Climate Change Adaptation Gardening
What is Climate Change Adaptation?
Climate change adaptation encompasses the strategies developed by governments, organizations, and people to anticipate the climate changes that will occur, manage the threats of climate change, and also take advantage of potential opportunities. For example, rising temperatures will lead to hotter summers and so actions like planting shade trees now can reduce the impact of increased heat later. More frequent and longer droughts will demand water conservation. All of us will have to make changes to ensure that we adapt safely to the coming changes.
What is Climate Change Adaptation Gardening?
We are already seeing the effects of climate change, from warmer winters, to hotter summers, to the extremes of drought and flooding, to more severe storms. The effects of climate change are already here and they will only increase.
Climate Change Adaptation Gardening recognizes that there will be a new normal - one that is hotter, drier, more volatile and more challenging. We can prepare for changes now in our gardens and, in many cases, use sound eco-landscaping practices to help lessen the negative effects we will encounter.
What are some examples of how our gardens can help us navigate climate changes?
This is a new area of gardening and it is evolving. The good news is that your pollinator pathway gardening practices will also help navigate the effects of climate change.
Migrate to using native plants in your yards. They require less water and are more resistant to pests. Native plants, shrubs and trees are a critical part of managing the effects of climate change. Native plants have deep and extensive root systems that stabilize and enrich the soil, help them survive droughts, and allow them to absorb water during high impact rain events.
Native gardening, by design, promotes planting densely. This can make the ground more absorbent during heavy rain.
Replacing lawn with native plants, whether a meadow, garden or shrubs, increases the water absorption of the soil and will also require less water. Lawn grass is a very shallow rooted plant that does little to absorb excess water and has high water needs to stay green and healthy.
Plan now for adding shade to your yard as a respite to longer and hotter summers. With the increase in wilder and more severe storms you may be reluctant to plant trees near your house, however many native trees are of small to medium height and can provide similar shade and eco-system benefit of a larger tree. Plant large native trees well away from your house. Don't neglect planting bushes - they will also shade the ground.
Trees are critical to help sequester carbon and reduce temperatures. One of the best things you can do is to plant trees.
Severe storms can also bring flooding. Build up your soil with organic matter and native plants/shrubs and trees to absorb an enormous amount of water, reducing the threat of runoff and flooding. Also consider permeable paving material to prevent runoff. Building up your soil with organic matter will also mitigate the effects of droughts.
Visit the Ardsley Stormwater Project Gardens at Pascone Park to see permeable paving, rain gardens and other ways to manage water runoff.
Pick the right plant for the spot so it can thrive and not need extra water or care.
As average temperatures increase you may have to incorporate plants from a warmer planting zone. Ardsley is in plant hardiness zone 7a, but as temperatures increase we may move to zone 8. That means that you may be able to safely plant native plants that generally thrive in slightly warmer climates. That also means that woodland native plants that are found north of here and that require cool moist summers will no longer survive in Ardsley.
Conserving water will be critical as droughts and heat make it a scarce resource. Use mulch to retain moisture in gardens (but do not not in meadows), consider a rain garden to capture and absorb water runoff, use rain barrels to capture water from your roof, only water your yard when absolutely necessary.
Soil with organic material absorbs and retains water. Don't treat your soil like dirt! It is a living system that needs to be cared for and nurtured. It is a natural resource. Never use a leaf blower on your soil - leaf blowers remove the top layer of soil, making it less absorbent. Feed your soil organic material like leaves and compost.
If you have a water problem in your yard it will probably only get worse as the weather becomes more extreme. Consider engaging a landscape architect to assess the area and suggest green solutions such as a storm runoff garden.
With hotter and dryer summers consider creating a shaded 'cooling' space in your yard. Locating it where you can get a breeze will help. Plant bushes, trees and shade loving plants in your outdoor room. Place a bench or chairs there, put a birdbath nearby, and cool off while you watch nature.
Dangerous storms makes it important to utilize the expertise of an arborist to keep your trees healthy and safe. Don't put off needed pruning of dead branches and limbs. Trees are important partners in both the the fight against climate change and the adaptation to those changes. Treasure your trees and keep them healthy.
Remember that not only humans will need help adapting to climate change. Planting more natives plants, shrubs and trees will also help pollinators and wildlife. As hotter and drier summers take hold they will need a source of water even more than now, so consider a small birdbath or other water source. Remember to freshen the water daily.
Where can I find more information on how to navigate climate change in and through my garden?
Gardening for Climate Change, National Wildlife Federation
Using Gardens for Climate Adaptation and Conservation from the Ecological Landscape Alliance
Gardening in a Changing Climate from the NYBG
Climate Change and Gardening and Adapting Your Garden to the Impact of Climate Change from the University of Maryland Extension
What are some good, tough native plants to consider?
A good reference book is Great Native for Tough Places from the Brooklyn Botanical Garden
These Tough Plants Can Take Nearly Anything Nature Throws at Them
Plant Selections for Tough Places
6 Native Ground Covers for Tough, Dry Spots