Research shows you aren’t imagining things: spring is coming ever earlier. On average, scientists say the joyful season comes three days sooner now than it did 30 years ago. By 2100, Spring will arrive a full five weeks early. Shifts in blooming times, changes in flowering zones and the greater frequency of extreme weather illustrate impacts of an increasingly warming world. David Medvigy, an ecologist at Princeton University, said:
“This is a big deal. The reason is that ecosystems have evolved over thousands of years, so that different species live more or less in balance with each other. If spring comes earlier, some species will adapt more easily than others, throwing that balance off by, for example, disturbing the relationship between animals and their food sources.”
Thankfully, USA National Phenology Network is tracking these changes in real time. Phenology is the science of studying the key seasonal changes in plants and animals from year to year. This includes bird migration or flowering times. Phenology takes special care to look at the relationship of plants and animal to weather and climate. For visualization junkies, the network hosts an impressive tool for discovering changes across the USA from the number of warblers out there to the average bloom time in the Southwest.
I say this all the time – those of us growing food or plants are the first to realize just how much of an effect global warming has on nature. To find out what you can do as a grower, check out the book, The Climate Conscious Gardener.
Image source: Ye Rin Mok for Wilder Quarterly
It was a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon. Look what I got up to. Inspired by a diligent neighbor (with the best well-lit windowsill around) I got down and dirty with my seed collection. This is what I planted:
Cup and Saucer vine
Fox red cherry tomatoes
Giant golden slicer tomatoes
Black beauty zucchini
Sweet peas are soaking in the cup (speeds up germination)
Get to it! Times a’wasting.
Longwood Gardens is surely one of the best and brightest botanic gardens in the U.S. Known for their artistic endeavors and research rigor, the garden is also a force in the cultural conversation around community, as well as climate.
Today, I’ve been asked to speak at their Garden Educator’s Forum, “Changing the Conversation - Communicating Climate Change.” Not because I am as well versed in the science. My fellow speakers Steve DelGreco, Acting Chief of The Climate Services and Monitoring Division at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center (whew) or Caroline Lewis, Founder and Director of The CLEO Institute are taking care of being the experts. Rather, I am here because of my past as a digital advertising executive, someone whose job it was to help big brands engage people in online spaces from Facebook to search engine optimization. I hope to inspire and educate the leaders of America’s best public gardens on how social media can help educate their communities, as well as those on the fence about climate change.
Let’s face it – the new reality is here evidenced by the change in gardening zones to the effects on our food cycle and extreme weather such as Sandy. Each region in the world, the U.S. has and will face its own unique challenges, but the innumeral long term effects to our biodiversity are a global concern.
What does this all mean for you? At the micro level, it might change your idea of how and what you plant. It’s been so interesting thus far to consider questions about planning in lieu of climate change. For example, as DelGreco pointed out, “Should someone in the Northeast be replacing a fallen maple tree taken out by Sandy? Probably not with another maple tree.” There’s also been a lot of talk about the small things gardeners can do to make a difference in preparing and also, slowing down climate change.
It’s easy to get lost in the big headlines and old school talk centered around things like recycling. Take a step back and really learn about what climate change means. You can also watch PBS’ Earth, The Operators Manual. Pretty fantastic. For gardeners, check out The Climate Conscious Gardener, which outlines small things that you can do that can make a big impact.
I am pleased as punch to be part of this conversation today. I need to start thinking about what I’m going to do, because honestly – I’m not doing my part… yet.
Turns out NASA and I have something in common. Earlier this week I received a package, courtesy of Wilder, full of Kessil LED grow lights. Since unwrapping the box my brain has been filled with dreams: tropical foliage, seedlings, tomatoes growing in January in my mountain home! LED grow lights happen to be the choice of NASA, too. Not only are they long lasting, efficient, and durable enough to withstand a journey to Pluto and back, but the high quality light produced by LEDs creates vegetables with significantly higher levels of antioxidants: important nutrients which can help astronauts combat cosmic radiation. Besides all that, I think there’s another parallel to be drawn here. Let’s face it, deep space and winter have a lot in common. And what soothes and brightens dark moods better than the vibrant, leafy color, green? Try some out.
Our friends over at the Hudson Valley Seed Library have a roster of great events coming up that worth checking out. For example, this weekend on July 28th from 10-3 pm, I’m going to drop by their Fall Seedling sale:
“Come learn about easy ways to extend your harvest in your home garden. Pick up seedlings you can plant for fall and winter harvests along the materials you need for season extension. Free demonstrations and tour.”
Visiting their facilities is also worth a drip on its own. For those unfamiliar with these guys, The Hudson Valley Seed Library has 60 varieties of locally grown seed (Northeast) and around 140 varieties sourced from responsible seed houses. Members pay a $20 annual fee for 10 seed packs of their choice – all uniquely and beautifully designed.
For more info, head over to their Facebook page.
A few weeks back, we interviewed Megan Paska – one of the original Brooklyn beekeepers and homesteaders. After 6 years of Megan is decamping for Seven Arrows, a 20 acre property an hour outside of NYC. In order to get growing, Megan and her partner Neil, need to raise funds to “build infrastructure for the 2013 growing season: a chicken coop for 50 hens, movable rabbit hutches, goat housing, bee hives, a green house and protective fencing are all on the list of needs…”
Just like in Brooklyn, the crew will be offering educational services from weekly workshops to monthly intensives on things like beekeeping, small livestock care, sustainable gardening, food preservation, cheese making, home brewing, orcharding, foraging, fishing, hunting and more.
So give a little by heading over to their Kickstarter campaign.
GrowNYC’s is one of my favorite growing non-profits. One reason is their GrowTurck – the mobile lending program that brings tools, donated plants, soil, compost, and lumber to growers across the city, for free since 1977. The group has been making these deliveries with the same truck for the last 23 years. Let’s help them get a new truck by voting for GrowNYC in Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good contest on Facebook. The vote is May 20th. This Sunday. I won’t remember so I signed up to “attend” the event on Facebook. This way, it pings me with a reminder to vote for GrowNYC.
If you’re not familiar with the organization or the program, the video above will give you a good idea of how great GrowNYC truly is.
The current warm weather has gardeners itching to get out onto the fire escape or out into the backyard. From Sumatra to Norway, the blossoming of plants is triggered by environmental cues that, until recently, have been relatively constant. Across the temperate climes average annual temperatures continue to creep up the mercury, bringing earlier springs, and earlier spring flowers.
In England, dedicated naturalists have been recording the breaking of spring buds since the 1700s. Released by Britain’s Royal Society of Biological Sciences, a 250 year index shows the flowering dates of 405 species and demonstrates the impact of climate change on growth. The current index shows that for every 1C rise, bud burst occurred five days earlier.
On the U.S. side, Project BudBurst monitors the timing of phenological plant events (such as leafing, blooming and fruiting) by collecting data from citizen scientists across the country. The data they collect will help scientists understand how the alteration of to the climate will affect things like bird and insect diversity, pollination, and our own food production. The red maple and other ultra-early spring bloomers are the most doggedly watched by BudBurst’s team. Other ubiquitous, easy-to-identify plants such as common yarrow and trout lily open the study up to anyone – like maybe you?