For thousands (perhaps millions) of Americans, gardening is not just a hobby – it is their passion. Unfortunately, today’s rapidly changing climate is threatening the gardening habits most people have gotten used to. Read on and learn how you can grow a successful garden in various climates.
Gardening with Climate Change | 7 Tips For Gardening in Different Climates
1. Invest in a Gardening or Soil-Testing Thermometer
Because of climate change, many gardeners are experiencing the shift in the usual timing of gardening activities. Unseasonal frosts and earlier blossoms are some of the signals of this shift that have old-time gardeners scratching their heads.
On a bigger scale, the effects of these changes may include:
- Unpredictable growing seasons brought about by shifting precipitation patterns and higher average temperatures.
- The spread of non-native and invasive plants as they take advantage of the weakened ecosystems.
- The end of some native iconic plants that are unable to adapt to the shifts in the climate.
- The disruption of important connections between pollinators and plants as they arrive either too late or too early to feed on flowers they normally rely on.
These effects can also have an adverse impact on even the smaller home gardeners. Bees, for example, may miss the important pollination cycle that affects home-grown flowers and vegetables as they arrive too late.
Furthermore, frost dates also continue to shift. Because of this, gardeners are planting at different times compared to several years ago. Some plants, unfortunately, may completely cease to thrive given the present conditions.
An inexpensive way to help you deal with these shifts is with the use of a soil-testing thermometer. This should help you measure the temperature of the soil and give you a more thorough read of what is happening beneath the surface. It will give you an idea of when it’s time to plant your garden crops.
Furthermore, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has also provided a frost/freeze date probabilities chart. This should help you determine the current average frost dates. It will give you a better grasp of when it’s time to plant your garden crops.
2. Get to Know the Changes in Plant Hardiness Zones
The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is a map that defines the average range of climatic conditions in a given geographic area relevant to plant survival and growth. In past years, many states have already shifted at least 1 full zone on the Plant Hardiness Scale.
When planning what crops you’ll have in your garden, it might be wiser to choose varieties that do well in both wet and arid climates. Consider planting for the climate you already know, as well as for the climate that you may have in the future.
This is extremely important especially if you are planting long-lived species such as trees. It might do well in today’s climate, but the same may no longer be true 20 years from now.
3. Know What to Do When There Isn’t Enough Water
The changing climate has resulted in longer summer and fall seasons, and shorter spring seasons. This results in drought-like conditions that often cause soil to harden into a crust. In turn, this makes it hard for water to permeate and for the soil to hold water for plants to absorb.
To offset these conditions, try adding organic compost that will enhance the conditions of the soil. Compost binds particles together that hold not only water but also nutrients in place. They prevent water from simply passing through too quickly for the roots to absorb.
Another way to protect plants from drought-like conditions is through mulching. It holds moisture, moderates fluctuations in soil temperature, and helps in preventing plant stress.
Mulch helps protect plant root systems that may be pushed out of the ground. This often happens as the soil expands and contracts as it heats up and cools off. Furthermore, mulch helps regulate the temperature, especially during high-heat periods.
4. Know What to Do When There is Too Much Water
Sudden downpours can damage crops just as much as unpredictable drought-like conditions. They can erode garden soil and flood out seedbeds. The right precautions, however, can reduce the impact of having too much water.
Trenching is one way of providing water a place to go in case of sudden heavy rains. Having shallow trenches dug in between rows in your garden beds (or planting crops in mounded soil) allows water to flow more freely.
Furthermore, trenches can also serve as “compost trenches.” Unfinished compost can be placed here where they are readily available to plant roots in.
Placing deeper trenches in strategic locations throughout your garden can direct any excess water to safe areas for overflows. Your garden’s contours dictate the kind of trenching you should do. In general, these trenches should have a depth of 12″ or more.
Just make sure to keep safety in mind when digging them. Remember to dig them wide enough for people to see when they pass through your garden. If they have to be narrow, then cover them with boards that are robust enough to carry the weight of a person.
5. Keep Plants Warm With Straw
In case of cold weather, one way to keep plants warm is with some old-school animal bedding. You can bury your crops in about a foot of straw. If you also take care of livestock, then their soiled straw will be even better. If available, pine needles can also be used to top off the straw.
When the weather does warm up again, you can uncover the plants. With this simple and quick cold protection method, you would only lose a few days of growth instead of weeks when you replant.
6. Try Using Gardening Cloches
If you don’t have access to soiled animal bedding, you can also use cloches. These are small, transparent covers gardeners use to protect young plants against frost.
These are usually readily available in gardening supplies stores. If they are not, however, a DIY solution would be to reuse those gallons of milk jugs.
Do this by simply cutting off the bottom of a gallon milk jug. Afterward, partially bury the jug around every plant to prevent it from getting blown away. Additionally, you can also leave the cap on when the weather goes below freezing. You can also take it off once temperatures begin to rise.
7. Consider Using Greenhouses
One of the best gardening tips regardless of the climate is to use a greenhouse. This serves as a great form of protection for your garden, especially during those late winter months.
A few years ago, greenhouses were only seen in big farms. Nowadays, they have started popping up even in small backyard gardens.
The modern greenhouses most people use today utilize high-quality unbreakable plastics in place of glass used in older models. Furthermore, the cost of these has gone down as new models are now available to backyard gardeners.
A small, starter backyard greenhouse provides protection for seedlings that allows gardeners to start planting early. This is useful today as spring seasons become shorter. Once these seedlings are set, full-season crops like tomatoes can take their place in the greenhouse as these do better when the foliage stays dry.
Bigger greenhouses can also provide space and the right conditions for full-season crops. With these, gardeners can produce crops all year round even in their backyards.
Want to try gardening in greenhouses? Know what type of greenhouse you should build with this video courtesy of Bigelow Brook Farm:
Knowing how to adapt to different climates is crucial if you want to keep your garden thriving. Make sure your gardening activities are not disrupted by changes in the climate with the gardening tips listed above.
Do you have other questions about gardening in different climates? Ask them in the comments section below!
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