The Climate-Friendly Gardener: a Guide to Combatting Global Warming from the Ground Up

The Union of Concerned Scientists has released a guide to combating global warming through better gardening practices. The guide explores why growing your own food and localizing food production is a step towards combating global warming, and then explains what gardening practices are best to achieve this climate-friendly outcome. Some of the main tips the Union of Concerned Scientists present are listed below. You can click here to download the guide in its eleven page entirety, which includes useful information on best compost recipes, how to go pesticide-free, and when and how to water, to name a few.

1. Minimize Carbon-Emitting Tools and Products. This includes gasoline-powered lawn mowers and other equipment, as well as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which require a lot of energy to produce. The guide provides several tips for avoiding garden chemicals and fossil-fuel-powered equipment.

2. Use cover crops. Bare off-season gardens are vulnerable to erosion, weed infestation and carbon loss. Seeding grasses, cereal grains or legumes in the fall builds up the soil, reduces the need for energy-intensive chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and maximizes carbon storage. The guide recommends that gardeners plant peas, beans, clovers, rye and winter wheat as cover crops and explains the specific advantages that legume and non-legume cover crop choices have for gardens.

3. Plant Trees and Shrubs Strategically. Trees and large shrubs can remove significant amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over long periods of time. Well-placed trees also shade buildings from the summer sun or buffer them from cold winter winds, reducing the need for-and cost of-air conditioning and heating. UCS’s guide discusses the most suitable types of trees for a climate-friendly yard.

4. Expand Recycling to the Garden. Yard trimmings and food waste account for nearly 25 percent of U.S. landfill waste, and the methane gas released as the waste breaks down represents 3 to 4 percent of all human-generated heat-trapping gases. Studies indicate that well-managed composted waste has a smaller climate impact than landfills. The UCS guide describes how to create a climate-friendly compost pile.

5. Think Long and Hard about Your Lawn. Residential lawns, parks, golf courses and athletic fields are estimated to cover more than 40 million acres-about as much as all the farmland in Illinois and Indiana combined. A growing body of research suggests that lawns can capture and store significant amounts of carbon dioxide, but some newer studies warn of the potential for well-watered and fertilized lawns to generate heat-trapping nitrous oxide. The science is unsettled, but there are practical things gardeners can do to maximize lawn growth and health with a minimum of fertilizer and water. The new UCS guide summarizes the science and offers tips for homeowners to make their lawns truly “green.”

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