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Climate Change in the Garden

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 28 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Gardening Climate Change Gardening

Here in the UK the effects of climate change and global warming might have gardeners rubbing their hands together with glee at the thought of warmer weather and longer summers but not all of the effects of climate change will be for the better and it’s important for gardeners to be able to understand the implications of such a change, what they can expect and how they can help.

Unpredictable Weather Patterns
Whilst we are all used to the fickle nature of the British weather, gardeners will have to become used to more long-term trends which will deviate from what they are used to as the norm. Winters, instead of being long, crisp and cold for the most part are going to be shorter and wetter and, in the summer months, they are going to have to get used to more drought-like conditions which would have a major impact upon their crops and plants.

Effects of Warmer Weather
In addition to the increase in the risk of drought, warmer temperatures could also bring about new pest and disease problems. Even in the winter, the milder, wetter weather presents a greater opportunity for fungal diseases to occur. Certain native British plants will not, ultimately, be able to survive and there will be more of an emphasis on growing tropical, exotic fruits which we’d normally associate with places much more noted for their tropical climate.

The entire make up of both our plant and wildlife species, which are so commonly associated with the UK, will be radically transformed and we may even lose some of our much-loved wildlife species who may head north for cooler weather and some may even die out altogether.

The Positives
On a positive note, the warmer weather will mean that plants will grow faster and be stronger as the increase in carbon dioxide will speed up the process of photosynthesis and, in growing stronger and faster, this will aid their resistance to pests and other diseases. We’ll also get to enjoy an earlier and longer spring with reduced risks from frost and higher than the average year-round temperatures.

The Negatives
We will be more at risk of drought due to the hotter, drier summers and a lack of water would be disastrous for both plants and wildlife alike. More rainfall in winter could also lead to more cases of flooding and some gardens could be ruined or wiped out entirely with more risk of disease as a result of stagnant and contaminated water.

What We Can Do To Help
When we’re looking to plant shrubs, hedges and trees in the future, we should consider those species which are ‘drought tolerant’. We must also devise and install windbreaks or some other kind of shelter to protect our gardens from extremes of stormy weather. Soil should be treated with gravel or some other kind of organic matter to enhance its capacity for drainage and we should set in place some kind of vessel, such as a water butt or some other kind of water retention device, to collect any rainfall and be frugal in our use of tap water. Ponds and other water features will grow increasingly important as they can offer some respite to birds and other wildlife in times of drought. We also need to be wary of any areas which are susceptible to flooding and not seek to make any kind of long-term planting plans in these highly vulnerable areas.

Only time will tell how global warming will impact upon our country’s gardens and wildlife. It’s important that we all recognise what we can do now to minimise the impact and how evolution, change, flexibility and resourcefulness are all going to be vital in the protection of our gardens and the plants and creatures that live within it in years to come.

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