Gardeners cannot help but notice the impact weather imposes on their gardens – heat and cold, drought and wet, rollercoaster extremes. Take heed. According to long-range weather models, these conditions will continue and intensify.
One of the time-honored tenets of good gardening is to put the right plant in the right place. There are good reasons to expect that this pairing will continue to be a guiding principle in gardening. However, our changing climate leads to a new question: What is the right plant?
The answer is plants that thrive in our present and future climate.
We need to select plants, shrubs and trees that do well in a range of climate zones. The zones should extend both above and below our Zone 8b.
For example, a plant suited for Zones 6 – 10, or even Zones 7 – 9 is a better bet than a plant rated for Zones 8 – 10 or Zones 5 – 8. Plants that can endure weather extremes in both warmer and colder climate zones are likely to fare well in our environment in coming years.
Trees and shrubs are typically an investment for the long term. Choose plants that are not just drought tolerant but those that can also handle periods of wet and flooding. They will be well-suited for projected growing conditions that will be marked by temperature and moisture variations.
It sounds like a tall order to expect a plant to live through so many different weather stresses. Some species will be more capable than others. That is why gardening experts recommend native plants. They have been able to survive many years of nature’s vagaries. Native plants have proved able to handle the periods of heat and cold and wet and drought that are part of our Coastal Carolina climate.
The rising CO2 in the atmosphere, increased temperatures, variable precipitation, drought and flooding may well lead to ecosystem changes. Plants will react differently to these weather stresses. It is probable that all plants will not be able to evolve at the same rate to keep up with future climate changes. Some species will adapt better than others.
As plant and animal species adapt to new conditions their distribution and range may alter the interaction between plants and insects. Timing of flowering may be different. Flowering plants that once bloomed together may be on mismatched schedules. Changes in flowering will affect pollination. It is smart to bolster your backyard habitat now by adding plants that will attract pollinators and keep them coming.
When choosing ornamentals, fruits or vegetables, look for and select disease-resistant varieties. Remember that stress makes plants more vulnerable to disease. Opting for resistant varieties is an easy way to decrease the need for chemicals, prevent disease and save you money and labor.
Why not grow a few of your favorite fruits and vegetables in your yard? You don’t need a dedicated vegetable garden. Grow plants in pots or among ornamentals.
Food is transported an average of 1,500 miles before it reaches our tables, reason alone to plant some of what you eat. Growing your own is the ultimate way to reduce the distance between production and table, thereby eliminating concerns about food safety and reducing greenhouse emissions associated with the transportation of produce.
The selection of plants synchronized to a changing climate is not a major adjustment from years past. It is simply good gardening with a thought for the future.
Reach DEBBIE MENCHEK, a Clemson Master Gardener, at firstname.lastname@example.org.