Torrential rains in May, blazing heat in June, and now we are told that 2015 is on track to be the hottest year on record. This year has provided a vivid reminder that global climate change is happening, not just globally, but in our own backyards.The extra rain in May hit our annual Plant Sale hard! Photo Credit: Susan Finlayson
Climate change poses a serious challenge for gardeners. More variable rainfall and temperatures mean plants are exposed to more frequent stress, and gardeners are left scrambling to respond to extreme weather events.
Meanwhile, warmer winters along the Wasatch mean that more garden pests over-winter. Did you notice, like we did, that certain insect populations in your garden came on earlier and stronger than usual this year?
Squash bugs showed up early this year. Photo Credit: http://www.southeasternoutdoors.com/wildlife/insects/squash-bug.html
What is a gardener to do?
Here are a few of the things we are doing at Wasatch Community Gardens:
Learn about the impact climate change has on agriculture, and predictions for the future. A great interactive resources for the United States is the National Climate Assessment website. I recently spent about 30 minutes clicking around this website, and it is amazing!
Become a Climate-Friendly Gardener
Reduce your personal contribution to climate change by following a few simple principles outlined in The Climate-Friendly Gardener:
- Avoid gas-powered tools
- Replace inorganic fertilizers with compost and cover crops
- Replace pesticides with natural pest-control methods
- Add mulch and cover crops to your garden to keep soil covered
- Plant trees and shrubs
- Recycle your yard waste
- Use best practices in your lawn care (mow high; leave grass clippings in place; plant drought-tolerant grass; and don’t over-water)
- Grow your own food and reduce the miles your meals must travel to your plate
Cover crops growing at the Grateful Tomato Garden protect the soil and provide food for our resident urban chickens. Photo Credit: Susan Finlayso
Unfortunately, some degree of climate change is inevitable at this point. Adaptation means observing your garden and noting changing conditions, responding to issues as they arise, learning about crop protection and season-extension (to deal with erratic weather and pest pressures), and developing smart irrigation strategies, such as drip systems to enhance your garden’s drought tolerance. Improving the health of your soil through composting also helps to fortify your garden against climate pressures.
Fortunately, to aid you in these efforts, Wasatch Community Gardens offers a number of especially relevant workshops this fall :
9.26 Composting and Vermicomposting
10.17 Building a Hoop House
10.24 Putting Your Garden to Bed
More details about these workshops and registration are coming soon, so stay tuned in! But make sure to check out all our current workshop info by visiting http://www.wasatchgardens.org/workshops-events
Climate change is happening, but there are things we can do to “weather the storms” as well as improve our climate outlook, for ourselves and for others who share this precious planet with us.
Commentary by Susan Finlayson; Susan oversees Wasatch Community Gardens’ Community Gardens Program, working directly with community members &partners starting and supporting community gardens across our Network. Susan teaches Organic Gardening at the University of Utah.