The tingling’s of spring I was feeling in my fingers and toes last week have been replaced with those of incipient frostbite. Our unpredictable Irish climate has managed to surprise everyone again with this week’s arctic weather. I’ve heard people say that this proves that global warming isn’t happening, which, in my view, only proves that some people are too dim to be allowed out on their own. The only certainty about our uncertain weather is that it will become more uncertain! Many meteorologists seem to blame the cold spell on the high temperatures currently being experienced in the arctic, as one American scientist put it “the Arctic is the world’s refrigerator and we have left the door open”.
The current changing world climate shows what a potentially fragile thing our environment can be. This is one of the reasons I grow vegetables organically. Organic growing forces you to manage your garden and particularly the soil as a living ecosystem. As a grower I try to tread lightly on the soil and leave few footprints, both literally and metaphorically. I was reminded of this recently when I took a trip down memory lane with my sister. We went to look at a small field that me and my late father used to rent to grow veg on. It was a small awkwardly shaped field that the owner, an arable farmer, had no use for. The land had remained unused, apparently since we left it 30 years ago, and had reverted to very healthy-looking scrub. My sister asked me if I was upset seeing it like this, when she remembered how me and dad had managed it; but I was delighted, clearly managing the land as we had the minute we turned our backs nature crept back in. Apparently even my big, bold teenage footprints were gently made, something that probably wouldn’t have been too obvious at the time!
The cold weather shouldn’t have too big an impact on the garden, I have nothing tender planted in the fruit or ornamental areas (yet!) Though it has given me less time to get all my bare-root hedging and trees planted. The snow has made it impossible to plant and won’t really extend the plants dormant season. The winter has given them the cold they need to be primed to grow and the next warm spell could see their buds swelling. Looks like we will be planting into melting snow! The only vegetable crop that might be affected is the over-wintering onions. An onion is a biennial (a plant that grows one year and flowers the next) and the signal that tells them they have had a winter and are ready to flower (bolt) is, naturally enough, a period of cold. The bigger they are the more sensitive to cold they get. So, I think JB is going to be given them all as scallions, rather than wait to see them bolt in May. If you visit the restaurant and are offered “scallions prepared five ways” you’ll know why.
Learn from no-nonsense Richard and his organic ways this spring with his Spring Time in the Garden course on March 31st. Richard teaches a series of seasonal classes that can be combined for a full year's food growing course or taken as a one-off class in seasonal food growing.