Gardening in Oxfordshire is affected by many factors. Soil type is just one. Here we’ll look at those that have a direct impact for the gardener…
Gardening in Oxfordshire – Climate
Oxfordshire’s climate is temperate. Winters are relatively mild with average temperatures of around 6–7°C. Summers are obviously warmer, but not extreme. The average Summer temperature is generally no higher than 18°C.
Rainfall is approximately 650 mm against an average across the UK of 885mm.
Evapotranspiration (“the sum of evaporation and plant transpiration from the Earth’s land and ocean surface to the atmosphere.”) is c. 550 mm so there is a “net downward movement of water through the soil”. This causes lessivage (“the downwashing of materials in suspension”) and leaching, especially on the county’s sandy and gravel soils.
Gardening in Oxfordshire – Drainage
As a lowland area with clay much in evidence, it is no surprise that poor drainage is an issue in many areas of Oxfordshire. The combination of poor drainage and gentle relief features causes gleying or waterlogging:
Groundwater gley: the affect of high water tables, typically found in areas near to rivers
Surface water gley: waterlogging caused by impermeable rock beneath the soil, for example, the thin clay of the Wytham and Shotover hills.
Gardening in Oxfordshire – Weathering
Thanks to Oxfordshire’s mild climate, the rate of weathering (“the breaking down through nature of rocks, soil and minerals”) in the county is slow. The resulting local soil types are therefore stable – farming has had a far greater impact than the weather.
This can be clearly seen in the land around Oxey and Pixey Meads. This common land has never been ploughed, just cut for hay. The build-up of organic materials over maybe a thousand years has created what amounts to a fertile, floating meadow!
Gardening in Oxfordshire – Conclusion
While the county includes a wide variety of soils and geology, the mild climate and the limited need to dig in organic matter, means that gardeners can successfully grow a wide variety of hedging and edging plants. It is, after all, the county where we grow some 400,000 plants every year.