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Tuesday July 13, 2010
Post Title: How to benefit from climate change in your vegetable garden  

Working in tune with your local climate is one of most important success factors with organic gardening. Climate change has complicated the picture for vegetable gardeners, but there is a silver lining. With the right knowledge at the right time, food gardeners can actually grow more because of climate change.

Changing climate has in general brought greater extremes of temperatures with warmer and longer summers and often more extreme cold in winter, but on average, higher temperatures throughout the year. Food gardeners are finding that choosing vegetable crops with the methods they have always used is giving them results they don't expect.

For many gardeners, figuring out when its right to plant vegetables is based on one or more of the following:

  1. What they have always done - This is reliable so long as it has worked in the past, but climate change alters the picture.

  2. Planting calendars - Most planting calendars use very broad zones for recommendations which do not account for local temperature variances. These zones are based on climate definitions which may be up to 100 years old. So with temperatures changing, the zones are becoming more inaccurate each year.

  3. Advice from a nursery - Seedlings are often grown in temperature controlled environments and may come from thousands of kms away, so it very possible they are not in season for your local climate.

  4. Emotion - Whenever you do things in the garden without some objective thought, the results will invariably tell you to go back to drawing board.

Vegetables are very sensitive to temperatures at planting and over their growing period. Frost is a killer for many vegetables. If you plant too early or too late in the season you may be hit with frost. If it is hotter earlier in the season, there are many crops you could get underway which you would not normally grow at that time and because of extended warm periods you could be staging your crops for much greater production. There may be crops that you thought would not grow at all, but are actually now very suitable for your climate.

In a changing climate, the biggest opportunities for a healthier and more productive garden are:

  1. Extending your cropping time due to more heat and by becoming more aware of protecting your plants from frost and temperature extreme's.

  2. Planting new crops that were not previously suited to your climate.

  3. Reducing the potential for crop loss by getting more accurate with your planting times.

Our web site planting calendar has been specifically designed to deal with these three opportunities . We have detailed local climate information and climate profiles for all the food plants in our web site. So you don't need to know how to work through climate data, our Gardener subscriber planting calendar does it for you at the click of a mouse. It incorporates:

  1. Local temperatures - Averages over the last 7-20 years (Australia, NZ and USA) . Its fascinating to see how much average temperatures have changed in Australia over the last 100 years compared to the last 10. Our web site deals with this climate change by you simply choosing your closest weather station to create your climate profile and you can easily fine tune this for your location in relation to the weather station and for micro-climates you may have created in your garden.

  2. Frost data - Our site incorporates frost data for all the weather stations (Australia only at this point) so you can see your frost profile and easily manipulate the profile if you can protect your plants from frost, thereby increasing the number of plants you can select and your cropping time

  3. Detailed climate profiles on more than 130 vegetables and herbs - These are all matched to your climate profile in the site calendar so when you search by day, by month or by crop and you get a list of ideal or OK crops to work with. This not only gives you the best times to plant the crops you know, but opens up the opportunity find crops you have not worked with before.

  4. Climate warnings - Based on averages, the site tell you when there will be frost days, too much heat or cold during the growing period of the crops you have selected, so you can have advance warning to protect your plants.

In these times of climate change, the objective knowledge on planting and climate in our Gardener subscriber site and its ease of use, gives you the power to make timely decisions on managing your vegetable garden. It will help you to have greater success in your food garden.

Author - Peter Kearney - www.cityfoodgrowers.com.au

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Peter Kearney, Cityfood Growers

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