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Planting a Climate-Appropriate Garden: Expert Tips and Advice

Advice | How to Plant the Best Garden for the Climate


As the world faces the challenges of climate change and environmental degradation, many of us are searching for ways to make a positive impact. Gardening may seem like a small step, but it has the potential to make a big difference. However, as a climate columnist, I have been wondering whether I could make better gardening choices for the climate and whether it even matters. After researching and exploring the subject, I have some advice to share.

The Impact of Industrial Agriculture

Industrial agriculture has revolutionized food production and supplied an unprecedented amount of food. However, it has come at a steep environmental cost. Agriculture contributes to at least 25 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and has converted vast swaths of wilderness into monoculture crops, leading to massive marine dead zones. Fossil fuels power our tractors, fertilize our crops, and supply herbicides or pesticides that kill weeds and pests.

Regenerative Agriculture as an Alternative

Regenerative agriculture is one of the alternatives to industrial farming. This way of growing food emulates nature by applying compost and manure instead of synthetic fertilizers, and not plowing the soil. These farms are often more resilient and far easier on the environment. The healthier soil on regenerative farms, for instance, enables plants to grow better with less water, fertilizer, and fossil fuels.

There’s no bright line dividing the two approaches where regenerative farming is the only way out and big-farms are terrible. Plenty of small, regenerative farmers use fossil fuels while big growers are practicing no-till farming to build solid carbon. Thus, we need more research to determine where it makes sense to go big and where we should grow locally.

When it Makes Sense to Grow Food at Home

Small, medium, and large-scale farming can all have an environmental impact, but where food is grown matters a lot. A comprehensive lifecycle analysis on growing crops at different scales, from seed to farm to plate, was conducted by Tiffanie Stone, a researcher at Iowa State University. She measured four environmental effects, namely global warming potential, consumption of fossil energy and water, and land use from farming in the Des Moines area.

Stone’s team aimed to determine whether it made sense from an environmental point of view to grow a head of lettuce and other produce closer to home, or ship them 1,600 miles from California. In most climate calculations, food miles don’t matter too much because food’s carbon footprint comes from growing, processing, storage, and disposal, whereas transport contributes only around 10 percent of the total on average.

The results showed the midscale commercial farms and even home gardens had much lower environmental impact overall in the Des Moines area than large factory farms. In fact, at least half of the region’s food could be grown locally with lower emissions, energy, and water compared to large factory farms.

Related Facts

– A study published in the journal “Nature Communications” found that organic farming is more energy-efficient and generates lower greenhouse gas emissions per unit area than conventional farming.
– The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
– Choosing vegetables that don’t require refrigeration can help to reduce energy consumption.
– Local food systems create jobs and support local economies.

Key Takeaway

Although industrial agriculture has revolutionized food production, it has come at a steep environmental cost. Regenerative agriculture is one of several alternatives to industrial farming. Growing food locally can have a significant impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, and water use. It is at least a small, tangible way to make a difference towards a more sustainable future.


In conclusion, gardening can be a small but significant way to help mitigate the effects of climate change and environmental degradation. By choosing to plant local, organic, and regenerative produce, we can make a real impact on reducing our overall carbon footprint. It’s time to start thinking about not only what we eat but also where our food comes from and how it’s grown.

Denk Liu
Denk Liu
Denk Liu is an honest person who always tells it like it is. He's also very objective, seeing the situation for what it is and not getting wrapped up in emotion. He's a regular guy - witty and smart but not pretentious. He loves playing video games and watching action movies in his free time.

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