Monday, October 3, 2011

Micro-climate Gardening

A couple of years ago I was gardening on an early spring day and uncovered several impatiens that had over wintered in a flowerbed. The summer flowers were in a protected spot up against our house and were buried under several inches of mulch. I’d discovered a microclimate in my yard. I’ve also discovered other protected growing areas in my yard against a fence and near my pond.

Within a given yard, different areas have different growing conditions, known as micro-climates. These planting pockets can offer a protected microclimate where marginally hardy plants can survive. By selecting plants adapted to each microclimate, you’ll see the most favorable growing conditions. Check your yard to see if you have any of these common microclimates.

Wind- Walls, solid fences, and buildings create wind turbulence as wind travels over and around them. Wind turbulence can damage broad-leaved evergreens, such as rhododendron or boxwood and knock over tall plants. Semi permeable barriers, such as hedges, trellis or nonsolid fence, offer the most effective wind shelter.

Surface colors- Dark colors in buildings; mulches, rocks or fences absorb daytime heat and radiate it at night, forming a warm pocket suitable for frost-tender plants. Light colors reflect heat onto plants during the hottest part of the day, perfect for growing succulents.

Raised beds- Soil in raised beds warms and drains earlier in spring, which hastens planting dates and plant growth. South-facing raised beds stays warmer in winter, allowing tender plants to over winter.

Exposure- Northern exposures tend to be cool, creating a shorter growing season. Southern-facing spots are warmer, offering moderated winter temperatures. Eastern exposures tend to have moister soil; western-facing beds have dryer soil and harsh afternoon sun. In wintry climates, these conditions can combine with cold nights to crack bark on young trees.

If you discover a microclimate or two in your yard see if you can take advantage of them by planting to the strength of the micro climates


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