gardeners at a community garden harvesting produce

Gardeners at Columbia Heights Green, a community-run organic farm. Photo: K. Tully

Updated: June 3, 2022

How can gardeners help combat climate change?

Home gardeners can be an important part of the solution to climate change by using sustainable practices. Sustainable gardening and landscaping techniques can slow future warming by reducing carbon emissions and increasing carbon storage in soil and plants. In addition, you can adapt your gardens and green spaces and make them more resilient to climate change by adding native plant diversity, improving soil health, growing heat tolerant vegetable crops, and using stormwater management practices. We call this climate-resilient gardening. Read on for specific steps you can take now to adapt your garden and practice climate-friendly solutions.

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change 

  • Reduce your use of gas-powered lawn and garden equipment. When it comes time to replace your mower or weed trimmer, choose a rechargeable electric-powered one instead of a gas one. Instead of a leaf blower, use a rake or broom. These actions will cut down on gas emissions that contribute to climate change. 
  • Plant lawn alternatives where grass does not grow well on your property. This will reduce mowing and inputs of fertilizer and herbicides (which also take energy to produce) and will provide essential spaces for wildlife habitat. You can start by replacing just a small portion of lawn. For inspiration, look to these case studies from Maryland gardeners who are adding more plant diversity in place of turf.
  • Use fertilizers wisely. Synthetic nitrogen fertilizer is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Test your soil before applying any fertilizer.

Plant trees and landscape to conserve energy

Maryland has a goal of planting 5 million native trees by 2031 to mitigate climate change. Trees provide many benefits: shading and cooling urban heat islands, carbon sequestration, and improving air quality, to name a few.

  • Planting Trees in Our Changing Climate introduces the many benefits of tree planting and provides tips for selecting trees.
  • Use trees and other greenery around your home and community buildings to save energy. 
    • Deciduous trees planted on the west, east, and southwest sides of a building block the sun during the summer and allow the sun to penetrate and warm the house during the winter.
    • Plant evergreen trees on the northwest side of a house to protect it from winter winds.
    • Plant to provide shade over your air conditioning unit. Leave at least 3' of space to allow for good air circulation.
  • Explore other home energy conservation topics from Maryland Energy Extension.

Plant more diversity and add native plants

Landscapes with more plant diversity are more resilient when it comes to facing new pest and disease pressures and changes in the environment such as extreme heat and drought. More plant diversity in your garden also will support pollinators and beneficial insects that provide essential services like pest management and decomposition.

Protect and improve soils

Help store carbon by keeping soils covered with a diversity of plants. Improve soil health by adding organic matter and disturbing the soil as little as possible. Make compost from yard waste and food scraps. Compost can be used to enrich and improve your soil.

Manage stormwater runoff and conserve water

More frequent rainfall events and floods are anticipated with climate change. Help excess water slow down, soak in, and reduce erosion by creating a rain garden, swale, or vegetated buffer. Use rain barrels to store water for later use.

Grow food locally and adapt your garden to changing conditions

Learn more and share information in your community

climate friendly gardening brochure
Practice Climate-Smart Gardening (#8 Protect the Chesapeake Bay Series) | Maryland Dept. of Agriculture/University of MD Extension

Download brochure

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    Stories & Solutions

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    Climate Videos

Additional resources

Landscaping for Resilience in a Changing Climate | University of Maryland Online Course

The Climate Conscious Gardener | Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Gardening with Climate-Smart Native Plants in the Northeast | UMASS

Gardening for Climate Change | National Wildlife Federation

(PDF) Gardening in a Warmer World Course Book | Cornell University

Still have a question? Contact us at Ask Extension.