Garden tomatoes

In the spring, gardeners dig their hands into cool soil, dreaming of the sweet peas, crisp peppers, and juicy tomatoes to come.

Sara Via, a professor at the University of Maryland-College Park, says when raising veggies, gardeners should be mindful of the changing climate.

Via: “In the northeast of Maryland, we’re having an earlier spring and a later fall, so we have a longer growing season.”

That means gardeners can start their crops sooner.

Via: “As long as they’re careful, and if there is going to be a frost, they cover up their plants.”

Starting a garden earlier can also give plants time to mature before the heat of summer, which is getting hotter as the climate warms.

Via: “Warmer nights, we know, can prevent some plants from flowering, like peppers and lima beans. And hot days can prevent successful pollination in tomatoes and sweet corn, and so you get tomatoes that are sort of concave because they don’t have seeds. And sweet corn, you don’t get enough kernels on the ear.”

Hot days can also lead to drier soil.

Via: “It’s really important to mulch around the plants because that conserves the moisture and also keeps the soil cool.”

So with preparation and care, gardeners can continue to harvest tasty rewards, even as the climate warms.

U.S. map showing change in annual number of frost-free days
Observed Increase in Frost-Free Season Length. Source: National Climate Assessment 2014.

Reporting credit: Alison Fromme/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Sam Harrington

Samantha Harrington

Samantha Harrington, director of audience experience for Yale Climate Connections, is a journalist and graphic designer with a background in digital media and entrepreneurship. Sam is especially interested...