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Workshop: Gardening in a Changing Climate

What will gardeners now—and in the upcoming generation—face from climate change? A public workshop on April 26 offers practical suggestions. (photo: Joshua Brown)

Wetter spring soils, drier summers, and pests that move north are just some of the realities Vermont gardeners face with climate change, says writer and gardener Ellen Michaud from Jerusalem, Vt. “Fortunately, however, UVM has our back.”

To help gardeners better understand the challenge of gardening in a changing climate, and suggest practical strategies to deal with it, two UVM experts will lead a workshop, “Gardening in a Changing Climate,” Saturday, April 26, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at  Gardener's Supply Company, 128 Intervale Road, Burlington, Vt.

Under the auspices of the UVM Extension Master Gardener program, and organized by Michaud, a member of the program’s Northwest Chapter, the workshop is free and open to the public.

The workshop will feature Vermont state climatologist Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux, an associate professor at UVM who helps state agencies plan for and adapt to climate change. Dupigny-Giroux is an expert in floods, droughts and severe weather and the ways in which these affect Vermont's landscape.

UVM researcher Rachel Schattman, a certified organic farmer and doctoral candidate in UVM’s Vermont Agricultural Resilience in a Changing Climate Initiative will also speak. Schattman’s research focuses specifically on strategies for Vermont that will allow people to manage soils, plant diseases and pests—particularly those that are migrating to Vermont from warmer regions. Schattman owns and manages a certified organic farm in Monkton.

Workshop attendees will also be able to get a new paper by UVM Extension professor Leonard Perry, a nationally-known expert in flowers and shrubs who writes the popular “Perry’s Perennial Pages”  and blogs at Perry's paper details the effects of a changing climate on perennials. He’s proposing a two-pronged strategy of prevention and remediation that focuses on simple, down-to-earth strategies.

Climate realities

Looking forward, says Perry, “there may be more heat waves in summer and extremes over 100 degrees.  By the end of the century, under a low [carbon] emissions scenario, summers in northern New England may be similar to those now in Pennsylvania, and under a more severe scenario similar to those now in the Carolinas.”

A changing climate is also predicted to impact precipitation.  “By the end of the century, we may see seven to fourteen percent greater rain and snow,” Perry says, “yet, at the same time, projections are for more short-term droughts between rainy periods.”

“What this means for gardeners,” he explains, “is site preparation and plant choices that can handle such precipitation extremes.  Along with hotter temperatures for gardening, the models point to more need to water in the future with less reliable water from rain.”

The good news? “By 2085, last spring frost may be one to three weeks earlier and the first fall frost one to three weeks later,” says Perry. “The result would be a month or more increase in the growing season.”

This release is adapted from materials prepared by Ellen Michaud; To learn more about the workshop please contact her by email.