Last summer saw record-breaking rainfall in my corner of western Massachusetts – our dirt road was washed three times and the dirt in our yard was too wet to work most of the time. There isn’t much I can do for my road other than express my gratitude to the city team who fixed it. But I can adapt my garden, with help from Ginny Stibolt and Sue Reed’s book, Climate-Wise Landscaping.
First published in 2018, this book has become more relevant than ever as climate change takes off in the United States. My wife, an environmental scholar who studies the dynamics of our climate change, has told me for years that storms and the precipitation that accompany them would become more severe in the Northeast. I didn’t do anything, but now I believe the time is right. And Climate-Wise Landscaping offers many ideas.
As he indicates in the introduction, this book takes a positive look at the situation. “Instead of wringing our hands,” say the authors, “we prefer to roll up our sleeves. That’s fine with me, because I don’t like at all the sadness so often associated with the environmental movement, which I find encourages a sense of hopelessness that leads to paralysis.
In a series of highly focused chapters, Stibolt and Reed offer ways to address the different ways that climate change is impacting different parts of the country, whether it’s increased heat and drought. , or flooding. By focusing on different aspects of our landscapes, from lawns to soil and water, trees and shrubs and herbaceous plants, they not only share ways for the gardener to minimize his garden’s contribution to climate change, but also, in many cases, to help reverse or at least limit the process.
Some of their recommendations were, to me, unexpected. For example, in a section of the book succinctly titled “Food,” Stibolt and Reed point out that global food production produces one-third of the greenhouse gases we release into the atmosphere, and that every pound of food produced in a home or a community garden cuts greenhouse gas emissions by two pounds. This will strengthen my passion for the vegetable garden.
Based on my experience last summer, I was drawn to Section VI: “Planning and Design”, which deals directly with the design of “Floodplain” landscapes. Sometimes, the authors advise, the best answer is acceptance. Areas naturally prone to flooding such as flood plains should be respected by garden designers, as by collecting and absorbing runoff water, they perform an important function. Having identified these areas, gardeners should avoid planting species that do not tolerate periods of standing water and avoid planting structures that will be damaged by flooding.
Working with natural systems can also involve increasing the capacity of your landscape to absorb the water that falls on them. Creating a rain garden is one way to accomplish this, but the process can also be simpler, adjusting the soil to create low points where water can sink and planting them with plants that can. tolerate periods of water-saturated soil – species that originate from floodplains and wetlands. My vegetable garden, according to Stibolt and Reed, will be less muddy if I focus more on growing in raised beds. Plant trees on a small mound. If an area of lawn has been under an inch or more of water for more than a week, the soil will have been compacted by the weight of the water and the area should be aerated.
Be-a-Better-Gardener is a community service at the Berkshire Botanical Garden, located in Stockbridge, Mass. Its mission, to provide knowledge about gardening and the environment through a wide range of courses and programs, informs and inspires thousands of students and visitors each year. Thomas Christopher volunteers at the Berkshire Botanical Garden and is the author or co-author of over a dozen books.