Magazine article Sunset

Know Your Microclimates

Magazine article Sunset

Know Your Microclimates

Article excerpt

GARDEN

Identifying your garden's pocket climates can help you grow the right plants in the right place

How can one gardener grow perfect plumerias year after year, while a close neighbor invariably fails? Or why does one vegetable plot produce tomatoes until October, while another just down the street nearly always freezes out two weeks earlier? Sunset's garden staff constantly fields such questions; the answers usually involve microclimates-small pockets that are seasonally colder, warmer, or windier than the rest of the garden or neighborhood.

Wherever you live in the West, your garden falls into one of the 32 Sunset climate zones mapped and defined in the Western Garden Book. But every garden also harbors a number of microclimates that make a world of difference to plants: the chill air that helps set buds on an apple tree can freeze orange blossoms.

The illustration above shows nine microclimates typically found in Western gardens. Each situation presents gardening challenges and opportunities.

Fall is a good time to start observing your own garden's microclimates and making notes about sun angle, wind direction, and daily minimum and maximum temperatures. It's also a good time to modify the microclimates where you can-by planting hedges for windbreaks or trees for shade-or to move struggling plants from an unfavorable area to a better one.

[Sidebar]

Nine common microclimates

[Sidebar]

Exposure to wind For this part of the garden, choose wind-resistant trees, shrubs,

[Sidebar]

and perennials such as daylily, lavender, and penstemon. Or block the wind: a hedge or a windbreak of closely spaced trees planted on the windward side can create a sheltered area extending 10 to 20 times its height (a 10-foot-tall hedge will shelter 100 to 200 feet of ground behind it). If your property has a breezeway-a narrow passage between a house and a detached garage or other structure that funnels wind-you can buffer the upwind side with a hedge or line the passage with conifers or other wind-tolerant plants.

[Sidebar]

Louth and west walls Masonry and stucco walls soak up solar energy and

[Sidebar]

radiate it back at night. In cool-summer areas, that extra heat can help ripen summer vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. In hot-summer areas, plant trees to shade these walls, or screen walls with heat-loving vines like bougainvillea.

[Sidebar]

North wall Since it gets little direct sun, it's ideal for shade-- loving plants like ferns. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.