Weather or Not

Posted on 15. Jun, 2017 by in Grays Corner, Recent News

Weather or Not

Gray Stanback

Not too long ago, seasons were clearly defined things. Winter was cold, spring was warm, summer was hot, and autumn was cool. Nowadays, however, man-made climate change has made telling the seasons apart and predicting what the weather will be a real headache—especially for farmers. In the space of one month, we’ve had snow, balmy spring weather, downright hot summer weather, and even a hail storm. What’s a farmer or gardener to do?

One thing that should be mentioned up-front is that many plants, even native ones, just don’t do very well in these conditions. Many will wilt and die, while others will become waterlogged and no longer grow—plant indigestion, in other words.

However, there are a number of solutions that farmers and gardeners can fall back on for the time being to deal with a changing climate and unpredictable weather. It should be emphasized that none of these are solutions to the issue of climate change itself, but merely to the obstacles posed by it to the agriculture industry.

One possibility is to diversify the variety of plants that you grow. Many farmers in particular grow only one or a few types of plants, so adding new ones that can tolerate the changing climate can increase your crop yield or make your garden more attractive. Of course, you should be careful that the new plants you choose aren’t themselves sensitive to climate changes, or else the problem will simply be compounded rather than solved.

Another possible solution is not to change the type of plants you grow, but rather when you plant them. Most farmers and gardeners grow their plant their crops and flower beds in such a way that they will produce crops or flowers the following year. If the changing climate has caused spring-like temperatures to arrive earlier and earlier in the year, it might be possible to plant earlier as well, giving the crops and flowers a chance to grow before the changing weather threatens them.

Aside from changing what and when you plant, it would also be prudent to inspect your plants more thoroughly for diseases and insects. The increase in temperature causes many insects to breed earlier in the year, and this in turn spreads diseases to plants. A warming climate, after all, is a double-edged sword; it increases crop productivity, but at the expense of causing insects and other pests to flourish as well.

Finally, because the rapidly changing weather may lead to prolonged periods of drought in some areas and rain in others, you should pay attention to the type of soil you use. The best soils, both in general and especially for areas strongly affected by climate change, are those with high proportions of raw organic matter. This allows them to both improve drainage during times of heavy rain and to hold water during droughts.

If a farmer or gardener can take all of these into account, then he or she should be well equipped to take advantage of the gardening opportunities that the changing weather presents. This is, after all, an exciting time to be a gardener—as temperatures increase, the limits on what can grow where are no longer so restrictive.

However, I must end this discussion with a warning. I in no way condone perpetuating the phenomenon of global warming simply for the sake of facilitating gardening. Man-made climate change is a serious issue with—as we have seen this past month—serious consequences. We can adapt our practices to cope with it, but it is far more preferable to work towards eliminating it altogether.