered were sweetcorn, with every seedling being bent in half by wind and rain. In the end I had to tie each plant individually to a short cane.

I'll use the same contingency plans during 2013, raising plants under cover in line with my Seed Sowing Masterplan. Do you have one? If not prepare it now, including sowing details from all the seed packets you buy in a seed diary.

Let me know what lessons you've learned from 2012, and how your gardening will change in the year ahead.

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happymarion 07/01/2013 at 16:25

I have vowed only to grow early potatoes anf harvest them before the dreaded blight, and only Gardeners; Delight or similar tomatoes and yellow varieties which were the only ones that escaped the blight. I too will be growing my veg, plants indoors till they are big enough to withstand slug attacks. My new raised beds were a godsend as they needed no watering at all and kept free of slugs. Having acquired a new peach tree for Xmas which has buds swelling on it already i have read that rain brings peach curl disease so it is coming in to the conservatory in a big pot. There is room if I bring some of my houseplants out into the house!

Adam Pasco 07/01/2013 at 19:29

A peach tree will be lovely, happymarion. I have one outside, and it's teh variety 'Avalon Pride' that is naturally resistant to peach leaf curl. What variety do you have?

happymarion 07/01/2013 at 20:24

It is a Peregrine, Adam. It is ten feet already but my conservatory is very lofty and already has a fig tree in it in a big pot!

Adam Pasco 08/01/2013 at 11:11

Peregrine is a lovely peach. Get ready with the soft paint brush to dab open flowers to improve pollination, as there are never any pollinating insects around at flowering time to help.
I've done this with a potted nectarine in the past, and then got such a heavy fruit-set that I've needed to thin out drastically.
Oh what a treat you'll have later this summer when they ripen! Well, that's what gardening's all about, isn't it?

Sue H 08/01/2013 at 12:08

2012 was a strange year. Fantastic early weather where everything got off to a flying start. Then late frosts . Then momentous amounts of rain drowned the lot. My tomato plants - several different varietys - grew to about seven feet tall, flowered, then 6 fruits from 5 plants!
Some things were a success - salad leaves aplenty. Broadbeans did well too.
I am just hoping that 2013 will be a brighter, drier year.
Whatever. Looking forward to it. With a capital 'L'

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