Climate Change and Gardening

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on December 3, 2017

picture of repotting suculents

rawpixel / Pixabay

Climate change can make gardening frustrating.  Techniques that you have followed for years no longer work.  Favorite plants die.  Rainfall has changed and you are either in a drought or a monsoon.  What can you do to cope?

You can continue gardening.  You just need to make some changes.  First, you may cautiously expand your plant selections to plants from the next warmest zone.  Plants that the growing season was too short for may now change.  Others that always froze out may now grow.  Some of your regular vegetables and ornamentals may be able to adapt to the warmer weather and you can still grow them.

Late freezes cause trouble.  You may find that late freezes kill many of your plants.  In North Central Texas this year, we have not had a hard freeze.  It is close to 80 degrees F as I write this.  Many plants are flowering out.  Many others never went dormant.  This not only means the grass still has to be cut often, it means if there is a freeze in January or February, our really cold months, flowers will be frozen and plants that are not dormant may die.

No cold, no fruit.  Some plants, such as fruit trees, need a certain number of hours of cold, called chilling hours.  If the plants do not get the chilling hours they need, they do not bloom.  No blooms means no fruit.  Some of our fruits will become increasingly hard to grow.  Orchards will have to move north to continue to produce.

Pests may thrive. Foreign plants and animals that are adapted to the new weather conditions may move in and thrive.  Problems such as fire ants, that have been kept in check by cold winters, may now spread to new places because of the lack of sufficient cold.  Finally, predators and prey may get out of sink with because of the new weather conditions.  This could allow pests to grow in number because of a lack of predators.  Even good animals can become pests if they have no prey (look at deer and gardens.)

Heat stress.   Plants that could formerly grow in your area may face a new foe.  The summer heat may come early and be more intense.  This means onions and cole crops such as cabbage and broccoli will bolt early.  They may bolt so early they do not make a crop some years.  Other plants may wilt in the extreme heat of summer.  Perennials that are unable to take the heat may have to be treated as annuals and be replaced each fall so they bloom in the spring before dying in the summer.

Drought.  You may have to choose carefully when planting because of limited water.  In some areas, outdoor watering bans caused lawns to die.  In others, you could only water certain days of the week between the hours of ten and six.  It may be necessary to plant slower growing, drought resistant plants, including vegetables.

Floods.  An intense rain event is calculated by the National Weather Service as one that brings more than two inches of rain in forty-eight hours.  These events are increasingly the way people get rain in many parts of the country.  This leads to root rot problems and can kill many plants that do not tolerate wet feet well.  This is especially problematic when you have drought interspersed with heavy rains.  The plants that do well during the drought generally do not do well with lots of water.

How to cope.  You can cope with these changes, although you may have to give up some old favorites among your plants.

  • Use plants from the next warmer zone.
  • Move up plant dates to take advantage of longer growing seasons.
  • Use longer spring temperatures to grow cool weather crops before it gets too hot for them.
  • Stay in touch with your Extension agent to find out about new pests and ways of dealing with them.
  • Use raised beds to prevent “wet feet” during prolonged rain events.
  • Plant frost resistant perennials so a late frost won’t kill them.

Gardening is great exercise, a way to improve your space, and a way to save on grocery bills.  All of these things are still possible.  Just make some adjustments to account for climate change.


Join in the Big Bug Hunt to Beat Garden Pests

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on March 19, 2017

BigBugHunt logo

How much would you give to know when bugs and other garden pests were coming so you could take preventive measures?  The Big Bug Hunt is asking for your help to develop an app that does just that.  Since gardeners are the ones who generally find new bugs first, the Big Bug Hunt is asking for your help.  They need you to report every bug you see in your garden.

What is the Big Bug Hunt?

  • The Big Bug Hunt is an international research project to track when and how garden bugs spread.
  • Participants are helping to create a pest-alert system that will warn gardeners when pests are heading their way.
  • Anyone can take part and reporting a bug takes seconds.  The more reports received, the quicker the pest-alert system can be developed.
  • Now, in its second year, The Big Bub Hunt has already identified patterns in the way some major pests spread.  Additional reports will improve accuracy and speed development of the pest-alert system is the website where you can report any bug sighting.  An app that you can use on your phone to report bugs is coming.  Any type of insect can be reported, from beneficial insects such as bees to insects such as aphids which are damaging plants.  Once you report a bug, the report is entered into a computer and analyzed to see patterns in how bugs spread.  Gardeners in the path of the bugs are then sent an email warning them the bugs are coming.

