Climate change is real and is already having impacts in Maryland and across the U.S. Gardeners are increasingly observing and responding to climate change. Among 99% of scientists, there is no doubt that our climate is changing as global temperatures increase in tandem with rising levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere (CO2, methane, nitrogen dioxide, water vapor). Global measurements of temperature since weather records began in 1884 show a clear long-term trend toward warming, though year-to-year and place-to-place variation can make this difficult to see in the short term. All of the ten hottest years on record have occurred since 2000, and 2014 was the hottest year ever recorded worldwide, even though the Midwest and Eastern US had cooler than average temperatures.
Learn more about why air temperatures are rising, how this affects weather, and why Maryland is having cooler than normal winters even as the rest of the world faces record heat, read Climate Change Evidence and Climate Change Impacts.
All along the East Coast, commercial growers and gardeners are experiencing longer growing seasons, earlier flowering in many plant species and plant stress caused by temperature extremes in both summer and winter. Warmer winters, hotter summers, flooding and drought affect plant growth and also impact the many organisms that interact with plants. Effects on the interactions between species can sometimes be hard to predict, affecting not only insect pests and disease, but also pollination and key interactions between plants and microbes.
The climate-related changes that have already occurred require that steps be taken both in commercial agriculture and in home gardening to adapt growing practices suited to a “new normal” set of environmental conditions. We are the first generation that has not been able to look to the past for guidance on when to plant, what to plant and how to control pests.
Home gardeners can be an important part of the solution to climate change by using climate-friendly practices in gardens and landscapes. Practicing sustainable gardening and landscaping techniques can dramatically reduce carbon emissions and slow the warming by increasing carbon storage in the soil and landscape. These climate-friendly techniques will beautify your landscape and help you produce an abundance of healthy produce in your garden. In addition, they build the soil by adding all-important organic matter and protect it by reducing runoff and erosion.
Resources: Climate Change in the Garden Part of Cornell’s Garden Based Learning