Sunday, 7 April 2013

Indestructible chickweed (or what's going to be drought tolerant this summer)

Today the Spring sunshine has finally shone and we've had a bit of warmth for gardeners in much of the UK.  And about time too - its been a cold, dark Spring, following hot on the heels of a cold, dark Winter and a wet, dark Summer and Autumn in 2012.

Back in Autumn 2012 I sorted out the pots on my entrance balcony (yes, I'm a gardener with a first floor flat with no garden!), mostly to get rid of last years annuals and pop in some Spring bulbs (which are now flowering by the way, no thanks to the local cats who've used all of my pots, tubs and troughs as toileting facilities for the last five months).  I bought in one home made self-watering pot (made out of an old squash bottle) and put in on the window sill.

And then promptly forgot about it.  Until just before Xmas when I noticed the compost had a little green shoot showing.  I'd no idea what it was so I gave it a good drowning which meant it would have enough water to last until I got back home after Xmas visits and hopefully find out what it was.

When 2013 found me back in my flat I discovered that what I was growing wasn't some lovely self-sown annual flower worthy of the Higgledy Garden flower beds, but blinking chickweed.  Oh well, never mind.  I promptly ignored the pot again, intending to empty it out and reuse it in the Spring when I started to sow veggies and herbs in the flat again (yeah I know - I'm lazy and slovenly).

Well, Spring as I said is finally dragging itself into being and so I was tidying up the pots in the north facing windowsill.  And look at my little chickweed now:

Lush and green, eh?  Little flowers, trailing stems, the very picture of healthy plant life!

But wait: I've not watered that pot since Xmas.  I know its a self-watering pot, but that just means that it can last a week or two when filled up, not four months.  The compost in it is old and exhausted and bone dry! And yet little Miss Chickweed seems to be doing fine thank you very much.  Amazing hardiness.  I can only assume its nipping over the hallway to the downstairs loo in the middle of the night and having a quick drink in there.

Now I know its been wet and cold and dark since it forever (or at least feels that way) but no doubt later in the year we might well be complaining about the heat and drought (well, we can wish at least).  We'll be looking at our wilting veg plots and empty rainwater butts, wondering what edible plant can cope with such drought.  With heat.  With cold.  With full sun.  With overcast darkness. With, er, more or less anything that you can throw at it.

I give you chickweed: the future of vegetable gardening in the Climate Change world.