Moderate climate extremes on your land

How to Moderate Climate Extremes on Your Land

As climate change impacts all of us, it becomes more important than ever to moderate climate extremes on your land. These extremes can result in wet and dry areas that make it hard to cultivate abundance for people, plants and animals on your land. Let’s dive into how you can moderate these extremes so those impacted areas can still be abundant.


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Even without climate change, you may have areas on your land that are dryer or wetter than the rest of your land.

On my own land, there is a large gully that runs through the middle, which is much wetter and cooler than the rest of my land.

And then there are upland areas that are very dry.

Climate change is exacerbating these extremes that already exist on my land. The same is likely happening at your place.

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Learning to moderate climate extremes and taking advantage of the resulting wet or dry areas will save you a lot of headaches and make your land more resilient to climate change.

Often these wet or dry areas are also microclimates—areas that are cooler or warmer than the average for your land. The south side of your house (or north side in the southern hemisphere) is an example of a warm microclimate.

To learn more about how to take advantage of these microclimates, make sure to grab your free and easy-to-print cheat-sheet all about microclimates.

Moderate Climate Extremes: Warm/Dry Areas

Moderate climate extremes by building soil and planting perennials

This food forest is in an area that used to be a parking lot. It was nothing but some grasses, invasive blackberries, and very hard, packed gravel. It also got more sun than most of my land. The result was an area that was hot and dry in the summer and that flooded in the winter. Not ideal! But with some simple techniques, it’s now a thriving food forest.

Do you have areas on your land that are dryer or warmer than the rest of your property? Often these areas are exposed to both summer sun and wind.

And there is likely little to no topsoil in these areas, and sparse vegetation cover.

If you have an area on your property like this, it can be a challenge to know what to do with it. Now, with climate change, it’s getting even harder. But there are ways you can moderate climate extremes like this.

Dealing with this situation is twofold.

  1. First, improve the soil through the addition of perennial plants and organic material.
  2. Second, provide cover through plants, logs and/or rocks.

Both of these strategies work together and should be implemented together if possible.

But first you should start by covering as much of the area with a thick layer of mulch. This can be done with sheet-mulching. The mulch will protect the soil from direct sunlight, which will cool it and reduce evaporation.

Plus, all this mulch will start the process of creating habitat for beneficial soil life like earthworms, fungi, bacteria and more.

These organisms will break down the mulch and, over time, add organic material to the soil. The result is that the soil will be able to hold more water and provide nutrients to the plants as needed.

This will make your plants more resilient to droughts.

Adding perennial plants such as perennial vegetables, fruit and nut trees, and berries will continue improving the area. As perennials, their roots will go deeper than annuals and they will help support beneficial soil life through their root exudates.

But these perennial plants will also shade the ground around them and block some of the hot summer winds. Creating cover is the 2nd part of moderating climate extremes associated with hot, dry areas.

Wild Tip:

You can create a hedgerow to block even more of the dry summer winds (or cold winter winds!). Hedgerows can also be used to provide late afternoon shade. All of this will further moderate climate extremes.

While perennial plants provide great cover, it will take time for them to grow large enough to provide this.

In the short run, you can create cover by using large rocks, rock piles, large logs, and log piles. These can also be used to provide habitat for wildlife.

Rocks and logs provide cover in 2 ways. First they create a nice cool, moist area directly below them. This is why you often find critters hanging out under logs and rocks.

The 2nd way is by casting shade over a larger area and by directly blocking the wind. This is most effective with larger rocks and logs. And you will get the most benefit by placing these features to the south side (or north side in the southern hemisphere) of your plants.

By improving your soil, supporting soil life, and creating cover, you will be moderating climate extremes such as drought. And these methods can be used to reduce how much you need to water even in normal non-drought years.

Moderate Climate Extremes: Cold/Wet Areas

Moderate climate extremes in cold wet areas

This is the lowest area on my property. And in addition to being much wetter than the rest of my property, it’s also much cooler. While this isn’t ideal for a vegetable garden, it’s great for other uses.

The other challenge you may have is cold, wet areas on your property. With increasing rains, these areas may be even more prone to flooding than in the past.

This can make it a challenge to grow plants in these areas.

Luckily, there are some ways to address this issue:

  1. First, improve the soil through the addition of perennial plants and organic material.
  2. Second, create mounds or raised beds.

You may have noticed that the first way to deal with a wet cool area is the same as a hot dry area.

By increasing the organic material in the soil and promoting soil life, you will increase how much water your soil can hold.

Every 1% increase in soil organic material results in your soil being able to hold an additional 25,000 gallons of water per acre.

This means that it will take far more rain to saturate the soil, which will greatly reduce the risk of flooding.

And by adding perennial plants, you will help hold the soil together and feed soil life, which will continue to improve the water holding capacity of your soil overtime.

But you can take more immediate action to moderate climate extremes in these wet, cool areas by creating mounds or raised beds.

This can get your plants up out of the wet areas while still allowing the water to collect in these areas. And these raised areas will also be a bit warmer than the surrounding areas.

By getting your plants up above the water and the cool air, you will better be able to grow plants in these areas.

Wild Tip:

But don’t forget that some plants like willows love wet areas! And vegetables like spinach that bolt in hot conditions may grow longer into the summer if planted on mounds in these wet areas. Finally, there are likely many native plants in your area that would do great in these spots and would also support wildlife!

While these cool wet areas can be challenging, by improving the soil, planting perennial plants and creating raised growing areas, you can moderate climate extremes in these areas.

And in normal years, using these methods will help keep your soils from becoming saturated and reduce the risk of frost in these areas.

Next Steps to Build on These Methods

Multiple bins make it easier to make more compost

A big reason I’ve built this compost system is to jump start the soil life on my property. Compost is filled with beneficial soil life that can help your property thrive.

While each of the methods outlined in this post will help moderate climate extremes associated with droughts and floods, they’re just the first steps you should take.

For example, you can also slow the water on your land down by installing swales to slow and soak rainwater into your land.

But another option is to speed up the development of a healthy population of beneficial soil life across your property.

This can be done by creating compost teas/extracts that can then be sprayed onto your soil and plants.

The more you can do to promote soil life while also establishing perennial plants and creating cover, the better your property will be at handling climate extremes.

And finally, if you want to learn more about how to retain water on your land, here are a couple great books that can help you get started:

If you can promote soil life, establish cover, plant perennial plants, and retain as much water as possible, you will greatly moderate climate extremes on your property. Just take small steady steps each year, and your property will become more resilient to drought, flooding, and other climate extremes.

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Daron is a restoration ecologist, lifelong gardener, and founder of Growing with Nature. He created this site to help people enjoy wildlife, grow food, and help heal our living world. He has managed the restoration program for a local non-profit, and he’s applying principles of restoration and permaculture to transform his property in western Washington to forests, wetlands, hedgerows, food forests, and permaculture gardens. He holds a Masters in Environmental Studies and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Water Resources. He loves sharing the joy of growing food with his two beautiful children.

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