Why we garden

I was reading quite a bit about gardening in a time of climate change last fall, working on an article about gardeners' perspectives. It wasn't a particularly uplifting topic. Thinking about what climate change will mean for our native plants, the plants we can grow in our gardens, wherever we are, and how weather unpredictability will affect the plants (native or not) that we love certainly exacerbates my usual environmental concerns.

But I've found that gardening as restoration (of place and spirit) is an excellent antidote to environmental worries. Transforming our own yard from lawn to wildlife garden has been a remarkable source of satisfaction, and the ability of plants to heal degraded landscapes is something that we can actively embrace.

What I appreciate is the essential ability of gardens to restore patches of earth to support wildlife, and everything associated with a diverse array of plants. I know that we can transform barren spaces to areas that are both lovely and life-sustaining, and that communities, towns, and cities can 'green' themselves by planting a diversity of trees, shrubs, and perennials and encourage gardening for food and wildlife, and become living spaces in the process.

This is a perspective that has grown on me, as a plant ecologist interested in the natural world, and the wild plants and the wonderful diversity of plant communities that still exist on our planet.

I think gardening, and planting, is a way to actively restore our bit of habitat, and maybe more, as we seek to make a difference in how we approach living on the Earth. Nature restores habitat even more effectively if seed sources are available. Everything we plant is helpful in terms of taking up CO2, although I'm hardly worrying about that when I plant something. But by being good stewards of the little patches of earth in which we garden, we CAN make a difference by providing habitat, growing plants that don't need a lot of extra 'stuff' and vegetables (which are waterhogs), but nevertheless are the epitome of local food.

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