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Alternative Fact? - Climate change and the impact on the gardening world?

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Alternative Fact? - Climate change and the impact on the gardening world?

Almost everyday we hear and see information concerning global warming and climate change. The recent and ongoing California wildfires show us the harrowing images of charred remains. The warmest ocean temps and the overall hotest global temps continue flood our news pages. So much so that we almost forget disasters that are not that far back in our history.  The massive flooding in Houston is not even newsworthy any longer unless you are an actual victim. That being said how does climate change or as I see it the changing of nature’s balance relate to the gardening and horticulture world?

Is there an effect on plants due to climate change?  Does it have an impact on the home gardener and horticulture trades people? From my perspective over the years having been involved in the horticulture trade in many forms I have seen and felt many. The weather patterns have shifted. We see longer dry spells followed by longer periods of precipitation and more frequent downpours. We have earlier warm ups in spring.  We have warmer temps in the fall and latter first freezes. These are general first hand observations that I have witnessed. Not just data points on a chart.

Ok. But so what?  How does that affect my gardening efforts. Well….plants whether they be trees, perennials or vegetables need  certain conditions in order to thrive. They need particular amounts of water, nutrients and sunlight which all vary depending on the specific plant.  If those conditions are not met the plant begins to suffer and not grow and produce at it best. For example, a native Eastern Hemlock tree needs fairly consistent moisture and dislikes excessively hot summer temperatures.  Now that we are experiencing longer periods of inconsistent rain and overall warmer temperatures the tree is suffering in many ways. The periods of drought and high temps have caused much stress for the Hemlock and that leads to weakness and depletes its ability to fight off disease  just as it does in we humans. It also lessens the ability of the tree to fight off harmful insects. That weakness has caused the tree to be further attacked by an invasive species named Woolly Adelgid which ultimately kills the tree. Therefore planting any type of Hemlock in southeastern Pa is not recommended. Which is unfortunate as it is the Pennsylvania state tree. Climate change also affects anyone growing fruits and vegetables, whether it be a homeowner or farmer.  For example, tomatoes which so many of us love will develop large cracks due to inconsistent moisture and the plant can rot if the ground becomes too soggy. So with the majority of precipitation coming in large deluges followed by dry spells one can see how our obsession with that perfect fruit can be compromised. For the homeowner it is frustration. Kind of like when the neighborhood squirrel takes one bite of your tomatoes and leaves it for you to see. For the farmer it can lead to financial distress.

So we can see how certain plants are having difficulties in our new world.  Some adapt better than others. Some no longer grow well in some areas. Some will just cease to survive at all and their habitat replaced by invasive species of plants. All of this leads to changes in the way that we participate in gardening. Some say to plant natives as they are more accustomed to that area’s particular climate. There is some truth to that, but that very climate is not as it used to be. In conclusion there are many more examples of how climate change is affecting our world’s plants. The end of the story is that it IS!

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  • Thomas McTaggart
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