The Heat Is On–in the garden and on the planet

Today is a toasty 92°F (33°C) but that is normal for this time of year for us. We’ve actually had an unusually cool summer so far and our tomatoes and zucchini are only just starting to ripen. I’m grateful that our area has been spared the intense heatwaves so many areas of the world have been experiencing, but I feel for those of you dealing with 100+°F (37+°C) temperatures. And my heart goes out to those impacted by the tragic fires in Maui, and as well as those in Canada, the US Northwest and so many other places experiencing wildfires and extreme weather right now.

With all that happening, I feel a burning desire, as it were, to re-commit myself at a deeper level to studying climate change and lowering my carbon footprint further.

What is this? It’s a chilled glass of water with a leaf of lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora). A delicious thirst-quencher on on a hot day.

I’m not trying to throw any fuel on the fire, nor am I interested in fiery debates (dark puns intended). Climate change is a sensitive issue in so many ways: overpopulation of humans made possible by fossil fuels, livelihoods and families, homes and lifestyles, economic inequalities, the rapid extinction of species, the politicization of the issues.

But for those that like to share and be inspired by one another, I might include a few bits here and there to my garden posts — things that I find useful, empowering, thought-provoking, or educational about the topic of climate change.

But first let’s have a short, if languid, foray through the garden. As I said, it’s toasty today, so drink some water first and don your sunhat.

A few days ago we spotted the first monarch of the year on the Mexican Sunflower (tithonia rotundifolia). Clearly the plant is a magnet for butterflies as we saw a Tiger Swallowtail and a small butterfly, perhaps a skipper, at the same time. Oh yes, and the hummingbirds and bees love it too.

Above: purple pole beans, a wild mix of Verbena bonariensis co-mingling with an apple tree, some late ripening heirloom tomatoes, and one of many frogs around the garden. The wet winter helped boost their numbers again.

One of my favorite sunflower varieties — though not an heirloom. And, what local birder can tell me the ID of the hawk in the middle? Is it a Cooper’s?

I grew a great many butterfly nectar plants from seed this year. Coreopsis, gilia, and verbena shown here.

The glee my spouse and I get from spotting a single monarch brings back memories of growing up and seeing them all the time. They were common, even numerous. And then that, in turn, reminds me of a show I watched recently on Apple TV called Extrapolations. It’s a drama that plays out in the not-too-distant decades, of how climate change might affect our lives. Most of the science in it is reportedly accurate. Even though the character plots are acted well, I didn’t find them very relatable. However, somehow the show still managed to help me wrap my head around the unfurling of climate change in a personal way. A motivating way. I recommend it.

As this is a garden blog, it’s relevant to ask, can gardening help with climate change? I find this article from Washington State University very informative and motivating. It explains carbon storage in soils and trees, suggestions for composting, no-till gardening, growing your own food, planting for pollinators, and ways to reduce our carbon footprint in the garden.

“Gardeners can help reverse the accumulation of heat-trapping gases by growing plants and building healthy soils. How? Plants use the sun’s energy to pull carbon dioxide out of the air. They use it to make the sugar glucose needed for plant growth. Their roots secrete glucose and other carbon compounds to feed soil microbes that enhance plant health. The soil microbes also feast on decomposing plants and animal waste. As soil microbes die, their remains accumulate to create humus, the dark organic matter responsible for soil fertility. The carbon-rich humus in fertile soils keeps carbon out of the atmosphere for many years. Better management of our soils can capture and remove 21 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.”

~Washington State University, Climate Friendly Gardening

Also, I enjoy the garden so much that I feel no desire to go anywhere. There are also allotments/community gardens and botanical gardens and parks to enjoy. Reducing airline travel makes a significant dent in our carbon footprint. I doubt any private jet owners will find themselves reading this, but if so, please consider the outsized climate burden that places on the entire planet, if you haven’t already. Here are other things we can do–a chart from the journal Science:

An all-round great resource for climate actions we can make can be found at the United nations site, here. There is even an app to tally your carbon footprint.

Personally, I’ve done some sleuthing on my electric bill and am re-motivating myself to use the laundry line instead of the dryer. I’d gotten lazy about that (although the knee arthritis is a factor some days). We already do many of the other carbon saving tips, but there is always room for improvement. I’d love to hear what any of you are doing and wish to share and inspire in the rest of us.

Until next time, happy carbon-sequestering in your garden!

The-Compulsive-Gardener–a chat over the garden fence

18 thoughts on “The Heat Is On–in the garden and on the planet

  1. Uplifting & inspiring post…and so timely, Lisa! The information about building healthy soils is very important…a good reminder for all of us, particularly gardeners, of course. Your comment, “I enjoy the garden so much that I feel no desire to go anywhere” made me smile…I quite agree:)

  2. Thank you, Lisa ~ this is a lovely tour of your garden with stunning photos that capture the beauty of the season. Thanks, too, for the thought-provoking discussion about climate change; it’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed or despondent in the face of so much anxiety but I agree there is much we can do as gardeners. I like to think that every gesture I make, no matter how small, is important, whether it’s building soil, nurturing plants or encouraging biodiversity within the garden’s ecosystems. The more I can grow, harvest or forage and preserve plant material for replanting as well as food, teas, medicines, natural cleaning products, natural fertilisers and the rest, the less I need to rely on others and the smaller my carbon footprint becomes. Capturing rainwater, using the power of the sun and biomass produced on site and swapping/sharing with others strengthens my resilience even further, as does continual experimentation with different plants and methods. Some people call it ‘subversive’ but I think it’s a wonderfully positive response to an uncertain future and I think that blogs are a brilliant platform for sharing ideas and experiences and providing mutual support amongst gardeners across the globe. Happy gardening and keep up the good work! 😊

    1. This is wonderful Lis…thanks for sharing all those inspiring things that we can do. I like the word “gestures” that you used and like you, I don’t find it subversive at all, but very positive. I enjoy reading your blog as well and am always grateful for the mutual support and inspiration that we all get from each other, as you say. 🐞 🌻 🐝 -lisa

  3. Thank you for sharing the beauty of your garden and your thoughts about what we can do to help mitigate climate change. I also love the photo of your glass of water with the verbena leaf. It resembles an abstract painting.

  4. We try and reduce as much as we can. I try to avoid plastic. It did not exist when I was born so surely I can manage without it. From reducing our meat consumption for many, many years we are now vegetarians. This has meant us completely re-looking our menus but finding amazing new dishes that we love. Amelia

    1. How wonderful Amelia! I keep trying to reduce plastic too but I feel like I’m not doing very well, so your example is motivating. So impressive your move from meat-based to vegetarian. I was recently watching the documentaries “Before the Flood” and also “Eating Our Way to Extinction” and both said that a plant-based diet was one of the most effective things we can do to reduce our carbon footprint. We are long-time vegetarians as well. I bet your recipes are much better than ours and I wish I could peruse your cookbooks. Always great to hear from you and I always enjoy your blog as well. -lisa

  5. Oh. sorry, I meant to say your garden looks wonderful,so full of plants and others. I love that little frog. I think a walk in your garden would be more like a safari.:)

    1. Oh cute… I love that…a safari trip through the garden. That’s fitting since it’s rather wild. 🙂 I’m with you on the cuteness of the frogs. We love them. And you have a pond too and I bet the frogs and other little creatures love it. -lisa

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