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Climate Change Will Inevitably Lead to Changes in The Garden

Mar 7, 2008
Climate change is taking its grip on our lives and that includes our gardens. So it makes sense to confront the issue and plan your garden accordingly. While some traditional plants may find the changing conditions tough to cope with others will thrive.

The first thing to understand is how climate change will manifest itself. How is the weather going to change? Immediately we have a problem as nobody can be certain. But broadly, winters will probably get wetter and summers drier and hotter. The number and intensity of frosts will reduce and Spring will come earlier.

Second question - which plants will no longer thrive and which ones will do well? And third - what other impact will we see on our gardens? Will some insects become extinct and others become more prevalent?

Its all pretty complicated but a good gardener can help you tackle these issues.

Plants that could have a tough time include traditional English cottage garden plants such as lupins and delphiniums, that won't cope well with dry conditions. Spring bulbs, so loved by british gardeners will also suffer - but because of the wetter winters. And the centrepiece of the British garden, the lawn, will become increasingly difficult and costly to maintain.

In terms of insects and disease, changing conditions have already seen an increase in some beetle populations and wetter winters will encourage more fungal disease.

Ironically, increased carbon emissions may actually benefit plants, which will absorb more carbon dioxide and grow faster and be more robust. This will help plants resist any increase in disease or insects.

On the plus side it will be easier to grow more exotic fruits such as grapes, figs, oranges, lemons, nectarines and apricots. Some architectural plants such as palms will do well. And glamorous climbers such as shocking pink bougainvillea will thrive.

When you are planning planting for your garden think about the local conditions.

Plants that are drought tolerant have a better chance of flourishing. But also bear in mind that many Mediterranean plants won't favour wet winters, so you may need damp loving ones too. If the weather gets stormier, which it's likely to, then consider planting windbreaks to shelter the garden from high winds. Look at your plot - is it currently exposed to the elements?

If your garden is in a flood risk area then resist planting for the long term - any damage will be all the more depressing if plants you have nurtured for years are destroyed overnight.

When planting up a garden get your gardener to thoroughly prepare the soil, with organic matter, gravel or grit to maximise drainage. It's really important not to have waterlogged beds during the wet winters that are in store. And to cope with the drier summers, work with the weather. Set up water butts to catch water during the wetter months that can be used to water the garden in the summer. There are also systems to clean up bath and washing up water so that it can be recycled in the garden, although this isn't recommended for fruit trees or vegetable patches.

Wildlife gardens with ponds and water features will relieve the dryness of summer and provide a source of water for wildlife - insects, birds, you may even find you have a family of frogs moving in who can deal with some of your garden pests!

While you are trying to work out the best planting scheme for your patch spare a thought for gardeners working in historical gardens and stately homes. Their job is to maintain the planting that was first devised maybe 100 or 200 years ago, when climate change was unheard of. There's is the biggest challenge.
About the Author
Expert gardener India Cooper reflects on how environmental changes equate to changes in the gardener. To find out more please visit http://www.ratedpeople.com/find/gardener
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