How gardeners can understand & adapt to climate change

collage on climate change
Photo illustration by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

What does climate change mean for your garden?

As the climate continues to change, how will you, as a gardener, keep up with the changes?

This is Climate Week, and in this article we’ll bring you some resources to help you understand climate change and adapt as a gardener.

Ebook on climate change for gardeners

What do you see when you look at your garden? A flower here, a tree there, a butterfly over yonder? Your garden is more complex than that.

It’s really a system of relationships among the soil, plants, insects, birds and other creatures, according to Gardening in a Warming World: A Climate Smart Gardening Course Book.

This great ebook from Cornell Cooperative Extension encourages us not to look at our gardens as a group of isolated parts. Instead, it shows us how to recognize and analyze the interconnections within the whole garden. When we alter one part of a system, it will change other parts.

The book is easy to understand and gives you ways to apply these ideas to your own garden. The authors include links to even more resources that gardeners will find interesting.

Then the book gives some basics of climate change and how, in a general way, it is affecting gardeners.

Finally, the book addresses how gardeners can not only adapt to climate change, but take steps to mitigate climate change by reducing emissions to stabilize the levels of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.

To adapt to climate change, you may use a more diverse mix of plants in your garden, including plants that are usually grown in a warmer gardening zone.

To mitigate climate change, you might cut down the need for gas-powered mowers and fossil-fuel-based fertilizers by replacing high-maintenance lawns with alternative plants.

Read the book here.

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ climate

We don’t have just one climate in Western New York– our lakes, hills and valleys create different climate conditions within our region.

Stephen Vermette, professor of geography at Buffalo State College, identified five climate zones in Western New York, which he explained in this previous article. Vermette’s work is giving us more detail than we’ve had before when it comes to the way climate change is affecting different parts of Western New York.

Help scientists gather better data

Remember the Snowvember Storm of 2014? Some South Cheektowaga residents got a winter’s worth of snow—60 inches—during that storm. But just a mile away, the National Weather Service office at the airport recorded only 16 inches, said Dan Kelly, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Buffalo.

Weather reporting stations can be 15 miles apart, while a band of lake effect weather might be only a mile or two wide. That band could easily miss the weather stations we have in place.

Volunteers are needed to collect weather data from their homes through the nonprofit group Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. It’s better known as CoCoRaHS (pronounced kō-kō-rahz) and is supported by the National Weather Service.

“Having volunteers fills in the gaps and gives us a better idea of what’s going on,” Kelly said. “It gives us more accurate information. Lake effect snow is big in Western New York, and the more readings we can get, the better.”

The data that volunteers collect is used not only by the National Weather Service, but by other meterologists, farmers, the US Department of Agriculture, outdoor recreation enthusiasts, emergency managers, teachers and people working with water conservation, storm water management and mosquito control.

See more information here.

Guided walk on climate change

A guided walk called “Visualizing Climate Change in Western New York” will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 7 at Reinstein Woods, 93 Honorine Dr., Cheektowaga.

Explore the impacts of a changing climate and what Reinstein Woods may look like in the future on this guided walk.

Registration is required. Call 716-683-5959 to register.

11 Comments on “How gardeners can understand & adapt to climate change

  1. If you follow the science you simply cannot deny how our lives are changing due to climate change. Unfortunately for me the hotter humid summers have caused me to avoid my gardening duties. As a result I have tons of weeds that need pulling, perennials that need moving and bushes that need trimming. Try as I might, I’m not physically able to get this done before the really cold weather hits and I haven’t found anyone willing to take on this job (I’m willing to pay). Wish me luck as I attempt to get some of this done.

  2. Cecilia, it’s interesting that you say that weather patterns are changing, and it’s not necessarily for the better. Here in WNY, I’ve had some difficulty expressing how dangerous climate change is because climate change has been so kind to our gardens. We have a longer growing season! We may be able to grow things that we couldn’t grow before because it was too cold here! On the other hand, we may find at some point that we aren’t able to grow some plants we love because they need that cold winter. If, as Lea joked in another comment, we are start growing citrus fruit here, how will our apples do? And we may get pests that migrate here from warmer climates. The trouble with climate change is that we can’t control it. We can’t pick and choose which aspect we like and which we don’t. Also, check out the previous article by Dr. Vermette. In general, the Northeast is seeing changes in precipitation, but it was a surprise to find out WNY hasn’t seen that change in precipitation.

  3. Lea, while I believe we need to make changes on a large scale, I agree with you that the changes begin by involving one person at a time. Gardeners care about weather and climate, so we gardeners are people who are very interested in what we can do as individuals. Some gardeners may also choose to do more.

  4. It is very sad that people do not believe in climate change. Call it what you will, our weather patterns are changing, and not necessarily for the better. We have seen more dramatic shifts in weather from hotter, drier periods to more rain and cooling cycles. This affects us all, in our planting, as well as our consumer goods from the grocery store to home improvement stores.
    I wish people would see the big picture instead of just focusing with limited vision.

  5. I believe these dramatic changes occurring in our climate have been evolving likely since humans could mass produce anything and waste products were never considered in the invention equation. And, like most gradual changes, we paid no attention until now when nature responds more and more dramatically. Now it’s getting our attention – well, at least some of our attentions!
    At present, we are scampering around wondering what happened and, quickly, how do “we” fix it? What we can do individually will be of help. However, as these events have been caused, in my opinion, by our consumer needs and faster production for those needs, and no thought to consequences of waste products, it will take a much greater effort. But, as with most change, it begins One Individual at a time. Or we will adapt and begin growing citrus fruit in WNY!!!

  6. Those who think that climate change is a lie are only fooling themselves. It is not political. It is the reality that people who refuse to listen to the experts, scientists or do their own research can accept.

  7. “Climate change” is a lie. I am unsubscribing due to this nonsense. Are you really about gardening or is it politics?

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