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Recovering from Extreme Weather: Ideas for a More Resilient Garden

Gardening in the Age of Climate Change

As an avid gardener, I’ve always taken pride in my lush, thriving backyard oasis. But in recent years, I’ve found myself battling against the relentless forces of our changing climate. Gone are the predictable seasons and reliable weather patterns I once knew. Instead, I find myself grappling with scorching heat waves, prolonged droughts, and unpredictable extreme weather events that seem to wreak havoc on my beloved garden.

According to environmental journalist Kim Stoddart and her co-author Sally Morgan, the impacts of climate change are making it increasingly difficult for gardens to thrive. “Extreme heat and droughts are becoming more prevalent,” they warn. “It’s no longer gardening or seasons as usual with our changing, more erratic climate.”

Like many gardeners, I’ve found myself frustrated and even discouraged as I try to keep my plants alive and healthy in the face of these new challenges. But I’ve also learned that with a little creativity and a shift in mindset, it’s possible to create a more resilient garden that can withstand the extremes of our changing climate. And that’s exactly what I’m on a mission to do.

Choosing Climate-Resilient Plants

One of the keys to building a more resilient garden, according to horticulturist Amber Noyes, is to carefully select plants that can thrive in the new normal of high temperatures and drought. “Plants originating in tropical or sub-tropical regions tend to tolerate heat better than those from a colder northern climate,” she explains.

That’s why I’ve been exploring a whole new world of heat-loving, drought-tolerant vegetables. According to the experts at Earth911, some of the best options include:

  • Chickpeas, lentils, butter beans, and yard-long beans, which thrive in hot conditions
  • Beets, which can be sown early to take advantage of the longer growing season and have deep roots that help them withstand dry spells
  • Eggplants, which are native to Southeast Asia and India and require minimal watering once established
  • Okra, which loves hot soil temperatures of 80°F and above
  • Peppers, both sweet and hot varieties, which originate in Central and South America and do exceptionally well in the heat

I’ve also been experimenting with more resilient tomato varieties, like Roma, San Marzano, and Black Krim, as well as cherry tomatoes like Sungold and Jasper. And I’ve discovered the magic of Swiss chard, which remains surprisingly heat-tolerant even as other greens turn bitter in the summer sun.

Cultivating Healthy Soil

Of course, plant selection is only one piece of the puzzle. As Alvin Pullins, a home improvement and environmental specialist, points out, the health of the soil is also crucial for building a climate-resilient garden.

That’s why I’ve abandoned the traditional practice of tilling my soil, which can disrupt the vital microorganisms and soil structure that help plants thrive. Instead, I’ve embraced a no-till approach, relying on regular applications of organic mulch to suppress weeds, retain moisture, and enrich the soil as it decomposes.

I’ve also learned the importance of protecting my plants from the drying effects of direct sunlight. By making use of the natural shade in my yard and incorporating structures like trellises and pergolas, I can create pockets of relief where my plants can take a breather from the scorching heat.

Watering Wisely

Of course, no discussion of climate-resilient gardening would be complete without addressing the critical issue of water. As droughts become more frequent and severe, it’s essential to be strategic and intentional about how I use this precious resource.

According to Noyes, the best time to water is in the evening, when evaporation is minimized. And rather than spraying water indiscriminately, I’ve learned to focus on delivering it directly to the base of my plants, where it’s needed most.

I’ve also experimented with deeper, less frequent watering, which encourages my plants to develop deeper root systems that can reach down to lower soil layers and access moisture during dry spells. And wherever possible, I’ve replaced traditional irrigation methods with more efficient drip systems to conserve water.

Adapting My Planting Schedule

Another important strategy I’ve adopted is adjusting my planting schedule to account for the changing climate. As Stoddart and Morgan advise, sowing and planting earlier in the season can help my plants get established before the onset of extreme heat and drought.

This has been a game-changer for me, especially when it comes to cool-weather crops like lettuces and brassicas that tend to bolt and turn bitter in the summer. By getting them in the ground earlier, I can ensure they have a chance to thrive before the worst of the heat hits.

Building a More Resilient Future

As I navigate the challenges of gardening in the age of climate change, I’ve come to realize that resilience is not just a buzzword – it’s a necessity. By carefully selecting heat-tolerant plants, nurturing healthy soil, and adapting my watering and planting strategies, I’ve been able to create a backyard oasis that can withstand the extremes of our changing climate.

And I’m not alone in this journey. Across the country, researchers and community groups are working to help gardeners and farmers build more resilient food systems in the face of climate change. From developing drought-resistant crop varieties to promoting regenerative farming practices, these efforts offer hope and inspiration for gardeners like me.

As I look to the future, I’m excited to continue experimenting and expanding my resilient gardening practices. Who knows what new and unexpected challenges climate change will bring? But with a little creativity, a lot of determination, and a deep connection to the earth, I’m confident that I can create a garden that not only survives, but thrives, in the face of whatever Mother Nature throws our way.

And that’s why I’m so proud to be a part of the Today’s Gardens community, where gardeners like me can share our stories, learn from each other, and work together to build a more resilient, sustainable future. After all, if we can’t beat the heat, we might as well learn to embrace it – and grow something delicious and beautiful in the process.

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