RHS have recently produced a report to explain the impact of climate change and what impact this has on gardening. A link to download the full report.
The Benefits of a Garden
Gardens can come in many forms, ranging from a small planter to a large domestic garden. As well as private gardens, community gardens also abound, as do gardens for places like hospitals and schools, as well as specially managed gardens that are open to the public, such as the grounds of stately homes and botanical gardens. Gardens are multifunctional spaces, being important for promoting both physical and mental health, whilst also being incredibly important for the natural environment by providing a home for plants, trees and wildlife. Gardens are also extremely important for their local ecosystem. They act as air purifiers by absorbing CO2 and producing Oxygen. They help to cool urban areas by absorbing the heat of the sun – rather than this heat building up by bouncing back and forth off buildings. Gardens also act as a buffer against excess rainwater, causing rainwater runoff to be greatly reduced – as substantial amounts of rainwater will be absorbed through the plants – significantly reducing the risk of flooding. Despite all these benefits, there is still a relentless trend to replace green space with more and more urban structures involving impermeable surfaces. At the same time, human activities continue to emit carbon and other harmful compounds, resulting in polluted urban areas.
Future Climate Projections
Due to greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures have been gradually increasing for well over a century and are expected to continue to rise by at least 2 ºC over the next 100 years. This means that average temperatures for all seasons will increase across the UK. There will likely be an increase in the number of dry, hotter spells during summer, and, on average, substantially more rainfall during winter. In the future, it’s even possible that much of the UK will be frost free all year round. Additionally, gardens located near the coast, estuaries, or rivers will likely experience an increase in flooding.
The Implications for Gardeners
The good news is that warmer springs and autumns will extend the growing season – meaning that some species will flower earlier in spring and others will retain their leaves and remain greener for longer in autumn. A longer growing season will also allow a wider variety of plant species to be grown. The bad news is that more weeding, pruning and mowing will be required as a result of increased temperatures and rainfall. Another drawback of more rainfall is that valuable nutrients will be washed out of the soil at a faster rate, meaning that more attention will need to be made to the timing of fertiliser application. Gardeners will need to find ways of capturing and storing the increased rainfall so it can be applied during the increasingly dry, hot spells in the summer – which will also reduce mains water use. For larger sites ponds or lakes can be used to store water in the wetter periods of the year, pump systems can be used to provide irrigation during dry spells.
Another downside to the hotter weather will mean an increased number of pests and diseases found in the garden. As the climate is changing so rapidly, gardeners will also need to be aware that some trees planted now may not be suitable for the climate in several decades time. It may also be wise to consider varieties of plants that are more drought-tolerant and require less water as a way to future-proof your garden.
We have seen the substantial benefits gardens can provide, and it is these benefits that will be extremely useful in helping to cope with climate change – most notably a gardens ability to help reduce temperatures, reduce flooding, and purify the air. We have also addressed additional steps that you can take to future proof your garden. What is also clear is that an irrigation system for watering your garden is more important than ever to prevent your lawn, flowers, and hedges from dying during the increasingly hot summers to come. Here’s where we can help!