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Connecticut Garden Journal: Planning a garden for a changing climate

Family watering their garden
Ariel Skelley / Getty Images
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Family watering their garden

I recently came upon the Climate Change Demonstration Garden project at the Cornell Botanic Gardens in New York. It's a test home garden where they're demonstrating how plants will grow differently in a warmer climate of the future. While we all feel the effects of climate change now and see lots of stories and videos about what will happen in the future, this garden is a practical example of what warmer temperatures will mean for plants.

The Climate Change Demonstration Garden started in 2014 and features vegetables and flowers growing outdoors in the garden and the same plants growing in a plastic, high tunnel greenhouse. In the greenhouse, they simulate the summer temperatures expected by 2050. Then they watch how the plants indoors differ in their growth from the ones outdoors.

They approximate more and intense heat waves by closing up the greenhouse and they simulate fewer, but wetter, rain events with their watering. As expected some plants adapt better to these conditions than others. They also find plants tend to go to seed faster due to the stress.

The Climate Change Demonstration Garden website highlights what we can do now to garden better in this changing climate. Some of their suggestions include experiment with new species and varieties, move up some of your planting and harvesting dates to avoid the hottest parts of summer, prepare for heavy rain events by making sure your soil is well drained, protect young plants from sudden late frosts and get ready for more weeds, insects and diseases that are better adapted to the heat.

Charlie Nardozzi is a regional Emmy® Award winning garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert information to home gardeners.
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