Is a warm winter a blessing or a curse?

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May is like a gate way month that eases us into the cold weather.  Although, this year’s weather prediction is talking about warmer than usual conditions.  It is amazing how much difference a few degrees can make at the wrong time of year.  However, it won’t be all fabulous autumnal weather to look forward to this winter, as it is still supposed to rain and cold snaps and frosts are to be expected from time to time.  So winter will still be winter – just a touch warmer than normal.

The problem is this can cause a few issues in the garden.  I was looking forward to a good cold winter.  There is nothing nicer than snuggling up to a roaring fire with a mug of homemade pumpkin soup, and I have a lot of pumpkins to make a lot of soup with!  

But also I was relying on the freezing temperatures to take care of the pests and diseases that ravaged my garden all summer long.  This has been a brutal year for pests, especially the Cabbage White Butterfly.  There is nothing like a good hard freeze or two to reduce the numbers of overwintering pests and disease or at the very least slow them down.  It is almost worth hoping for a cold spring to slow down their emergence from their winter dormancy to give the seedlings a head start.

A good frost is also said to be great for soil structure.   With each freeze the moisture in the soil expands and when it defrosts the soil crumbles a bit.  If this happens often enough then the need for a lot of heavy digging to get a lovely fine tilth to sow seeds into isn’t such hard work.  So if the winter is as mild as they say, then I guess I am in for a bit of a work out come spring to loosen the soil ready for planting.

The up side of this mild weather is we can get away with planting a few extra things in the garden right now.  Most instructions accompanying seeds are a guide to be trusted in most conditions and most plants have their reasons for wanting to be sown at certain times of the year due to light levels and how many days they need to actually produce a harvest. 

The other key thing to consider is temperature.  Most seeds really don’t like it too cold and this is generally why there isn’t a lot to do in the garden in the winter.   By now most of the winter crops should be well and truly in the ground and away, ready to settle in for the winter ahead.    However, this mild weather can be used to the advantage of the gardener who is a little behind on their tasks.  Gardeners like me! 

The important thing to remember with gardening is we are dealing with nature and there are no hard and fast rules in nature.  If the soil is warm enough to plant seeds or seedlings that should have been in by last month at the latest, then there is no reason not to pop in a few now.  The weeds are doing it and are popping up everywhere! A good gardener pays attention to what is going on around them and is responsive to the environment.    

This is why in spring we need to pay close attention to what is going on to save our efforts from a premature demise by planting too soon despite what it says in the books.   And in a mild autumn, why not take advantage of the circumstances.  I think a trip to the garden centre is in order, I could do with a few extra broccoli seedlings.


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