Whether you believe global warming is a natural cycle of the planet or caused by human activity, the Earth is warming, and plants and the environment are changing because of it. The question is not whether it will continue, but how severe the results will be. Native ranges of plants may move northward: Imagine state trees no longer growing in their home states. Without the killing effects of a cold winter, pests and diseases may be more widespread. Weeds and invasive species like kudzu may broaden their range. Severe weather, such as droughts, heavy rainfalls and floods, may be more pronounced.
While all of this sounds ominous, gardeners can help lessen some of the negative effects of global warming by changing some gardening practices and demonstrating to others how to become better stewards of the Earth. Consider these steps.
Use Hand or Electric-Powered Tools
Gas-powered equipment, such as lawn mowers and string trimmers, contributes greatly to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. For example, an hour’s use of a conventional lawn mower pollutes as much as driving a car 100 miles. Consider replacing this equipment with electric-powered products or hand tools.
Grow a Diversity of Plants
Global warming is also affecting pollinating insects and birds. To help them cope with the changing environment, plant a diversity of flowering plants—especially native plants—that flower, fruit and provide shelter many months of the year.
Reduce Water Consumption
Droughts are already becoming more widespread across the country. To help reduce the water needs of lawns and gardens, install energy-efficient sprinklers and drip irrigation. Also, plant drought-resistant plants, mulch trees and shrubs to conserve soil moisture, and collect rain water in barrels to be used in the garden.
Trees are nature’s carbon reservoirs. In areas that are seldom used or where grass doesn’t grow well, consider planting native trees. I had an area on the north side of my house where lawn grass struggled. Instead of planting more grass or even ground cover, I turned the area into a small forest for wildlife to enjoy.
Growing food and using hand tools help lessen the effects
of global warming.
Photo courtesy of the National Gardening Association.
Landscape to Conserve Energy
Consider using landscaping ideas that conserve energy and reduce pollution. Plant deciduous shade trees on the south side of your house to keep it cooler in summer yet warmer in winter, when all the leaves have dropped. Build a rain garden to collect storm water runoff instead of having it run into the sewage system and potentially pollute streams and lakes.
Plant a food garden, or at least buy as much locally produced food as possible. By growing your own food and buying it locally, you’re reducing the amount of fossil fuels needed to ship produce long distances, such as from California and Mexico.
Charlie Nardozzi, a nationally recognized garden writer, book author, speaker and radio and television personality, has appeared on HGTV, PBS and Discovery Channel television networks. He is the senior horticulturist and spokesperson for the National Gardening Association and chief gardening officer for the Hilton Garden Inn.