Putting Your Garden to Bed

Climate Change and Gardens

Winter may not be everyone’s favourite season, but snow cover and prolonged below zero temperatures play a vital role in the health of plants and soil. Here are just a few examples of how climate change is impacting our winters and the effects it can have on our yards and gardens:

Warmer temperatures

Long cold spells can kill off garden pests that aren’t built to survive a cold winter. Warmer temperatures may lead to an increase in invasive insects, such as Japanese beetles, that damage our garden plants. It also allows bacteria-carrying insects, like ticks, to move further north. In our region, below-zero temperatures are also needed to improve soil structure and drainage and to prepare seeds for germination in the spring.

More rain and less snow cover

A thick blanket of snow is nature’s best winter insulation, protecting soil, plants and beneficial insects. With less snow cover, soil can dry out and blow away, while plants and insects become more exposed to sudden drops in temperature. Additionally, when soil is frozen and precipitation falls in the form of rain instead of snow, the soil can’t absorb the water which can lead to flooding.

Fluctuating temperatures

When temperatures jump quickly between freezing and thawing, it can be stressful for dormant plants and hibernating beneficial insects, making them more susceptible to disease and pests. With more winter rain and wet soil, this repeated freezing and thawing creates pressure in the ground and pushes soil upwards. This “frost-heave” can damage tender plant roots or even lift plants (especially newly planted ones) up and out of the ground.

Give Your Garden a Blanket

To help reduce the negative impacts of climate change on your garden through the winter, the best thing you can do is maintain a protective five to eight centimetres layer of leaves and/or mulch over the soil and around trees.

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