As a gardener, you’re probably very aware of your local weather, but it can be hard to monitor changes to the climate from your backyard.

We’re members of the Mount Alexander Regenerative Agriculture Group (MARAG). Through it, we’ve learned some interesting facts about what’s changing in our climate, and what we can expect in coming years.

A presentation we attended by Graeme Anderson, a climate specialist at AgVic, made it very clear that the evidence that the climate is changing due to man-made activities is undeniable.

So much so, that it’s quite bizarre that anyone is still denying it – and yet, they are!

How does the climate affect your garden?

Changes to the climate are likely to affect the way you grow fruit and other food in your garden. The specific changes you’re likely to see depend on where you live.

Even now with the changes that have already occurred, we’re essentially already getting an extra month of summer. Depending on the amount of warming that the planet experiences, this trend could continue.

Unfortunately, nobody knows exactly what will happen. It seems almost certain that our climate here in central Victoria will become warmer and drier.

It’s also highly likely we’ll experience more extreme weather events in the coming years.

A summer rainstorm flooding the paddocks
A summer rainstorm flooding the paddocks

Trying to reduce climate change

Bad news about the climate can feel very overwhelming. As individuals, there’s only so much we can do to reverse climate change.

It’s up to all of us to take whatever action we can. That might be supporting climate action groups like eXtinction Rebellion and others. They’re taking action to the streets in the face of almost complete inaction from government.

It might take the form of using your vote to make your views on climate change heard, as we’ve seen in recent elections.

But it’s also important to look to your own backyard. Growing your own food is vital work. It can make a significant difference to families and communities.

So it’s important to do everything you can to prepare for and adapt to, new climate conditions.

Tools to help gardeners

If you want to understand more about what’s happening to the climate, there are a few cool apps, fact sheets, and resources available.

Australian CliMate

The first app is called CliMate (https://climateapp.net.au/ ). You’ll come to a screen like this, just hit the “Start Now” button to open a free account.

The app is an easy way to keep track of the season compared with the average. You can also ask a whole lot of “How…” questions, e.g.

  • How hot/cold?
  • How likely (e.g. is it that we’ll receive rainfall higher than the average)?
  • How often (e.g. do we receive frosts)?

2. BOM Climate Guides

The Bureau of Meterology has published a series of climate guides for most of the climate regions across Australia (http://bom.gov.au/climate/climate-guides ). Go to the website and click on the map to get the link to download the guide for your region.

The guides give a snapshot of what’s been happening with the weather and climate in the last 30 years. It’s also possible to identify trends by comparing some of the results with the previous 30 years.

A chart showing season rainfall variability at Castlemaine
A chart showing season rainfall variability at Castlemaine

It’s important to understand the distinction between climate variability and climate change.

We’ve always experienced climate variability, as you can see with the chart of rainfall since 1873, above.

Climate change is demonstrated with this chart (below) showing the trend in “extreme” records being broken.

A chart demonstrating climate changes in Australia
A chart demonstrating climate changes in Australia

One of the most alarming parts of Graeme Anderson’s MARAG presentation was the climate change predictions for the future.

Australia's temperature is likely to increase due to climate change
Australia’s temperature is likely to increase due to climate change

Gardening into the future

So, how do you adapt to the changing climate so you can keep growing food?

At our place in central Victoria, the climate is likely to get hotter and dryer. So it’s important for us to remember that there are already people growing food successfully in hotter and drier climates than ours.

Clearly, we can learn a lot from what they’re already doing.

No matter where you live, climate adaptation comes from going back to basics.

  • Look for good design solutions. Work on protecting your land from the elements by creating microclimates like windbreaks and shelter belts).
  • Establish year-round perennial groundcovers so there’s no bare soil to blow away.
  • Create the most bio-complex agro-ecological system possible in your garden.
  • Work on creating your own renewable energy systems.
Hugh working on soil improvement
Hugh working on soil improvement

But mainly we need to continue the work we’re all so passionate about, which is improving the soil. The more carbon you can store in the soil, the more rainfall you can capture and store.

Higher soil carbon translates directly to more resilience for crops and animals against drought, flood, storms, frost, pests, and diseases.

As always, everything comes back to the soil!

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