How Climate Change May Affect Your Garden
And what you can do to adapt
You may have noticed that spring seems to come earlier and earlier every year. Or maybe you've noticed that your winters have been more harsh than usual, or summers have been hotter and drier. You are not alone. These occurrences are all the result of climate change and global warming and are happening all over the country, if not the world.
Though it's probably natural for some climate change to take place, I believe it is being accelerated by modern society. I don't claim to be an expert on the subject, but common sense tells me that if we conserve energy, recycle and give back to the earth, we might be able to slow this down. At the very least, we should be able to adapt our garden to these changes. A good defense is always better than a good offense. Following are some common things that are happening and what you can do to help manage them.
Depending on where you are located, drought may be a problem you've been experiencing. What can you do about that?
The obvious solution is to plant drought tolerant plants, but that is not always possible, and let's face it, not everyone likes the look of drought tolerant plants, although most are quite beautiful. And all plants need regular water during their first year to get established. Instead, you may want to try the following techniques to help minimize the effects of drought.
- Set up a rain barrel or two. Collect water during the rainy season to use during drought. You can set up several barrels that will flow into the next when full, so you can store even more rain water.
- Mulch your gardens. Soil is less likely to dry out when it is covered with a 2"-3" layer of organic mulch. I prefer shredded cedar for mulch, but use what is readily available in your area. Pine straw, compost, grass clippings, and shredded bark mulch are good choices.
- Add compost to your gardens. I can't stress this enough. Compost increases the amount of water the soil can hold; compost increases soil porosity; compost improves drainage. Not only is compost good to help fight the effects of drought, but compost is good to help fight the effects of too much water, which we will talk more about later.
- Invest the time it takes to grow in raised beds. Raised beds drain well, yet provide an environment that allows the roots of plants to grow deep to be able to access more moisture. Ideally raised beds should be about 12" deep, but if you loosen the soil before planting to an area of about 24" deep, that is a big improvement as well.
- When you do water, water smart by installing soaker hoses or drip irrigation. Both help reduce water waste by putting water right where it's needed, at the roots, with very little evaporation. Soaker hoses can be installed under a thin layer of mulch and drip irrigation can be positioned so that the water is applied to the plant roots only. So you are not wasting water by watering the spaces between plants.
- Plant drought tolerant plants. I know you don't want to hear about this, but if short bouts of drought are becoming more common to your area, it might be something to think about. Some guidelines to think about when planting drought tolerant plants are :
- Choose plants with small leaves.
- Choose plants with shiny, waxy leaves.
- Choose plants with plump leaves, such as succulents.
- Hairy leafed plants are good choices.
- Gray foliage reflects light and keeps leaves cooler.
A great list of drought tolerant plants can be found in the book The Weather-Resilient Garden by Charles W.G. Smith.