RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Turn on the news, and it's easy to see how climate change can cause major disasters around the globe. In Somalia, tens of thousands are fleeing the cracked, water-starved land to seek food. In America, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack promised continued multimillion-dollar financial support to farmers affected by catastrophic drought or out-of-the-ordinary rains and floods. Data released on Monday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found last month to be the fourth hottest July on record, with 41 of the lower 48 states recording above-normal, much-above-normal, or a record-warm July.
The takeaway? climate change is hitting close to home. We're talking in-your-backyard kind of close. For home gardeners, climate change is messing with growing seasons, shortening spring and lengthening summer and fall. So a new partnership between NOAA and the American Public Gardens Association is aiming to help gardeners and city planners ID climate change on the local level and protect crops and green spaces in the face of climate destabilization.
THE DETAILS: The two groups teamed up to create a pilot project that seeks to educate gardeners on the local impacts of climate change as it relates to gardening. The exhibit, located at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, features signs illustrating changes in hardiness zones. Visitors can also pull out a cellphone and dial a specific number to hear scientists go into more detail regarding climate change and gardens. (The number is 610-717-5599, ext. 380# and 381#. FYI, it's not toll-free.) Even if you don't live in the Philadelphia area, an exhibit may be coming to your area soon; the American Public Gardens Association plans to install similar climate change displays in public gardens throughout the United States.
WHAT IT MEANS: As most of us watch severe drought ravage Texas and ruin many farmers' summer crops in that state, you may not realize that the same problems could soon plague your own garden, though on a much smaller scale. July's extreme heat exacerbated drought conditions, causing the largest exceptional drought footprint in NOAA's National Climatic Data Center's 12 years of collecting data. In some areas, drought conditions exceeded those seen in the Dust Bowl era, and some climate experts say such extreme weather could be the new normal.