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Gardeners and climate change, part 2

By Jenny Indian, Beechworth Urban Landcare and Sustainability

In last week’s Living Lightly, we considered how important shade is and looked at the importance of being a resilient gardener and so creating a resilient garden, able to withstand changes in the climate.

The next thing to consider, after shade, is plant choice – think about this very carefully

Take the time and do the research.  Always consider where plants grow naturally – if it originated on a shady slope of a Japanese mountain there is a fair chance it will struggle on the western side of your house against a brick wall; if it grows naturally as an understorey plant in filtered light, it may well struggle out in the open to the north and so on.

Choose trees and plants that are suited to your current climate but, importantly, that are able to withstand further increases in temperature, heat intensity and longer periods of that heat.

Establishing trees is becoming increasingly difficult.  Even with adequate ground moisture, it is sometimes simply too hot for the leaves of a young tree to survive.  Again, a temporary shade structure, in addition to adequate moisture, may be the only way to get young trees established.

Similar issues also are becoming apparent with some types of vegetable – both seeds and seedlings.  Lettuce and spinach for example – increasingly difficult to prevent leaf scorch and bolting. We must now begin to think about shading parts of our veggie garden to ensure that the plants can prosper.

As the heat continues to increase, it will become more challenging to successfully germinate seeds, establish seedlings and grow some types of vegetables so we will have to research and choose the varieties carefully.

The nursery industry is coming around to this now and so we do have access to a variety of seeds and plants with increased tolerance to extreme heat and less water. 

Essentially, as part of our adaptation to the changing climate we must become clever gardeners, able to carefully observe what is happening around us, anticipate and plan for these changes.  Importantly, we are all going to have to simplify our approach and our expectations and learn to work with a reduced palette of plants to prosper.

Jenny Indian is a Landscape Architect (and passionate gardener) who has lived and worked in north east Victoria for 25 years.