GREEN LIVING: Gardening for climate action

The opportunities to garden are endless and the benefits to the Sudbury community are many

With April showers come May flowers…and eventually nuts, fruits and vegetables.

If you haven’t started your plants indoors, May is the perfect time to start planning your garden.

There are many gardening options for all sizes of space:

  • balcony,
  • window sill,
  • backyard,
  • front yard
  • or community garden bed.

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Gardening has many benefits that are linked to our community’s action against climate change.

Gardening is great for our own wellbeing and also contributes to our community’s action against climate change and our goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Did you know that 25 30% of global emissions are attributable to our food systems?

Climate change mitigation (reducing our greenhouse gas emissions)

The foods you eat and grow can help reduce your carbon footprint!

  1. Grow your own food or buy local to reduce your food miles. You can calculate your food miles through web pages such as www.foodmiles.com.

    According to this calculator, a tomato traveling 733 km would emit 132 kg of CO2. This is a very rough estimate that doesn’t take into account many factors, but it can help you think about where your food is coming from. By making a salad with your own tomatoes, lettuce, red pepper, onion, cucumber etc., how many GHG emissions would you avoid?

  2. Use plants to protect your home from the weather. Gardens can also include trees that help make your home more energy efficient. Large trees and shrubs can be oriented appropriately to act as windbreaks and shade. This helps keep your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, allowing you to use less energy.
  3. Choose plants that require less watering. The water that comes from your faucet and garden hose uses a lot of energy to be pumped and treated. You can use xeriscaping (choosing drought-tolerant plants) and choose native plants to reduce water requirements. Native plants have adapted to live without supplemental watering. As a ground cover, clover does not require much water or mowing and it fixes nitrogen and provides nutrients to other plants around it. Fruit trees and shrubs also require very little watering once they are established (after the first year) due to their deep roots.
  4. Buy local plants and seeds. Some garden centers in Greater Sudbury grow their plants from seed, and some even harvest seeds native to our regional forests and green spaces. Examples are Northern Wildflowers, Southview Greenhouse Growers and Laurett Garden.

    You should also make sure to choose non-invasive species. Use the “Grow Me Instead: A Guide for Northern Ontario” to avoid problems with invasive species that may be sold at garden centres. The guide is available online, under “Resources”.

    Did you know that the main branch of the Greater Sudbury Public Library has a seed catalogue? Just use your library card and you can collect free seeds!

Climate change adaptation (preparing for climate change related events such as floods, extreme heat, drought, wind)

You can make your property more resilient to climate change:

  1. Plant a rain garden. A rain garden can simply mean a strategically placed sunken garden in an area that tends to pool or drain water on your property. Let the rain do the work of watering the plants and let the garden help prevent flooding and runoff. A true rain garden can absorb up to 30% more water than a flat lawn. Remember that all your gardens can be versatile. For example, a rain garden can also be a pollinator garden and it can also provide food.
  2. Install a rain barrel. Using a rain barrel to collect rainwater could fall under both mitigation and adaptation. By using rainwater instead of tap water to water your lawn and plants, you save energy. Retaining a large amount of rainwater to use slowly over time prevents flooding and runoff while providing water during periods of drought.

    With climate change, there will be more severe or longer lasting weather events. Therefore, a rainstorm can last longer and cause flooding, but a heat wave can also be more severe and cause drought. Rain barrels can address both situations and are a great addition to any property. You can receive a reimbursement from the City of Greater Sudbury of 50% of the billed cost up to a maximum of $60 per barrel, with a maximum of two barrels per property, including taxes.

  3. Discover indigenous gardening techniques. Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) refers to the knowledge of Indigenous peoples over generations through direct contact with the environment. We can learn a lot about soils, gardens, medicinal plants and ecosystems through SEK and, in turn, learn about the cultures and beliefs of our indigenous peoples.

    An example of how traditional knowledge is incorporated into gardening is the “three sisters” technique. The Three Sisters are corn, beans and squash and have been an important part of Aboriginal history for centuries. The technique is not simply to plant them in a row; understanding their ecological needs is the key to plant timing and spacing. Check out the Three Sisters to see how they grow together and share nutrients, shade and support. This is yet another, more holistic method of reducing watering needs and providing a garden that is more resilient to climate change.

  4. Compost. Composting is another element that contributes to both mitigation and adaptation. It reduces the amount of waste sent to landfill, reduces GHG emissions, and provides healthy soil and mulch that helps retain moisture in the garden. Composting has many benefits, whether it’s backyard composting or participating in the household green cart program through the City.

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Participate in your community

There are many opportunities in Greater Sudbury to explore gardening and farming. Check out the Greater Sudbury Food Access Map to find local farms and community gardens.

How many of these activities can you check off this summer? Experiment and have fun!

  • Visit or join a community garden (we have over 30!)
  • Visit a farm (we have producers of eggs, honey, meat, vegetables, and more!)
  • Volunteer (did you know we have a community farm and food forest?)
  • Donate products to those in need (find a way to share your generosity!)
  • Donate bouquets to charities (your flowers can put smiles on faces!)
  • Get the kids involved (schools, youth groups and families can all reap the benefits of gardening!)
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Credit: Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury

Resources:

If you have a project you would like the City to highlight, contact Jennifer Babin-Fenske at earthcare@greatersudbury.ca.

About Charles Holmes

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