Protect Your Backyard Garden from Climate Chaos!

How can home gardeners gear up for climate chaos in their backyards?

By Leah Zerbe

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Protect your garden from the harmful effects of climate change with a few simple steps:

• Check out the new hardiness zone maps. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture has yet to update its hardiness zone maps to reflect a changing climate, NOAA has released climate-related planting zone maps based on the new normals. This means that in certain areas, certain crops could be planted earlier or planted later without the danger of frost.

• Calculate perennial plantings with a changing climate in mind. Since these zones are also predicted to shift even more in the coming decades, NOAA researchers urge homeowners, landscapers, and city planners to consider this when selecting long-lived species like trees. You wouldn't want to plant a tree that works in your climate today but might not thrive there 20 or 30 years down the road.

• Compost, compost, compost. To help climate-change-proof your garden, use high-quality compost. "Just adding compost to the soil to begin your garden is one of the greatest climate change benefits you can make," says Clarke. "If we all did that, just imagine the impact." Adding high-quality compost to your garden allows the soil to slurp up the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and store it in the ground, where it helps mitigate climate change. Compost also makes the soil healthier, which allows it to soak up and hold more water. This comes in handy during times of drought. Research at the Rodale Institute has found that organically grown crops produce higher yields in years of drought, mainly due to the healthier soil.

In addition, home gardeners should avoid planting in flood plains and can use organic straw or lawn clippings as a mulch to retain more moisture and conserve water in times of drought.

Learn how to make your own compost.

• Keep celebrating the home vegetable garden! Frost dates are shifting and gardeners may be planting at new times compared to several years ago, but that doesn't mean fewer people will garden. In fact, cooking from a home garden is becoming more mainstream than ever, and should be celebrated. Kitchen Gardeners International, a nonprofit dedicated to encouraging self-reliance through gardening, home-cooking, and sustainable local food systems, wants home gardeners to host a garden potluck, organize a kitchen garden tour, or visit a CSA or local farm on August 28, which is International Kitchen Garden Day.

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