Knowing the bugs are headed their way, organic gardeners can use preventive measures to head off the coming invasion.  More conventional farmers and gardeners can also take preventative measures to protect their crops.  Reporting when the bugs appear will help scientists to develop more accurate predictive data.  This will allow gardeners in the path of the swarm to take measures to protect their crops, such as putting up hoops over their plants.

These bug alerts will be more and more valuable in pinpointing where pests are headed as the number of bug reports increases.  Growing Interactive is working with world class universities to design the app.  Of course, for the app to work properly, it needs data from gardeners on the ground.  That includes you.  Take a minute out of your busy day to enter the bugs you have seen in the database.  You will be helping improve the app and will be more likely to benefit from it.  If you need help identifying the bug, the website has detailed pest identification guides that will help you identify the bug.  It even has effective treatment and prevention ideas for the bug you found.

Once you go to, you can sign up for updates, bug-busting emails, and free downloadable charts.  You do not have to sign up for anything to register a bug sighting.  In fact, you can send the report while remaining completely anonymous.  It just takes a minute to report a bug, so do so with every bug you come across at  Thank you for your help.


Vegetable Plants To Keep Separated

March 3, 2017

Most people have heard that you are supposed to rotate your garden plants between plants from the same family.  Many people have heard of companion planting where you plant certain plants together for a better harvest.  However, few people have heard of vegetable plants to keep separated. For example, do not plant cool peppers next […]

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Why Not Grow Perennial Salad Leaves This Season?

February 21, 2017

Why Not Grow Perennial Salad Leaves This Season?   By Daniel Mowinski Perennial vegetables are making a comeback. I say comeback because if you were to travel a few centuries into the past you would find plants like Good King Henry and Sorrel in every kitchen garden. Personally, I’ve always wondered why gardeners are so fixated […]

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Dwarf Vegetable Plants Deliver Giant Taste

January 30, 2017

Dwarf vegetable plants can produce enough food for several meals during the gardening season.  Many of these new plants can produce great vegetables in as little as an eight inch pot set on the patio or balcony.  These are part of a gardening craze aimed at people who are busy and have very little room […]

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Update on Rose Rosette Disease

January 8, 2017

Rose Rosette Disease is thought to be caused by a virus that came over to the United States in the 1800s with Asian wild roses.  Many of these roses were planted by settlers all over the United States and have become naturalized.  Rose Rosette Disease is now infecting cultivated roses throughout the United States, but […]

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Planning Your Vegetable Garden

December 23, 2016

It is time to plan your vegetable garden for the coming season. Seed catalogs are coming in the mail.  The weather may be horrible but you can dream of spring and planting your garden.  You can plan your garden and order your seeds and plants while they are still available.  At the very least, you […]

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Waterwise Irrigation Audit

April 8, 2016

Since most of the country has been in a drought off and on for the last few years, cities are restricting watering the yard.  They are fining those who waste water by watering the street or watering too long.  This is an excellent time to audit your irrigation system to make sure you are using […]

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Unusual Garden Vegetables

March 25, 2015

Creating an unusual vegetable garden Set yourself apart from other gardeners this growing season by planting unique vegetable produce. Add spice and life to your outdoor space and full flavor and exciting tastes to your dinner table with some truly delicious and original fruits and vegetables. Strange fruit Say goodbye to the humble carrot and […]

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Adding Native Bees to Your Garden

February 19, 2015

Did you know that one out of every three bites of food we eat is pollinated by a bee?  When we think of bees, we think of European honey bees.  However, there are over 4,000 species of native bees in this country.  One of the most important native bees if the Mason bee. Mason bees […]

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Green Lacewings in the Garden

February 16, 2015

Green lacewings are beneficial insects that eat aphids, caterpillars, and other soft bodied pests as larvae.  The adults feed on nectar and pollen and the occasional aphid or mite that they come across.  Green lacewings are green, with delicate wings that look like lace because of the almost invisible membrane crossed by veins.  They have […]

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13 Ways to Go Green in Your Daily Life

