23 Mar 2016

Growing Season Now Longer Than Ever

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In the twelve years I have been involved in the gardening business I have been aware of the changes in seasons and climate. Working outside and tending to nature makes you sensitive to even small changes. What does this mean to us as a gardening business and to all of us as a nation that loves our gardens.

Plant Growing Season Increasing

Indications of the growing season increasing can be seen on any site where earlier each year we will notice bulbs flowering, grass starting to grow, weeds taking hold and even towards the end of the growing season we are now collecting leaves in autumn while still cutting grass and trimming shrubs at the same time, even only ten years ago all grass cutting and trimming would have finished by the time the leaves started to fall. Tasks that were only carried out twice per year such as hedge cutting now require three or more cuts per season.

Ten years ago we could schedule our works diary and staff levels knowing the season would be around nine months long, therefore we could employ a core staff full time and utilise casual staff to increase the workforce for this period, come forward to the present and we have set up our business very differently, all staff are now full time working year round and the scheduling and planning of routine contract works is continuous with no winter break, although this increases our overheads it does have some advantages, employing all staff full time means we retain employees and build up loyalty, it also means we keep the staff who are constantly gaining experience and knowledge.

It is interesting to know that these seasonal changes are not just something we perceive or observe but are backed up by facts as this article in The Guardian shows in more detail and according to the Met Office the growing season has been on average 29 days longer now than in the period 1961-1990. Figures show that in 2014 the amount of growing days was 336, or in other words about 11 months of the year, compare this to the average amount of growing days in the late 19th century being only 244 days, this difference will not just have an effect on our gardens but to the landscape of the country as well.

The Effect of Climate Change on Gardening Services

I am no authority on climate change but it is a topic that cannot be ignored and will change the world as a whole in many ways and is a concern for all of us, but are these changes to seasons in Britain due to climate change or could this be just a fluctuation in our volatile weather patterns and will return to a more familiar pattern soon, it is hard to see. Assuming these changes keep happening and keep increasing what will this mean to the gardens of Britain and especially our area of operations in the south east of England, if we put aside the concerns of global climate change for the moment these changes, for a time, could be beneficial to our beloved gardens, allowing us to grow an even larger variety of species and enabling us to actively garden for longer periods of the year.

We should all endeavour not to be part of the climate change problem, especially as a business we take responsibility and work hard to be of as little a negative effect on the environment as possible, this is why we only use vehicles of a size appropriate to the work being carried out, only use chemicals like pesticides as a last resort and recycle all of our green waste and general waste.

It is said that us British are obsessed with the weather and being a gardener this is certainly true on my part, but does this increase to the growing season mean better weather, from my experience unfortunately not. Although for the last couple of years we have enjoyed warm weather early on in spring and early summer come August the rain has started and not seemed to have stopped right through to autumn. We have just come out of winter 2015/16 that has been relatively mild and wet and that seems to be the norm now, but our weather can still have a sting in its tail, remember in the last five years we have had two harsh winters with plenty of snow. From WWP’s perspective if it does snow we can’t work, except for gritting, but we have set up our business not to expect snow because cold harsh winters, in our opinion, are not the usual.

How We Are Working With The Changing Seasons

What this means to World Wide Plants is the growing season is not just longer but many seasonal tasks also overlap, therefore our grounds maintenance workload has not only increased to more months of the year but the amount of tasks has increased day to day as well. This is why we are always adapting our working practices to stay ahead of such changes, for example, a longer season may bring benefits to the growth of plants and grass but it does bring some problems, with our mild and wet winters the moss in lawns thrive which then needs treating, the amount of rain we get in autumn makes lawn mowing difficult on grass areas that are too wet, the list goes on and it is because of these problems we change the way we work, we are sensitive to localised changes in weather and remain flexible in our working practices and schedules to work around these potential problems.

No matter how our climate and environment change we will always love our gardens and will do whatever is necessary to tend them and keep them healthy and beautiful, we do this as a commercial gardening company by keeping in front with working practices, staff training and equipment and you do this with the hard work, commitment and pure joy that our gardens are.

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