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Climate Change & The Garden – Lessons Learned from the 2018 Guelph Organic Conference

Workshop with Kimberly Bell presenting

By Heather Reid, 2018 Guelph Organic Conference Attendee and Volunteer

Climate change was a pervasive theme throughout the 2018 conference. Farmers, gardeners, and consumers are increasingly having discussions about what a changing climate could mean for food production and farm/garden management.

Following this theme, below is a quick summary of some of my key take-aways from the following Saturday workshops:

  • “Climate Change, Soil Health, & The Home Gardener” presented by Glenn Munroe
  • “Water Farming – Management Strategies for a Changing Climate” presented by Jeff Thompson
  • “How Will Climate Change Affect My Garden? A Risk Management Approach” presented by Kimberly Bell


Variability is a key theme for climate change in Ontario.

Almost all projections into the future agree that Ontario’s weather will become more unpredictable from year to year and season to season.

While increasing heat can present opportunities for agriculture, water availability and extreme events may pose substantial challenges.

Think too much water when we don’t need it (planting & harvesting) and too little water when we do (growing).

What Can We Do?

Both Glenn and Kimberly drove home that healthy soils can contribute to water management during dry and wet periods by allowing soil to retain moisture and drain when it needs to.

Glenn suggested 4 actions that should be used together to see healthier soils:

Stop Digging

This helps maintain soil structure and keeps roots and helpful fungi intact

Pay Attention to Roots

Roots help with soil structure and also attract microbes that help keep the soil healthy.

Keep It Covered

Glenn suggested adding a layer of compost on top to help keep the soil moist and Kimberly shared that she uses a layer of leaves after the fall harvest.

Encourage Plant and Microbial Diversity

Healthy soils have a whole world of beneficial bacteria, fungi, nematodes, and protozoa that help plants access nutrients and build soil structure.

Rain Water Collection

Jeff touted the benefits of collecting rain water as a quick, easy, and cheap method of accessing clean water when you need it. Above ground tanks are easy to install and easy to access, while below ground tanks don’t need draining during the winter and can hold a substantial amount of water.