If you are a new gardener or have a new space to play with, it usually takes about three to four years to properly know the patterns of your space. I find it takes those couple of seasons to tick over to know what grows well and where in your climate. Three to four seasons also allows any variables in the years to balance out the results and for you to identify your microclimates. It also allows for human made microclimates to develop in your space – allowing food and plants to grow even better with the aid of nature.
But first up : what is a microclimate?
As the name suggests – it is a mini area affected by its own climatic conditions differing to those areas around it.
What are some examples of microclimates?
A great example is a very shaded area in your garden. In this area the moisture is well retained in the soil, the temperature is lower due to lack of direct sunlight, and therefore plants grow differently in that space compared to another area more light exposed. Another example could be plants growing close to bodies of water, which not only affect the plants, but there’s also differing insects, and other animals such as frogs etc, taking up residence. Making pest management needs different than in other areas close by.
Heat can be retained in areas where plants grow, as well as built up areas containing concrete, asphalt and other similar materials able to absorb and store the sun’s energy.
Microclimates are categorised by the amount of wind, water, temperature and light near your ground but also elevation, latitude (slope), soil, types of vegetation plus height, humidity and seasonal all have playing parts in each microclimate scenario.
As you can see there is a lot going on out there, which we often forget or overlook. The other important thing about microclimates is that they provide perfect conditions for the survival for humans and other animal species. Without them, we’d perish.
A great idea is to constantly observe the patterns in your garden and the micro-climates present. Remember, over time you can also develop your own microclimates in your garden. A fernery nook provides a great space for cooler shade relief in Summer.
But some pre-planning counts. Before you develop your own microclimate, note which plants to clump together as they will all survive better with the same moisture and soil needs as each other.
Some ideas for microclimates:
Summer growing vines such as grapes and kiwi fruit sprawling over pergolas and other climbing structures will cool homes down.
The Three Sisters – growing tall corn, with squash at the feet will cool the soil and act as a mulch for the corn, coupled with beans growing up the corn as a makeshift free trellis. The beans also fix nitrogen to the soil, which feeds it.
Trees and shrubs planted together in the right spot in your garden can provide a great windbreak for more delicate plants. They can also cast a great afternoon Summer shade if grown on the Western borders. Deciduous trees in particular are great for Summer shade, but also allowing much needed sun over Winter.
Lawns also create a relaxing and cool (literally) space to hang out. That feeling of bare feet on a cool grass over Summer is something that brings sweet relief in the heat.
Hay bale gardens are a great way to create heat for plants to grow in.
A water feature can bring cooling air into the garden.
Even adding compost and mulch to plants creates a microclimate of sorts – a cooling system that didn’t exist without human intervention.
Ground covers like seaside daisy, Gazania etc also provide a cooling effect on soil and also keep the weeds at bay.
Once you have come up with a game plan for developing your own microclimates, get creative. You can do a lot with not much and it doesn’t have to be costly. Your garden will reap the rewards.
Words by Hey Hoe Let’s Grow