Adapting to Climate Change: Creating Resilient Homes and Gardens

I’ve been quiet the last several months, listening and writing about how I can best be of service to this community. Far too many of us are experiencing the realities of climate change. With drought conditions worsening, floods wiping out entire towns, and wildfires threatening precious forests and resources, I’ve come to realize there is more that I can do and offer here.

In the seven years since giving my first adaptive gardening talk, there has definitely been an evolution in the journey of my ‘encore career.’ In the beginning, I was focused on reaching as many senior and modern elder gardeners as I could, educating them about how adaptive gardening techniques and tools could grow our capacity for resilience in our lives.

My mission is evolving.

While I remain passionate and committed to educating gardeners about the benefits of adaptive gardening, how resiliency and gardening go together like peas and carrots, I am now on a mission to help not just gardeners, but educating homeowners and communities on how to adapt and create resilient homes, yards, and gardens that are in tune with what is happening with our climate.

people surrounding the globe with wind turbine

CLIMATE CHANGE REQUIRES THAT WE ADAPT

Whatever your position may be, I think we can agree on one thing — we have no choice but to adapt to our changing climate. While the effects are different depending on our location; we’re all experiencing some aspects of the challenges as a result of the extreme change in our weather. 

As gardeners, we spend so much time nurturing and growing things that we tend to be more in touch with the magnitude of climate change and how the changes in the weather have significantly altered how we garden. 

As homeowners, even if you don’t consider yourself a gardener because you would rather admire your garden, not work in it, you’re still likely realizing the effects of climate change and how it’s impacting your yard and landscape. 

I know, I know … I’m with you.  Thinking about climate change can feel daunting and overwhelming and I’m confident that at one time or another, we’ve all thought: “What can I do that would make one bit of difference?” 

The Resilient Household Plans for Climate Induced Emergencies

“The antidote to climate despair is taking action. We need to develop stubborn optimism, take climate action ourselves and get others to act as well, both personally and politically. That’s how climate mobilization can happen from the bottom up.”

~Tamra Peters
Resilient Neighborhoods

So, where do you start?

Start at home.  Start in your own yard, and with your family. Exercise that resilience muscle we’ve been building the past couple of years and explore resources that will improve the resiliency of your own spaces. It’s about learning how to better care for and protect ourselves, our homes, our community, and our planet.

I found a terrific resource in Marin County where I live called ResilientNeighborhoods.org. It was founded 11 years ago by Tamra Peters, the organization’s Executive Director. Tamra has organized an extensive library dedicated to creating resilience in your home and community. While the Resilient Neighborhoods content is somewhat specific to the Bay Area, do a Google search for your area to find local resources that can help you.

Resilient Neighborhoods Logo

Resilient Neighborhoods offers a free ten-week program designed to inspire and empower people to make better shopping and food choices, move to zero waste, conserve home energy, learn about environmentally friendly modes of transportation, plan for emergencies, and commit to water conservation. By the end of the program, my husband and I actually lowered our carbon footprint by 54%! It really opened my eyes to what each of us can do.

HOW DO YOU CREATE A RESILIENT HOUSEHOLD?

  • Draw a floorplan of your home indicating where food and emergency supplies are kept. Clearly indicate where electric, water, and gas shut off valves/switches are located.
  • Create to-go bags for your home and your car, with enough clothing, supplies, water and food to last for a couple of days, or better, a week.
  • Take photos of your credit cards, insurance policies, and any important paperwork.
  • Discuss an evacuation plan with family, friends, and neighbors.
  • Sign up for your community alert programs, like Nixle.
  • Buy an emergency radio.
  • Post a list: “What needs to be grabbed and where the heck is it?”
  • Review homeowners insurance coverage on floods, earthquakes, and fire risk.
  • If you reside in a fire prone area, buy an air purifier to protect your lungs.
  • Shift appliances, heating and cooling, from gas to electric to save energy.
  • Check with your water district to determine if they have money-saving rebates. They usually do.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens
can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”


– Margaret Mead

trees reflective in glass globe

Landfill less and compost more, your garden (and the planet) will thank you.

As a gardener, I realized that I’ve sort of taken for granted that most everyone knows what composting is. As I’ve been getting better informed about what I can do in my day-to-day activities, I decided to share with you the role composting plays in creating a healthy landscape and gardens.

Composting is the process of turning kitchen and yard waste into a decomposed soil amendment, which gardeners consider to be “black gold”, which is good for the garden and the environment.

To become part of the composting collective that includes the gardeners, homeowners, and climate changemakers — do a quick Google search for your county’s Master Gardener Cooperative Extension website. There you’ll learn about your area’s composting program and also connect with helpful information and resources.

COMPOSTING 101

Top Picks From My Climate-Positive Garden Amazon Store

Composting Bin recommended by Master Gardener Tioni Gattone

COMPOSTING BIN:  I learned about composting in the Master Gardener program. I wanted to do my part to turn my yard waste into the black-rich gold soil amendment they talked about in class, so I bought a large composting bin. Each week, I happily added yard waste and I was excited to get the results people talked about.

View it at Amazon

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for me to realize that with my bad back, I didn’t have the strength to turn the compost properly to create the heat that’s needed to break down the waste. I gave it a good effort for a while, then ended up giving the bin away because the particular product I was using took more strength than I had, but that doesn’t mean if you have the strength to turn the decomposing waste, you shouldn’t get one.

TUMBLING COMPOSTER: While I haven’t personally tested this product Vivoson Tumbling Composter in my own garden, if you are interested in getting into composting (which I do recommend) and you need an option that is friendlier on your body, this tumbling composter gets great reviews and could be just the right option for you.

View it at Amazon

Tumbling Composter recommneder by Master Gardener Toni Gattone

WORM BIN: As an alternative to the composting bin I was using, I then opted for worm composting. If you’re saying: “Ewew! Worms!?!” settle down. They’re really tiny, completely self-contained, and guess what? They eat half their weight in food in a day.

Toni Gattone's favorite worm bin

We lucked out because a friend gave us her slightly-used Worm Factory 360. It was too small for her needs, but it was perfect for us; with our limited space and aging bodies. I promise you, it’s easy to set up and to maintain for years to come.

Start with layering newspapers and add a couple of hundred worms. Ours are and started to add green and brown materials with equal amounts of each:

  • For the green, we added vegetable and fruit scraps, bread, coffee grounds and filters, and teabags. 
  • For the brown, they like to eat paper, which is a great way to dispose of junk mail!, egg cartons, cardboard, and dry leaves. 

Guess what? Now we have liquid gold for our garden!

A Note About KITCHEN WASTE CONTAINERS: You’ve seen plenty of composting containers for collecting food waste in stores and online. I’ve used one for a long time but I hated cleaning it out after I emptied it. I recently found extra-strong compostable bags that are made from plants, which means they will last on the earth for months, not millenia.

IT REALLY IS ABOUT
ADAPTING AND CREATING RESILIENCE.

Let’s not put this off any longer. We’re in this together. We need to get informed because how we are living our lives is impacting our planet.

With facts in hand, we need to take action — no matter how small our contribution may feel. If we are more conscious of what we buy, what we eat, the water we use, and what we waste …

We can build connected, resilient families, homes, and communities.

hands holding young plants or seedlings

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