Monday, February 10, 2014

Adapt & Endure: Is This Our Future?

 President Obama announced that his administration is launching seven "Climate Hubs", mostly throughout the Southern US, to help ranchers and farmers deal with the impact of climate change. It is important to understand that the government has long had a role of using science & research efforts to assist and guide farmers. It was the change from straight line plowing to contour plowing (in which the farmer follows the landscape more) that helped mitigate some of the worst effects of the Dust Bowl. These new Climate Hubs are going to focus on ensuring food production remains at acceptable levels despite intense storms, droughts, and subzero temperatures.

This is a tall order. Let's talk about what it means for the home gardener. I believe that the days where growing some or all of your own food won't just be a hobby or a political statement: it's going to be a necessity for anyone who wants to eat well, regularly, on a budget.

There are several factors to consider when we're thinking about what to plant. It's easy to let habit guide us: if our family grew tomatoes and lettuce, we grow tomatoes and lettuce. But we can look a little further into things. What crops will grow best in your garden? I'm not sure the Zone System is enough of a guide when it comes to choosing appropriate crops. You want to examine whatever information there is available about how hardy the plants are. Can they handle a little drought? What happens if you get an early cold snap? If you can't find this information on the seed packets, go online and do some research.

Other factors to include is how productive the crops are, and how you're going to store and use the food. This is an area I've struggled with, personally: over the coming year, I have to become much more adept with my canner, as well as expanding my freezing and drying efforts. Sometimes you can get overwhelmed with how much produce you wind up with: this is the time to be mindful things don't go to waste.

Part of the story about the Climate Hubs said we were going to need to adapt our practices if we were going to be able to endure our changing future. One way that we may need to adapt is rethinking how we garden. Container gardening, vertical gardening, hydroponics: these may all have a role in how you feed yourself and your family. The smart use of greenhouses to extend the growing season may become much more vital if we're seeing longer, colder winters.

What do you see being important for the gardens of the future?

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