How to garden for climate change

Hepatica is one of the first hardy wildflowers to bloom in the spring in Ohio.

Climate change causes temperature increases, lengthening and shortening of growing seasons, less predictable precipitation patterns and increasingly intense storms or periods of drought. It’s no surprise that these changing conditions would impact your community and home garden. Fortunately, there are ways to adapt your garden and reduce the impacts of climate change.

Learn how to plant a garden or create a landscape that supports future generations and how to make your garden hardier and better prepared to survive climate change.

Changes for your garden

Diversify. Biodiversity is one of the best indicators of the health of an ecosystem. The more biodiversity, the healthier and more likely an ecosystem is to survive. 

By planting a wide variety of plants in your garden, you’re giving it a better chance to survive a range of weather conditions. This is key because we can’t predict how climate change will impact regional plant growth yet. We don’t know which plant varieties will thrive and which ones will struggle in the future. Increasing the diversity of your garden ensures you’ll have some plants that thrive.

You’re also providing resources for a larger number of animal species. Different wildlife, especially insects, rely on different types of plants for food, reproduction and shelter. By providing more plant species in your garden, you’re making needed resources available to a wider variety of creatures.

You can even extend the value your garden offers wildlife by choosing flowers with different bloom cycles to ensure pollinators have access to nectar and pollen from spring to fall.

Drought-tolerant plants. Choose drought-tolerant plants for areas of your landscape that have become dry. They can help reduce soil erosion and conserve water as they can survive with little to no supplemental water once they become established.

Consider a rain garden. While some regions have been affected by drought, others have been impacted by increased precipitation and more intense storms. Implementing a rain garden in your landscape is one way to ensure you have a garden that thrives. It is also a great way to manage stormwater. Rain gardens are filled with plants that flourish in wet, soggy conditions. Additionally, they can serve as a place to ensure runoff is filtered before it slowly enters the groundwater. Learn how to plant a rain garden.

Changes for your community

Plant more gardens. Planting a garden and increasing the prevalence of green spaces helps combat climate change by cooling temperatures locally and reducing the heat generated by urban areas. 

Plants absorb carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, which directly reduces greenhouse gasses. However, greenhouse gasses can also be indirectly reduced by eliminating areas that need to be maintained by using motorized or gas-powered equipment.

Greater flower abundance and plant diversity provided by gardens also help benefit pollinators and other wildlife that are challenged by climate change.

Use less water. By planting native plant varieties, drought-tolerant plants, avoiding ornamentals and using mulch you can use less water to ensure your garden thrives. Native and drought-tolerant plant varieties require less water and reduce the need for irrigation. Mulch has a similar effect as it holds moisture near plant roots where they need it. Ornamental plant varieties often require more water, fertilizer and maintenance to survive in place of native plants that use fewer resources because they have evolved to survive local environments.

Don’t plant invasive species. Invasive species use up all the resources in an ecosystem until they have out-competed everything else and there’s no chance for anything else to survive. When an invasive plant takes root in an area the local flora is first to be impacted, but because animals rely on plants for survival, it doesn’t take long for them to be affected as well.

Planting invasive species on top of climate change adds stress to already stressed local ecosystems.

Furthermore, there is a potential for invasive species to become even more established due to climate change. Species that have already taken root but are prevented from overgrowth due to cold winters may be able to become established and spread faster as winters warm. This makes it even more important not to plant native species in home gardens or incorporate them in landscaping.

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  1. The issue of climate change through gardens is very important. I like to Diversify, Drought-tolerant plants, Use less water all the topics you have written about. Thank you!

  2. We’ve been following these approaches since we’ve noticed a decline in rainfall and an increase in hit days in the year, in our area.

    A suggestion I would add is try to move as many plants as you can away from pots,, and into the soil. This gives plants much more capacity to extend roots and survive the heat and lack of water.


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