Garden planning for climate change

I started writing this in August, but decided I was too novice to publish anything about garden planning. However, this week the USDA updated their plant hardiness zone map in the US and winters are skewing warmer, pushing areas into new Zones. So what I wrote is definitely correct. I have been vindicated, and here is my post drafted on August 3rd.

It’s been the hottest summer on record for two or three years in a row now. Earth’s eight hottest years were the last eight years. Scientists have been warning us for decades and I think it’s clear to anyone who notices that we are in a climate crisis that’s not going to turn around.

Climate is changing. Garden planning needs to change, too.

The easiest thing to do is to think about what plants grow well in areas to the south of you, or in a warmer Japanese hardiness zone. What kind of growing season do they have? That’s probably where you are headed.

Look into plants that grow well in a warmer Hardiness Zone. Hardiness zone indicates the lowest temperature and the average winter low temperature. Can a plant survive winter in this zone?

One of the best things you can do this year is to plant trees that like the warmer end of your hardiness zone. Partly because trees are good for carbon sequestering, but also because they provide shade and food, too.

Here in southern Chiba, we are a 9a or 9b according to this Japanese zone map. I know that Japanese banana trees (zone 6 – 10) grow in the area, but they roll the microclimate dice on being perennial and rarely set fruit. This is likely to change in the coming years. Unfortunately the Japanese banana is ornamental and not edible.

In my area, we already do well with citrus, figs, persimmons, and kiwifruit. It looks like avocado, guava, olives and eucalypts will be good bets as we shift into even warmer summers. We might squeak into mango and papaya territory in my lifetime. I am tempted to plant some to try!

Temperature is not the only thing to consider in your garden planning. Drought and storms are also going to be influential.

Typhoons and heavy rains are coming earlier and harder this year. At the same time as other parts of Japan have been getting flooded, right here we’ve have no rain for six weeks.

So as I plan for the future of my garden, I will be looking at tropical plants that don’t need a cold season to fruit. That is going to change my planting list, especially for trees.

These are trees & shrubs I’ve had on my radar to plant:

  • Lilac. Zone 3-7.
  • Apple. Zone 3-8.
  • Forsythia. Zone 3-8.
  • Apricot. Zone 4-9.
  • Quince. Zone 4-9
  • Japanese walnut. Zone 4-9.
  • Maple. Zone 4-9.* It did not thrive in the heat.
  • Daphne. Zone 5-9.
  • Boxwood. Zone 5-9. * In a pot for now.
  • Fruit salad tree. Zone 5-9.
  • Crepe Myrtle. Zone 6-9.* Looking good so far.
  • Peach. Zone 6-9.
  • Weeping Willow. Zone 4-10.
  • Black Pine. Zone 5-10.
  • Fig. Zone 8-10.
  • Bergamot Orange. Zone 9-11.
  • Lemon. Zone 9-11.* Produced one lemon.
  • Lime. Zone 9-11.* Got a lot of limes this year.

The ones struck through require too much cold to do well here so I will give up on those. I marked * on ones I have already planted. I will be focussing my attention on the ones farther down the list and planting trees that are good up to zone 10 or higher. Hello, citruses!

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Mediatinker, Kristen McQuillin, is an American-born resident of Japan since 1998. This blog chronicles her life, projects, thoughts, and small adventures.