The news is filled with references to global warming and climate change. In fact, 99% of scientists agree that climate change is real with negative impacts on the environment, weather, human health, and agriculture. In Maryland, climate change is already causing higher average temperatures, more drought, longer heat waves, more intense storms, and flooding.
So what can we do as gardeners to help the cause and help our gardens adapt to these changes?
Adopt sustainable practices. Environmentally smart practices build climate-resilient gardens and can slow future warming by reducing emissions and boosting carbon in soil and plants. Here are a few ways to get started:
Plant more trees
Trees filter air and water and are carbon sinks, capturing and storing carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas. When placed well, trees can save up to 30 percent on heating and cooling costs.
- Plant deciduous trees on the west, east or southwest side of your home to block summer sun then let it in to warm your home in winter. Site evergreens to the northwest to buffer winter winds.
- Lean toward native trees. They’re well-adapted and need less water and fertilizer, the manufacture of which can contribute to greenhouse gases.
Add or nurture native plants
Don’t stop with trees. Native shrubs, perennials, grasses, and groundcovers also help build a climate-resilient landscape. Native plants, once established, require less water and fertilizer, help store carbon, and reduce soil erosion. Since they co-evolved, native plants best support native pollinators and beneficial insects which provide chemical-free pest control.
Keep it diverse
Plant diversity also boosts resistance to pests and disease, so add many different types of plants to your gardens. Yes, more is better.
Save the soil
Great gardens grow from the ground up. So protect and improve your soil which stores massive amounts of carbon as carbon dioxide and organic matter.
- Keep soil covered since bare soil invites problems. Soil covered with plants, mulch, or cover crops best stores carbon, resists erosion, holds moisture, and has more even temperatures.
- Minimize soil disturbance from digging and tilling which speeds up the loss of organic matter and disturbs the soil community.
- Recycle nutrients by making and using compost. Compost adds organic matter, helps soil hold water and nutrients, and reduces the need for fertilizers.
- Save water to make your garden more climate-resilient. Use a rain barrel or create a rain garden to capture and filter rainwater.
- Water when plants need it, not on a fixed schedule. And plant in the spring or fall when plants need less water to become established.
A few more tips:
- Limit the emissions that contribute to greenhouse gases. Use gas-powered mowers, trimmers, and other equipment less and opt for alternatives.
- Shrink your lawn and replace it with groundcovers and other alternatives which need less water, mowing, herbicides, and fertilizer. When you do fertilize, do it based on a soil test to use only what you need.
- Help more by growing some of your own food or supporting local growers to cut down on emissions from long-distance transportation.
You can make your garden more climate-resilient. Start with a few steps and build on them to help your garden successfully adapt to climate change.
By Annette Cormany, Principal Agent Associate and Master Gardener Coordinator, Washington County, University of Maryland Extension. This article was previously published by Herald-Mail Media. Read more by Annette.
This article was previously published by Herald-Mail Media.