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Over The Garden Fence: Gardening As The Climate Changes

By Bob Labozetta (Mariposa Master Gardener)

Gardening in this time of increasing global temperatures, rising sea levels, and changing environments is challenging to say the least. In our own locale, we notice significant impact on our backyard habitats:

  • With higher average temperatures and inconsistent precipitation, plants are blooming earlier and growing seasons are becoming unpredictable. Even warm-weather plants like tomatoes are producing poorly because of increased temperatures.
  • Invasive, non-native plants and animals are finding their way into our ecosystems and are outcompeting native species.​ They are coming from lower and formerly warmer latitudes or from “down the hill.”
  • Many of our foothill native and unique plants may no longer be able to exist in parts of their historic range.
  • Native ​pollinators​, birds, insects (beneficial and otherwise), and other wildlife and the plants they depend on will lose their connection.​ Pollinators such as hummingbirds and bees may arrive either too early or too late to feed on the flowers that they normally rely on or find their traditional food sources gone altogether.
  • Sadly, the potential benefits from a longer growing season will be overcome by problems such as watering restrictions, damaging storms, and the intrusion of invasive weeds and garden pests.

Fortunately, if we modify our gardening techniques by reducing our carbon pollution and taking steps to help both natural and human communities adapt to environmental changes, we can be part of the solution. How can we, as gardeners, affect some positive changes in this potentially dire situation? We can:

  • Reduce our carbon footprint by ​using energy-efficient products and reducing your household’s energy consumption. For example, replace incandescent and even fluorescent lights with high-efficiency LED bulbs, install outdoor automatic light timers, and purchase solar-powered garden products.
  • Reduce or eliminate the use of gasoline-powered yard tools.
  • Remove invasive plants from our gardens and choose an assortment of native species.
  • Reduce water consumption by mulching, installing rain barrels, watering in the early morning, and using drip irrigation.
  • Compost kitchen and garden waste, thereby reducing greenhouse gases like methane and adding nutrients to our garden soils.
  • Plant lots of trees to absorb carbon dioxide, especially fruit and nut trees for added food sources.
  • Think globally and act locally by “contacting our elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels and urging them to implement a strong plan of action to combat climate change and safeguard people and wildlife from climate change impacts.” (National Wildlife Federation’s Gardener’s Guide to Global Warming Report. Glick, P. The Gardener’s Guide to Global Warming: Challenges and Solutions (Reston, VA: National Wildlife Federation, 2007).

For further gardening information and event announcements, please refer to the Mariposa Master Gardener website (http://cemariposa.ucanr.edu) and Facebook page (Mariposa Master Gardeners). UC Master Gardeners staff the help desk and phone helpline serving Mariposa County, including Greeley Hill, Coulterville and Lake Don Pedro (Phone: 209-966-7078; Email: mgmariposa@ucdavis.edu)

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