Although our predictions about climate change are uncertain there are many ways we can make better choices while enhancing our gardens so that we become environmental stewards and so our gardens are better equipped to cope successfully with a changing climate. First and foremost, we can change our methods for handling water by treating water as the precious resource that it is — keep it on site. As rain is falling we need to slow it down and spread it out so that it penetrates our site deeply and so that we allow for the plants and soil to help clean the water before it enters one of our water bodies. Design and installation of permeable paving is an important step for keeping water on site as is the development of rain gardens.
We need to avoid the use of invasive plants such as English ivy (invasive plants vary with regions of the US) which is killing many of our native trees. Focus on growing native plants, recognizing their beauty and importance in the food chain, their adaptation to the vagaries of our weather, their need for less water, and their critical role in healthy ecosystems. Using species of plants rather than complex hybrids with double flowers will assist pollinators as they need access to the nectar and pollen of the flowers. Encouraging genetic and species diversity will enhance the ability of plants to adapt to changing climates. Avoiding monocultures is a great step in increasing the biodiversity of our gardens. Biodiversity contributes to various forms of stability in a garden ecosystem.
There are many beneficial adaptations we can create such as green roofs, vertical gardens, soil building, and layered planting combinations. Shading and evaporative cooling from tree canopies can reduce summer temperatures from uncomfortable to pleasant — the more trees added, the cooler it will be. Using mixed evergreen hedges to protect the house from winter winds can help keep the house warmer in winter.
As home gardeners we do not need, nor can we justify, the use of toxic chemicals on plants or in our gardens. So much of what is going on in nature and in our gardens revolves around interdependent relationships — living things do not live or exist in isolation. We have opportunities to create thriving gardens that will have beneficial impact on our own health, enhance bird life, contribute to the health of our environment as well as helping to slow the human impacts on climate change.
Nature is our best teacher.