Backyard Climate Guard
Extension Experts: Climate-Resilient Gardening’s Just a Few Steps Away
By Karen Shih ’09
Illustrations by Charlene Prosser Castillo
You can’t escape news reports of 1,000-year floods and raging wildfires, but you don’t have to turn on your TV to see evidence of climate change. It’s growing right outside our doors, from spring plants blooming ever earlier to the warm weather-loving invasive stink bugs staking ever-larger territory.
You can take small steps to mitigate and adapt to these changes, says Christa Carignan, coordinator of digital horticulture education at the University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center. Its new climate-resilient gardening resource, now online, includes these tips for your own backyard.
1. PLANT A SHADE TREE
Cool down your home—and lower your energy bills—by adding a tree to the west side, blocking the hottest afternoon summer sun. Trees also serve as carbon sinks, absorb air pollutants and reduce stormwater runoff. The Marylanders Plant Trees site offers a $25 state rebate if you plant a native tree; cities and counties may have additional incentives.
2. LOSE YOUR GRASSY LAWN (OR AT LEAST SOME OF IT)
By replacing a portion of your yard with a native plant garden, you can mow less; support bees, butterflies and birds; and cut carbon emissions by laying off gas-guzzling lawn equipment and nitrogen fertilizer.
3. GROW YOUR OWN FOOD
Eating locally can reduce your carbon footprint—and nothing’s more local than your backyard. Start with just a tomato or herbs in a pot and expand as you learn. Or plant a blueberry or raspberry bush or a fig tree. Eating a more plant-based diet is also kind to the environment.
4. CHOOSE TO COMPOST
While organic matter dumped in a landfill releases greenhouse gases, composting allows oxygen to break down veggie and fruit scraps, coffee grounds and tea bags, as well as leaves and grass clippings. Extension Master Gardeners offer trainings on how to set up home compost systems, and some counties even offer food scrap pickup.
For more tips, resources and testimonials, visit go.umd.edu/climateresilientgardening.
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