February 14, 2015

You may know your stuff when it comes to the history of climate change, but do you know how to make small differences in your day-to-day life to help the environment? Read on for easy ways to go green. 1. By dealing with just a few degrees difference in the summer and winter months, you […]

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Attracting Beneficial Insects to Your Garden

February 12, 2015

One of the ways to reduce pesticide use in your garden is to attract beneficial insects to it. These insects keep the bad bugs in check. A good way to do that is to interplant flowers in your garden. The flowers then act as shelter and food places for the beneficial insects, who will move […]

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Time to plant early vegetables this spring

February 7, 2015

It is time to plant early vegetables once more.  This year we have had very weird weather and things are already blooming and greening up. Before you plant, let your ground dry out enough to work.  Working mud does nothing but damage the soil and frustrate the farmer.  When the ground is dry enough to […]

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Time to Plant for Fall

July 29, 2014

In the South, we are blessed (or cursed) with a long period of warm weather that allows us to have three gardens a year:  the spring garden, the summer garden, and the fall garden.  Of the three, the fall garden generally produces the most and is the most pleasant to work.  Plants are put in […]

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Growing Coriander

March 31, 2013

The Coriander plant produces two different kinds of herbs with different uses.  The greens, or cilantro, are used in Middle Eastern, Asian, and Latin American cuisine.  The coriander seed is used as a spice in whole or ground form.  It has been used since ancient times for its medicinal qualities and as an important ingredient […]

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Anthracnose in Tomatoes

October 6, 2012

Anthracnose is a fungal disease that will ruin your tomatoes in warm, moist weather.  It leaves in the soil and gets on the plant when you water it and splash soil on the plant.  The disease doesn’t do much to leaves or green tomatoes, but causes a rotten circle in ripe ones that can take […]

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Take Care of Your Gardening Tools

October 5, 2012

As garden season winds down, it is a good idea to take some time to maintain your garden tools before you put them away for the winter. Remove all dirt and debris from them with a garden hose and a stiff brush. Sharpen all the tools that cut and cultivate in your garden.  A metal […]

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Growing Fall Asters

September 27, 2012

Fall asters are a delightful addition to your garden.  Their startling lavender petals with gold centers provide welcome color at a time when many flowers are done blooming. They are good to plant around your fall garden to attract beneficial insects. Fall asters is native from Texas and New Mexico  all the way north to […]

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Attracting Toads to Your Garden

September 24, 2012

For those of you who wish to use fewer and less toxic pesticides in the garden, you should attract toads to your garden.  A single adult toad can eat 10,000 insect pests in a single summer.  Toads eat most insects, including slugs, gypsy moths, and earwigs.  In the United States, we have 21 different species […]

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Time to Clean Your Fruit Orchards

September 19, 2012

With the end of fruit season, it is time to clean your fruit orchards.  Remove any debris or fallen fruit from your orchard.  Pick and discard fruit left on the trees.  These steps remove places that pests and diseases overwinter and reduce your problems for next year.  Stop all pruning until the normal winter pruning […]

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How a Tree Dies

September 14, 2012

Home owners are frequently stunned when a tree that appeared to make it through the drought last year “suddenly” dies.  Actually, trees take a long time to die.  Many trees that appear to be dying now have been dying all year from the drought.  It wasn’t just the drought that killed them, but the high […]

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Fall Gardening in Full Swing

September 12, 2012

September is a busy month for gardeners in North Texas.  Cole crops such as broccoli, cabbage, and kale should be put out in the first part of the month.  Watering them in with a dilute solution of fertilizer will give them a boost as they start out. Radishes, beets, Swiss chard and turnips can be […]

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Growing Cilantro

July 4, 2012

Cilantro is a Greek herb that is in the same family as parsley.  It is used in a variety of dishes in cuisines as varied as Mexican and Thai.  Coriander, the seed of the cilantro plant, is also used to flavor a wide variety of dishes.   Cilantro prefers light, well-drained sandy loam soil, but […]

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Growing Dill

July 1, 2012

Dill was introduced into this country from Asia and is used as a culinary herb.  Both the fernlike leaves and the flowers are edible.  After the first year, dill readily self-seeds and will come back year after year. Dill is seeded directly into the garden after all danger of frost is passed.  Seeds should be […]

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