Top tips for gardeners to help fight climate change

As Oregon gardeners have noticed, our climate is changing. This is primarily due to human activities releasing excessive greenhouse gases into the atmosphere over the last 150 years. As a result, we’re seeing temperatures increasing, periods of drought expanding, and we are experiencing more severe weather events than ever before. These changes have serious effects on our entire lives including our gardens.

Along with modifying what you plant in your garden as a reaction to these changing weather patterns, there are steps you can take to help slow the pace of climate change. Below are a few practical ideas to learn more, get involved, and take action right in your own garden.

Learn more about climate change and get connected with your community

Get up to date with the how and why of climate change on the United Nations’ Climate Action website. Get connected with others in your community: Join a local climate organizing group or talk to your neighbors about starting one. Check with your city or county government about how they are addressing climate change and get involved with local initiatives.

Do more with less

Need a garden tool for an occasional task? Here’s a few ideas to avoid buying one-time use equipment:

Check secondhand home improvement and thrift stores before buying new. Ask your local library to start a “Library of Things and include garden tools. Or consider starting your own neighborhood tool lending library. Also look online and join your local sharing community (the Buy Nothing and Freecycle networks are a few examples).

Reduce the amount of single use plastics that you use in the garden.

If you purchase transplants, look for seedlings grown in biodegradable containers rather than plastic. If you start your own seeds, reuse plastic pots and seedling trays from last year rather than buying new or try making your own pots from newspaper. (Make sure to clean recycled plastic pots well to remove clinging soil and start with fresh containers if disease was present to avoid spreading.) Disposable plastic greenhouse sheeting (used for season extension or hoop house coverings) usually has a life span of 3-5 years before needing to be replaced. Switch out for a long-lasting material like recycled windows or polycarbonate panels. Check with your local nursery to see if they recycle plastic pots. Some nurseries offer incentives for returning plastic pots.

Recycle your food waste into compost.

Keep kitchen scraps and yard trimmings out of landfills with composting. No yard for a large compost pile? No problem! Look into starting a composting worm bin or check with your trash service to see if kitchen scraps can be included in your yard waste bin.

When you do buy, make choices with less impact on the environment

When it’s time to replace motorized garden equipment choose electric over gas engines.

Mowers, string trimmers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, and hedge trimmers are readily available in electric versions. You’ll get the same power without the emissions.

Eat locally grown foods to help reduce emissions produced during transportation.

The fewer miles that food has to travel to your plate the fewer emissions are produced. Growing your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs to supplement your diet is great. Also visit local farmers markets, farm stands, or look for ‘locally grown’ signs in the grocery store.

Plant and design with the environment in mind

Reduce your use of peat & peat-based soil mixes.

Read labels and skip those that contain peat. Peat is a non-renewable resource and the process of harvesting peat releases large amounts carbon into the atmosphere. Instead, look for mixes containing coconut coir, compost, or other water-holding materials as an alternative.

Plant more trees.

Trees help remove carbon from the atmosphere and a well-placed tree can reduce the need for air conditioning. Plant trees to the west of your home to block the hot afternoon sun. Also, shading your air conditioning unit helps it work more efficiently and saves on electricity. Check with your city government or community tree planting groups for sources of low-cost trees.

Conserve water by choosing drought-tolerant landscape plants.

Carefully research before purchasing and look for trees, shrubs, ornamentals, and groundcovers that require less water and are more tolerant to heat. Review the OSU Extension library of publications on xeriscaping for ideas.

Climate change may affect summer season runoff impacting urban water supplies.

Increase water conservation in the landscape by capturing roof runoff and rainwater and recycling to water landscape plant. Capture water using rain garden designs and with plant placement. Use permeable pavers to reduce the “heat island” effect often found with impervious surfaces. Pavers also allow the water to drain through where the soil and sand below, help to remove pollutants before refilling local aquifers.

Climate change is a big issue but if we come together as a community, we can start to see change.

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