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This month in the garden - 2019

November in the garden

With summer temperatures keeping up well into October, we really don't know what November will bring. More hot and dry weather? Or a drastic winter? Some of us may have struggled to get our winter crops going due to the prolonged heat and scarce water. Don't despair! Now is the time to experiment and to pay attention to the results. It's more important than ever to keep notes to discover which varieties can withstand harsh conditions, to select seeds of the plants that thrived despite their challenges and to toy with planting times.

This month, direct sow broad beans, garlic, beetroot, carrots, chick peas, round seeded peas, radish, turnip and leaves such as lettuce, chicory, radicchio, spinach, rocket, coriander and Asian greens. If you have struggled to get your brassicas going due to the weather conditions, plant more from seed now. You could try direct sowing which may hurry things along and give them time to get established before the temperature drops.

Greta Thunberg is not the first to tell us that we are doomed. Malthus told us we would starve due to over population in his 1798 book An Essay on the Principle of Population; Rachel Carson's 1962 Silent Spring warned us that all the insects would die; Paul Ehrlich's Population Bomb in 1968 again spoke of starvation, and the mushroom cloud that hung over the whole of the 1980s told us nuclear war was inevitable. We're still here.

Greta is doing a great thing, demanding that politicians wake up and make some sensible laws to ensure our survival. But change of this kind is slow. It wasn't until 1972, ten years after Silent Spring was published, that DDT was banned. The green revolution ensured our survival by increasing agricultural productivity, but it was a short term success and the fallout from those practices has given us a whole other set of problems to overcome. Genetic engineering and CRISPR technology are the latest scientific fixes that threaten to do us more harm than good in the long run.

What happens if the politicians don't do what Greta asks? Will our young people fall into despair? Or if governments do act, how long will it take to enforce the changes? We must not hand all of our power over to the politicians. We have so much more power than we believe. The simple act of planting a patch of habas creates soil fertility, prevents soil erosion, provides food for humans, insects, birds, goats, horses and small rodents. The beans can be eaten fresh or dried and stored to be eaten later. The seeds are cheap, they don't need to be weeded and rain water will be sufficient so they won't need to be irrigated. A patch of habas takes practically no effort and gives so much in return.

We must give our young people hope. We must empower then to take their future back, to recognise the power they do have and show them how to use it. Every tree planted helps to mitigate the effects of climate change. Watch Geoff Lawton's Greening the Desert on Youtube. It demonstrates what can be grown with absolutely no water. And if your young people are heading into catastrophic thinking, look up Joanna Macy's despair work to help them work through it.

Our actions are our strength. Growing food and saving seeds is the most powerful thing we can do to ensure our future on this planet. And if growing food is out of your reach, then support those that do. Money is power and if your supply is limited then make every euro count. Spend your money on an electric bike instead of petrol for the car; buy locally grown food; reject over-packaged, over-transported greenhouse grown vegetables, shop in independent local shops rather than adding to the profits of the multinational superstores. Change your electricity supplier to one that trades in renewables. If Greta is right, we have no time to waste. We need to grow our own world, each and every one of us, starting today. Children are the future and we must teach them the skills they will need not only to survive climate change but to thrive their way through it. This is too big to leave solely to the politicians.

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