Across the Northeastern part of the country, small localized flooding is as much a problem as big river flooding. Close to where I live, streams and tributaries to the Wissahickon, Neshaminy, Perkiomen, and Brandywine Creeks are some that are most prone to flooding. The most recent notable localized downpours and flooding took place during Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011 when rainfall was at the highest levels since Hurricane Agnes in 1072, in some places.
Gardens improve the quality of our watersheds by creating landscapes that act as sponges to soak up water that would otherwise runoff and flood our stormwater systems. Planting gardens is considered then, an adaptation strategy to combat increasing downpours facing our region, a consequence of climate change.
A new study from University of California Santa Barbara suggests that gardens may also help us combat climate change. In Grow food not grass to combat climate change author Russell Mclendon cites these four ways that scientists found that greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by planting vegetable gardens. This reduction happens by way of a four part process, including:
- converting a section of grassy lawn into vegetable production.
- producing food where it’s consumed — people’s homes — rather than at centralized farms, reducing the need for transportation.
- reusing some household gray water (water from sinks, kitchen water, etc.) to irrigate vegetables, instead of sending it away to a wastewater treatment plant.
- composting food and yard waste in lieu of sending it to a landfill.
According to the study, the emissions reduction was 2 kilograms for every kilogram of homegrown vegetables, when compared with store-bought vegetables. These benefits are greatest when gardens have good yields, and when families actually consume the vegetables instead of discarding. Composting waste properly also increases the benefits.
USDA Plant Hardiness zones range from zone 5a in the North Central part of the state to 7b in the far Southeast corner with the bulk of the state in zones 6 and 7. Here’s a planting guide for vegetables in these zones! As you can see, there is still time to plant cooler weather crops like lettuce, kale, beets, carrots, peas, spinach and other greens.
To learn more about how gardens improve storm water absorption and other residential gardening tips and programs, check out “Rain Check,” Philadelphia Water’s residential storm water management program!