Gardening and climate change

The recent discussions on climate change in Poland, the Beast from the East followed by a summer drought, as well as the long line of record breaking years including the hottest globally in 2018, have all emphasised again the need to take variations in the weather into account as we respond to climate change.

It’s not only an issue for politicians, scientists or environmentalists. Gardens in urban areas for example, can have a significant impact on aspects of climate change. Covering about 25% of the space in Britain’s towns and cities and up to 50% of all urban surface area, these gardens help to absorb rainwater and slow the flow of surface runoff which can overwhelm storm drains and sewers, create areas of cooler air that help lower the “urban heat island effect”, and capture dust and dirt in the air.

A recent survey found that two-thirds (62%) of British gardeners feel optimistic that they can adapt to the challenges climate change may bring, while 70% believe changes in gardening practices can help them garden successfully in a changing environment. Gardeners will need to start adapting how they grow and what they grow, for example:

  • Planting perennials rather than annuals – the root structure of perennial plants binds the soil and helps protect the effects of wind, heavy rain and flooding
  • Taking account of waterlogging – this means spring flowering bulbs, delphiniums and lupins might need to be replaced with other plants or found different parts if the garden to be planted in
  • Planting windbreaks that help to protect the garden from stormier weather
  • Establishing water saving devices such as water butts and other water saving measures such as abandoning lawns that help to overcome drought and dry weather
  • Getting to grips with new pests and diseases e.g. rosemary beetle and lily beetle migrating into Britain and surviving warmer winters by changing planting schemes or being more vigilant about pest control.

There is a lot we gardeners can do to “act local, think global”, it’s just a matter of getting our thoughts and actions up and running to respond to the new challenges.