How Climate Change May Affect Your Garden

And what you can do to adapt


Too Much Rain

Where drought is a problem in some areas, too much rain can be a huge problem in other areas as well. Whether it be weeks of heavy rains and floods or a hurricane that happens to blow through, too much water can have a devastating effect on your garden soil, which in turn can have a devastating effect on your plants.

When we have too much water in our soil several things happen.

  • Oxygen is removed from the soil.
  • Beneficial bacteria and fungi begin to die.
  • Harmful bacteria and disease organisms begin to thrive.
  • Plant growth slows.

If your area is prone to flooding, you may want to plan ahead and install one or more of the following things to increase your chance of plant survival.

  • Install raised beds. Not only are raised beds great for combating the effects of drought, they are ideal for elevating plants enough so that they are not as effected by minor flooding and too much rain. Lighter soils hold more oxygen and can process rain more quickly than compacted soils.
  • Build a swale, dry streambed, or french drain. All three are designed to funnel water away from your garden. Swales are usually grass covered channels that have been gently molded from the earth, kind of like a valley between two mountains. Dry streambeds are very similar, but are usually deeper and covered in stone to allow water to move away faster. French drains can be a little tricky for the inexperienced landscaper, so a professional may be a good idea, but I'm sure you can find instructions online if you are the adventurous type.
  • Build a Berm to redirect water. You may have heard that berms are a good way to help block road noise, but they are also very effective in directing water away from your plants or house. Berms are high mounds of soil that are usually long in length. Plant them with trees or shrubs to help prevent erosion. Just make sure you are not redirecting the water to your neighbor's yard.
  • If too much rain is a constant problem, you may want to include some plants in your landscape that can tolerate more water. Daylilies, Siberian iris, sycamore, and green ash trees are good candidates.

Extreme Cold

What some people may not realize is that global warming is responsible for extreme swings in temperature, whether it be cold or heat. You are going along just fine; winter is progressing and then you get a week or two of unusually warm temperatures. Plants sprout, trees and shrubs begin to bud and then all of a sudden we get a dose of cold weather.

Fresh new growth is damaged, herbaceous perennials die back to the ground again and tender buds of fruit and flowering trees are frozen off, damaging crops and weakening plants. The strongest plants bounce back and are not really affected, but weaker plants, or plants that have been subjected to this treatment over and over again can die.

So what can you do to fight Mother Nature? Rather than fight Mother Nature, you are better off working with her. Start with creating a healthy soil with lots of compost and other organic matter. This will make for a stronger plant that can withstand the temperature swings better.

Prevent plants and bulbs from sprouting too soon by applying thick layers of mulch after the ground has frozen in the winter. This will prevent the soil from warming up too quickly, which will prevent plants from sprouting too quickly. Pull mulch back when it's safe for plants to sprout.

Every year, they are introducing more and more trees and shrubs that are less susceptible to late frosts. Consider planting one of those varieties in your landscape. Wrap smaller trees and shrubs with burlap to help protect them from cold winds and temperatures.

And while you are thinking about planting, plan ahead and site evergreens on the north side of the house as they will be better protected from winter winds. Choose plants that are more than one zone hardier than where you live, and you can probably get them to live in the colder parts of your yard. Group plants together to create micro-climates; they will protect each other. Or plant more tender items on the south side of your house.

Snow

Snow is not as much of a problem as you might think. Snow insulates the ground and insulates plants. Your biggest problem is if you have a small tree and it's still very flexible and a heavy snow storm could bend it's branches to the ground. In many cases, it will bounce back, but in some cases it could break or become damaged in another way.

To protect small plants from snow, cover them with sandwich boards, made from scrap wood, wrap them in burlap or make a cage of chicken wire around them and fill them full of shredded leaves. This will not only protect them from too much snow, but also prevent rabbits from eating their tender stems and bark.

If rodents tend to damage your woody plants, you may want to surround the trunks with hardwire cloth, burying it a few inches below the surface, so they can not eat at the bark. You should also wait to mulch until the ground is thoroughly frozen so rodents do not make homes in the soft mulch.

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