How Global Warming is Affecting Garden Produce

Facing up to the realities of global warming: Learn how global warming is affecting garden produce on homesteads.

| October/November 2002

News on how global warming is affecting garden produce.

I'm not in denial about global warming — far from it. I've thought it likely that human activity was heating up the Earth since I read the proceedings of a 1970s hearing on the subject run by then-Senator Al Gore.

So by now I'm convinced that our dangerously ignorant species is pushing up the thermostat on the only planet we have and that global warming is affecting garden produce. But I find it hard to keep that reality uppermost when I'm under the spell of raspberries, though we're at the edge of winter.

For the past few seasons, the fall raspberry plants that regularly indulge me from August into October have continued to fruit through strangely warm Novembers; more improbably, the early bearers are rejoining the party. Following horticultural orders, I pruned out their fruiting canes when they finished bearing in July, leaving the new canes to generate foliage and energy for next year's crop. Instead, those newcomers are fruiting now — putting out small clumps of double-lobed fruit that seem vulnerably out of season.

It's tempting to relax and enjoy them, but we all know there's a warning underneath the pleasure. When we talked about this odd weather, Barbara reported the devastations of Arizona's worst drought in recorded history — dying desert animals dragging themselves into back yards, desperately seeking food and water. There and elsewhere, wildfires raged throughout the fire season, which we once called summer.

Here on the East Coast, the fifth year of a prolonged drought threatened our ability to garden last summer. The vagaries of climate change now intermittently scorch us, drench us with unprecedented floods and plunge us into untimely freezes. That's the real face of global warming and what we'll need to expect in the future — chronically unstable weather, marked by extremes of temperature and moisture that will allow us to produce food normally only part of the time.

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