Climate change is the slow but continuous heating of our earth’s atmosphere over time due to a build-up of carbon in the atmosphere. Agriculture, fossil fuels, factories, vehicles and our own land management practices can contribute to the build up of carbon in our atmostphere.
What does that mean for the prairie gardener?
Our rain fall patterns are changing, moving from slow, gentle rainfalls over a period of days to fewer rain events that come quickly in large and fast moving storms. Instead of 1” of rain over a period of days, we can get 1” of rain in minutes.
Our winter winds are changing patterns which means we can expect more fluctuation in our winter temperatures – where one day it is -40C and the next it is -5C. This is especially difficult on our perennials and trees as they have to adjust their plant cells to these changes in temperatures.
We are getting more erratic frost events later in the season but our overall frost free days are increasing which means our growing zones are changing. Regions that used to be a zone 2 can now grow zone 3 plants. This is hard on trees that head in dormancy earlier in zone 2 areas than in zone 3 areas. It can cause unexpected frost events for gardeners which can kill vegetable transplants in the garden.
How can we manage these issues? We can purchase plants specifically for our region and growing zone so the plants remain healthy. We can select varieties that grow to maturity well within our average season length. We can add mulch to our gardens to ensure water is being held on our garden in heavy rain events. We can protect our trees with mulch, painting the south side of them in the winter and ensuring they receive heavy watering late in the fall.