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COP27 - our role as gardeners in combatting climate change

I had the privilege and pleasure of working at Hardys Cottage Garden Plants over the summer, which sparked lots of conversations about sustainability and gardening. The kind folk there invited me to write an article for their newsletter about climate change, COP27 and what we can do. So here it is!

As gardeners we can often think we are “doing our bit” by having a garden, but there are lots of hidden environmental costs that come with owning a patch of green.

My professional background is in climate change and sustainability, where we talk a lot about the three things, we as a planet, communities and individuals need to do. These are to adapt, to mitigate, and help finance the transition to a new way of living.

There is a lot of focus on trying to limit global temperatures to a 1.5 degree C increase. But it’s worth noting that increasing temperatures won’t happen evenly and equally across the globe. A 1.5 degree C global temperature increase means, as I found out at COP26, an average increase of 3 degrees C increase in Kenya - making some areas of the planet simply impossible to live in, let alone cultivate.

"A 1.5 degree C global temperature increase means, as I found out at COP26, an average increase of 3 degrees C increase in Kenya - making some areas of the planet simply impossible to live in, let alone cultivate."

So, while it might be tempting to think that a degree or so warmer won’t make all that much difference to our back gardens, the impacts and effects go much wider. We can all play our part in combating that.

So what can we do?

If this all sounds too gloomy and / or preachy, I apologise. But here are some simple and sustainable steps you can take right now:

Firstly, adapt to the new normal. Here in Hampshire, we’ve felt the effects of a very hot and dry summer. At Hardy’s, we’re right near the source of the river Test, one of only 200 chalk rivers in the UK, and it’s still low. If you live in a similar area, experiment with growing plants that can survive in droughts. You can find plants suitable for drought tolerant planting at Hardys. If you are feeling really brave you could even ditch the lawn and opt for a gravel garden. Just, please, don’t put artificial grass down. Not only is it high maintenance (leaves seem to attract to it like a magnet) but it also gets intolerably hot in summer and can burn bare skin or pet's feet. If you do have a grass lawn, don’t worry about the crispy yellow look in summer - it will bounce back in the autumn.

"Find plants suitable for drought tolerant planting - and mulch well! This was my garden in July 2022 which is minimally watered."

Secondly - mitigate the impacts of climate change that we are already experiencing. This could mean installing a new water butt this winter, swapping to peat free compost (there’s a whole range at Hardy’s), thinking twice about buying annual bedding plants, or try your hand at growing from seed. Look out for plants that are good for pollinators and biodiversity. The RHS “plants for pollinators” sign on plants in nurseries will help to guide you to suitable choices.

"Invest in a good watering system - get as many water butts and watering cans as you can muster."

Thirdly, it’s often overlooked that a key part of the fight against climate change is by providing finance to combat the effects of climate change. Whether that’s supporting efforts far away in dealing with the outcomes of famine and floods or choosing to support local businesses like Hardy’s who are adapting their business models to ensure climate resilience, it all adds up. One practical way can be to twin your garden to provide support to another gardener elsewhere.

We can’t all save the world individually, but the power of taking small steps where we can and building on them can add up to make the difference.

Want to take the next step? Contact me for advice and inspiration on how to combat climate change.

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