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Gardeners and Climate Change

By Jenny Indian, Beechworth Urban Landcare and Sustainability

I’m often asked…’how can I continue to garden with the changing weather patterns effecting everything so quickly?’…’what can I do to mitigate the impact of ferocious temperatures day after day and reduced rainfall?’…

No simple answers I’m afraid but perhaps this might help a bit.

We have to accept what is happening – I think that’s the beginning. 

I’m not suggesting we all roll over and simply take what is dished out but, as gardeners, we have to change our approach.  If genuine resilience is the capacity to absorb shocks and changes and yet be able to return to normal functioning, then a resilient gardener (and, it follows, their garden) is one that can also accept these changes, absorb them and, most importantly, plan for them.

As humans we are privileged to have the ability to anticipate, to understand what is happening and to plan for that – we have the capacity to adapt.

Adaptation isn’t necessarily easy – it can be a gradual awakening or an outright slog full of disappointments. Equally, it can be a combination of the two, perhaps with a bit more speed given the apparent rapidity of the changing climate.

So, some thoughts which might help.

Shade – something I can’t emphasise enough.

If you have established shade, nurture it, plan around it, rejoice in it and plan for some more.  Shade will become increasingly important for us as creatures who need to work outside and for plants which will come to depend on shade for their survival.  We usually plan vegetable gardens with a northerly aspect but over the past years I’ve been encouraging an easterly aspect with protection from the westerly, particularly late afternoon, sun (unless you want your veg. ready cooked).

If you don’t have shade, seriously consider planning for it – deep verandahs, pergolas with covering, awnings, shade sails and living shade – trees.

Here, there is no room to go into the details and dilemmas of trees and bushfire but suffice to say that on a bad day anything will burn.

Deciduous, exotic trees around your home may not provide any protection from fire – though opinions vary on this – but they will reduce temperature, provide wonderful shade and filtered light over summer, allow winter sunshine and endless seasonal interest.  Australian light is very harsh, wonderful in many respects but glare is very wearing and can increase the stress of a run of extremely hot days.

In next week’s Living Lightly we will consider the importance of plant choice in our adaptation to the changing climate.