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Nurturing Our Gardens Through Erratic Weather Patterns of Climate Change

Updated: Mar 28


El Niño has brought hot and dry conditions to Zambia, disrupting our usual weather patterns. We are experiencing October temperatures and dry heat. According the the Meteorology Department the forecast continues to be bleak.

Increased temperatures and reduced rainfall pose significant challenges to our gardens such as water stress and heat damage. Understanding its effects can help us safeguard our gardens.

Protecting Our Home Gardens

As Zambian home gardeners, we cherish the green spaces we've cultivated with care. Here are proactive steps we can take to shield our home gardens from the effects of El Niño.

Water Management

The water table will diminish much faster because of the reduced rainfall. Collectively, we need to be much more responsible with water over this extended dry season.

  • Mulching: Apply organic mulch around plants to retain soil moisture, regulate soil temperature, and suppress weed growth.

  • Efficient watering: Water plants deeply but less frequently to encourage deep root growth and minimize evaporation. Watering in the evening to prevent evaporation of the water allowing more time for the water to soak through.

  • Irrigation in both the vegetable and flower beds will greatly reduces the water wastage.

  • Humidity: Many indoor plants will benefit from increased humidity. You can achieve this through grouping of plants so they create a micro climate. Other simply through misting or using pebble trays.

Shade and Shelter
  • Shade cloth: Under these conditions, even resilient plants such as succulents are getting burnt. Where possible, install shade cloth or temporary shelters to protect plants from excessive sunlight and heat stress.

  • Windbreaks: Erect windbreaks using shrubs, trees, or temporary barriers to shield plants from strong winds and windborne debris.

Soil Care
  • Soil amendment: Improve soil structure and water retention by incorporating organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure.

  • Mulching: Apply a layer of mulch to conserve soil moisture, regulate soil temperature, and enhance soil fertility.

Crop Selection
  • Drought-tolerant crops: Choose plant varieties adapted to drought conditions, such as indigenous vegetables or heat-tolerant herbs.

  • Succession planting: Plan and stagger planting times to ensure a continuous harvest and maximize garden productivity throughout the growing season.

Pest and disease management

The heat stress weakens plants making them more susceptible to infestation or disease.

An aphid on a leaf
Lady bugs eat aphids and so help keep the aphid population down.
  • Vigilant monitoring: Disease can more easily be managed if spotted early. Regularly inspect plants for signs of pest infestation or disease development and take prompt action to address issues.

  • Natural predators: Encourage beneficial insects, birds, and other natural predators to help control pest populations in the garden.

  • You can do this by planting more indigenous plants which the predators would be used to. You can also practice

companion planting by adding a wider range of flowers and herbs around your home.

In the face of El Niño's challenges, Zambian home gardeners have the resilience and ingenuity to protect and nurture our gardens. By implementing water-wise practices, providing shade and shelter, caring for our soil, selecting resilient crops, and managing pests and diseases, we can fortify our gardens against the impacts of El Niño and continue to enjoy the bountiful harvests they provide.

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