How to Future-Proof a Garden

A well-designed garden can help build resilience in the face of uncertainty.

sisters watering vegetable beds

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Creating a beautiful and productive garden in the short-term is relatively easy. What can be more challenging is making sure that the garden you create is truly able to stand the test of time. 

Whenever you are making decisions about a garden, you should ask yourself whether those decisions are compatible with predicted changes and able to endure over time. Are you creating a future-proof garden?

We are living in times of unprecedented change on several fronts. But a garden can become an oasis of calm in the chaos. A future-proof garden is not one where nothing goes wrong. Rather, it is a space where, when things do go wrong, they can often right themselves over time.

A resilient, future-proof garden is one that has been intelligently designed and managed in such a way that it will be less likely to disappear with future shocks, be they climate-related, financial, or other.

Diversity Is Key for a Future-Proof Garden

One of the most important things to remember when creating a future-proof garden is that diversity is crucial. That includes thinking about the number of different species present. Even more importantly, it considers the number of beneficial interactions among the elements of the system, since the more beneficial interactions there are within an ecosystem, the more stable and resilient it will be.

But this does not just mean thinking about biodiversity within garden planting schemes and encouraging wildlife to the space. It also means thinking about how we can avoid putting all of our eggs in one basket, so to speak. It means diversifying the crops and varietals we grow, staggering our planting times, and employing a range of strategies, too.

It means making sure that the garden is not too dependent on one pair of hands. If you are the only gardener, perhaps it is time to pass on your skills or reach out to others to collaborate. If a garden is too dependent on one person, it may not be as future-proof as you imagine.

older woman carrying basket of vegetables

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Creating Closed-Loop Systems

The key to a successful organic garden lies in remembering that we humans are not the only gardeners. Ideally, a future-proof garden will have only limited reliance on human hands. 

The ultimate goal is to create a truly low-maintenance garden that perpetuates nature's cycles and creates closed-loop systems that require little to no external inputs over time. In other words, a future-proof garden should be a place where energy and resources are endlessly recycled and we don't need to buy things to keep it going.

Creating a closed-loop system means harvesting and managing rainwater wisely and composting on site. It may also mean propagating your own plants through division, cuttings, and seed collection.

Identifying and Reducing Fragilities in Garden Systems

You cannot hope your garden will endure if you have not taken the time to think about the things that might threaten it. Key among future concerns is likely to be our changing climate. Weather patterns are altering swiftly and we can no longer necessarily expect current climate and microclimate conditions to endure.

We need to prepare—through our design, strategies, and plantings—for risks like rising temperatures, increased droughts, floods, extreme weather events, and wildfires, for example. Recognizing what changes are likely to come can help us see where we might not be ready for them, where fragilities lie within our garden systems, and how things might be improved.

But as well as preparing for future climate-related shocks, we need to think about other potential problems. For example, we might like to think about how our interactions with a garden might alter over time, as we ourselves age. We must also make sure that it is a space that will provide for our needs not only today, but as we mature and change over time.

Economic concerns might come into play. A future-proof garden should not need financial input to maintain once established; that will reduce the impact of economic shocks. In fact, a garden might lessen the burden of such shocks on other areas of our lives by helping reduce our reliance on external systems and become at least a little more self-sufficient.

By looking at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges in a garden, we can begin to build up a clearer picture of fragilities—not only in the garden itself, but also in seeing how a future-proof garden might help us to tackle fragilities in other areas of our lives and weather whatever storms may come.