As a gardening enthusiast you probably know how to glean information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone Map and first and last frost dates to assist in creating the best garden possible in your particular region of the country.
In constrast, you may not be aware of a trick you can employ in your own yard that offers additional information that can assist in creating the best garden possible. The trick is evaluating your own property for the best growing spots using the concept of microclimate.
Microclimates are unique areas of your landscape that offer beneficial growing conditions not found in other areas of your property. For example, spots of your garden that may be adjacent to a driveway or sidewalk will have more heat than other areas of the garden. The driveway or sidewalk and even large boulders and rocks absorb heat from the sun during the day and slowly releases that heat during the night making the ground immediately adjacent, warmer and potentially dryer if there is not much rain in the region. You can extend the growing season by putting plants in these areas.
Microclimate Areas Of Your Property
Microclimate areas of your property other than sidewalks, driveways, and large rocks can include:
• A South-Facing House Wall. This gets the first sun and stays warm throughout the day.
• A West-Facing House Wall. It gets early morning shade and then is blasted with heat from the afternoon sun. The siding of the house has radiated heat reflecting off of it boosts the heat of the adjacent ground even more. During the fall and winter plants adjacent to this wall gets temperatures that are 5-10 degrees warmer than other areas of a property. Low tunnels during the cold months on this side of the house can raise the temperature of the ground even more. (More about low tunnels in an up-coming article)
• East-Facing House Wall. Adjacent land to this wall receives morning sun and afternoon shade.
• North-Facing House Wall. Adjacent land gets 2-hours of direct sun in the winter. This means more moisture and less evaporation.
• Low Spots. These areas often feature moist soil.
• Slopes. Slopes are hotter or colder depending on the direction they face relative to the sun.
You can locate microclimate areas of your property very easily by observing where the snow melts first and last. Areas where the snow melts first on warm spots and where the snow melts last are cool spots.
Use your observations to identify the warm spots of your property and make a map of those areas on a sheet of paper detailing whether the location
(Next time: Benefits of low tunnels)