You have permission to edit this article.
Climate change keeps changing gardening game
spotlight AP

Climate change keeps changing gardening game

Gardening climate

This undated photo taken near New Market, Va., illustrates how plants are becoming more stressed by unpredictable weather extremes. The climate in 2025 will be different even from that of 2020, so take that into account when doing your landscape planning. Choose plant varieties that can adapt to unusual growing conditions.

Every year now, gardeners should be rethinking what they grow and where because of climate change, experts say.

The growing season has become longer, delivering bigger harvests but requiring more weeding and controls. Plants are under stress because of rising temperatures, less frequent but more intense precipitation, and changed pest and disease problems. Flowers and the insects that pollinate them are falling out of sync.

"Conditions have become more challenging for gardeners since the weather has become more unpredictable," says Richie Steffen, executive director and curator of the Elizabeth Miller Botanical Garden in Seattle.

"We've had much hotter summers, while our winters have been all over the place," he says. "Some were dry. Some were very wet. And in this region at least, our wet spells tend to come with much heavier rains rather than our typical misty rains."

The average home gardener should examine water use, and estimate how much of that precious resource is going to be necessary and available in the future, he says.

"Be less rigid about lawns and not so fastidious about keeping them watered all summer," Steffen says. "Create more habitat and extend the flowering season for pollinators.

"And be more selective about plant selection. Many things not so readily available 20 or 30 years ago are available now."

The most trustworthy plants are those that regenerate quickly and can handle extremes, says Jessi Bloom, owner of NW Bloom EcoLogical Services in Redmond, Washington.

"Another group of plants to consider is edibles, for personal resiliency and food security," she says.

The climate in 2025 will be different even from that in 2020, so take that into account when doing your landscape planning, says Sara Tangren, invasive species foreman for Empire Landscape in Silver Springs, Maryland.

"For perennials, stick with locally native plants. But when it comes to trees, look to a broader range," Tangren says. ``I'm not recommending natives when talking trees. Go for something instead that can take the heat."

You also can expect more dormancy in lawns, she says.

"They'll be going brown in summer, but you can transform that look in part and save on mowing by deciding which portions of the yard you really use," Tangren says. "Start planting perennials, shrubs and trees there instead."


This undated photo of snow-laden trees near New Market, Va., that haven't yet dropped their leaves, making them more prone to damage. It illustrates how climate change keeps bending the rules and goals of home gardeners. (Dean Fosdick via AP)

Precipitation is becoming more intense but less frequent, and temperatures are getting hotter, she notes.

"Two inches of rain used to be a big deal around here, but now we're seeing 7 inches. That sounds like plenty, but when it falls in one day and the average temperature is 5 to 10 degrees higher, then the evaporation rate is higher and you don't have any access to it," Tangren says. "Soils don't store water as readily when they get too much at a time."

Many things are blooming earlier than ever before and also lasting longer into the fall. "That's giving us more production but also more work," she says.

Trees are leafing out faster, while the window for wildflower blooms is getting slower and they're being shaded out.

"That means they won't be there for the insect pollinators and the songbirds, and this reverberates through the whole system,'' Tangren says.


Sprout new ideas

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

The popularity of home vegetable gardening has certainly been strong this year, continuing a trend that started 10-15 years ago. But this year's shelter-at-home practices encouraged an even larger group of new gardeners to try their hand at home food production.

  • Updated

Q: In January, my grandson and three of his friends agreed to rent a four-bedroom apartment near the campus starting in August, when school was supposed to resume. They signed the lease in January. The four students each signed separate leases (with parents co-signing), and each student put up two months of rent upfront, totaling $1,600 each.

  • Updated

Keep your mail and deliveries safe and dry by replacing an old, weather-worn mailbox with a new, double-wall resin box designed to withstand the rigors of weather and an altercation with a car or truck mirror. A new mailbox defining your property at the end of a driveway makes a positive impression about your home, and you’ll find an array of choices when it comes to these mailboxes in home centers, specialty catalogs and online.

  • Updated

My childhood home had a pedestal sink. In the wall tile, there were two tiny alcoves, one for a drinking glass and the other for hand soap. There was also a wonderful ceramic toothbrush holder with four holes that protruded from the wall. I don’t recall electric hair dryers, curling irons, or any other modern appliance back then, although a few people might have had them in the 1950s.

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News