GRAND RIVER – Gardeners know first-hand that the weather has always been unpredictable, but the new normal under climate change has shown increased temperatures and more extreme weather events.
In 2016, gardeners had to deal with dry weather beginning in May, followed by heavy deluges of rain in August. The best way to adapt a garden to a changing climate is to build resilience into your landscape. At the same time, gardeners can play an important role in helping the natural environment cope with environmental changes.
Here are some tips that can be used in a garden of any size.
Remove invasive species – Habitat ranges are moving northward, but the change in the length of the growing season is bringing invasive plants that out-compete the native plants for resources. Remove invasive plants, such as buckthorn and garlic mustard, from your yard. Learn more about invasive plants online at www.ontarioinvasiveplants.ca.
Plant native species – Native species are adapted to the local climate, and are winter and drought tolerant. They have longer root systems compared to plants such as Kentucky blue grass, and they require less watering. They also benefit the ecosystem as a whole, because native pollinators and wildlife depend on the native plants for nectar, food and shelter, which non-native plants may not provide. Enhancing your garden with native species and diversity enables it to be resilient and complements the local ecosystem.
Embrace diversity – Natural ecosystems contain lots of diversity and so should a garden. Not only does diversity provide a range of colour, shapes and texture, but it will also improve diversity and health of the soil, which in turn is more resilient in times of drought.
Harvest water – Just like saving money, you can save rain for times of need. Install a rain barrel to capture the water that lands on your roof and use it to water your garden during the dry summer. A trick to making this more effective is to install the barrel in a spot where any excess water that overflows moves away form your house. Many municipalities have rain barrel sales in the spring. Using harvested rainwater will also save you money on your water bill.
Grow trees in your garden – Through photosynthesis, trees and other plants absorb CO2 and convert the carbon to biomass, taking it out of the atmosphere, which helps to directly combat climate change. A shade tree can also moderate the temperature by reducing heating and cooling costs for your home.
For a list of native trees, shrubs and plants, check the landowner resources on www.grandriver.ca/ruralwater.