My first real awakening to the importance of gardening came when we discovered a hummingbird nesting in our yard. After a rain, Mama hummingbird would roll around on rosebush leaves to take a bath in beads of water. The two eggs she laid were the size of tic-tacs, and I thought with babies smaller than a kidney bean, any chemical I sprayed on my yard might be picked up and carried to them. 

I had never really thought much about gardening before falling in love with those sweet little birds. Suddenly it became so real, so tangible, that what we do in our own backyard has an impact on creatures, water quality, and the amount of energy we use. Seemingly innocuous things like raking leaves and deadheading flowers in the fall has an impact on the microorganisms, little critters and birds that rely on those leaves, seed heads and hollow stalks for food and habitat to help them get through the winter. As climate activists, you already know that we are part of this Earth, and when we deny that is when we get into trouble.

In The Conscientious Gardener: Cultivating a Garden Ethic, author Sarah Hayden Reichard says, “Many garden practices are based on half-truths, misinformation, and anecdotal rather than scientific evidence.” She devotes a chapter to confronting climate change, highlighting several things that gardeners can keep in mind – the “why” behind the “what”:

    • Help plants and animals adapt by providing little oases of food and habitat for creatures that are under stress due to climate change;
    • Grow more trees to not only sequester carbon, but also to reduce energy use;
    • Leave the soil alone because healthy soils sequester carbon, and lose it when disturbed;
    • Use your muscles because all that energy for power-tools has to come from somewhere; and 
    • Be a Locavore, eating foods grown or produced within 100 miles (and I would add, grown within season. Consider the carbon footprint of the tomato grown locally in a heated greenhouse under artificial sunlight over the Winter).
    • Lower Your Carbon Footprint

I’d like to introduce several more ways how you might choose climate-friendly gardening practices, and where you might find reliable sources for self-education.

For example, We Renew includes several carbon-lowering actions you can take to earn points in the We Renew Challenge, and you can share your experiences with other participants. (If you haven’t signed up, yet, what are you waiting for? Join the 350 Spokane team!) The We Renew gardening actions include: 

    • Replace the Lawn 
    • Install Weather-Based Irrigation Controls
    • Water Plants Just Enough
    • Install Efficient Irrigation
    • Catch the Rain
    • Plant Trees
    • Compost

I’d add: grow your own food. Although it doesn’t earn We Renew points, you can’t get more locavore!

These local sources can help you get started on the path of climate-friendly gardening: