In her 1983 essay "In Search Of Our Mothers' Gardens," in a book of the same name, author Alice Walker contends makes the central point that black women have always been artists who found outlets for their creativity and spirituality in the applied arts,. The essay gives various examples of creative power applied by Black women throughout history to create masterpieces from what few resources they had. Sometimes that took place in the form of gardens. Walker argues many things in her essay, not the least of which is that gardening yet another often underappreciated and under-recognized opportunity for artistry which helped make it an available expression of artistry for people who have been denied other expressions.
Gardening as Activism for the Health of the Planet
The National Wildlife Federation Explains Why Gardeners Care As many gardeners and backyard wildlife enthusiasts across the country have noticed, climate change is already having a significant impact on our backyard habitats.
Higher average temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns are causing plants to bloom earlier, creating unpredictable growing seasons. Even warm-weather plants like tomatoes can be harmed by increased temperatures.
Invasive, non-native plants and animals’ ranges are expanding and making them more apt to take advantage of weakened ecosystems and outcompete native species. Some of the most problematic species, including kudzu, garlic mustard, and purple loosestrife, may thrive under new conditions and move into new areas.
Climatic shifts also mean that many native and iconic plants may no longer be able to survive in portions of their historic range. In fact, many states across the country may lose their official State Trees and Flowers. Imagine Virginia without the flowering dogwood or Ohio without the Ohio buckeye!
Important connections between pollinators, breeding birds, insects, and other wildlife and the plants they depend on will be disrupted. Pollinators such as hummingbirds and bees may arrive either too early or too late to feed on the flowers on which they normally rely.
Gardeners are both stewards and guardians of our environment, and can make a difference in the fight against climate change. Below are some ideas for how, we can make a difference both in our own backyards and communities, and across the country.
Taking Action in Your Backyard and Community
Improve your energy efficiency. Using energy-efficient products and reducing your household’s energy consumption will reduce your contribution to carbon pollution. In your backyard alone, you can replace outdoor light bulbs with high-efficiency LED bulbs, install outdoor automatic light timers, or purchase solar-powered garden products.
Reduce the use of gasoline-powered yard tools. Avoid using gasoline-powered tools such as lawn mowers and leaf blowers. Instead, use human-powered tools such as push mowers, hand clippers, and rakes or reduce the amount of lawn area that needs maintenance. Using a gasoline-powered mower for an hour pollutes 10 to 12 times more than the average car.
Reduce the threat of invasive species expansion and incorporate diverse native species instead. Removing invasive plants from your garden and choosing an array of native alternatives can minimize the threat of invasive species expansion. Native plants help to maintain important pollinator connections and ensure food sources for wildlife; nonnative plants can outcompete these important native species for habitat and food. Contact your local or state native plant society to find out what plants are native to your area.
Reduce water consumption. There are a number of ways to reduce water consumption in your garden, which is particularly important during increased heat waves and droughts. These include mulching, installing rain barrels, adjusting your watering schedule, and using drip irrigation. Practices like mulching also provide nutrients to the soil, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers which take significant amounts of energy to produce.
Compost kitchen and garden waste. Composting this waste can significantly reduce your contribution to carbon pollution, especially methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas. It also provides an excellent source of nutrients for your garden, again reducing the need for chemical fertilizers.
Plant lots of trees to absorb carbon dioxide. Trees can absorb and store as much as a ton of carbon pollution (CO2) from the atmosphere. If every one of America’s 85 million gardening households planted just one young shade tree in their backyard or community, those trees would absorb more than 2 million tons of CO2 each year. Shade trees planted near your home can also reduce energy used for cooling in the summer.