What are Lawn and Garden Microclimates?
Have you ever noticed that after a snowfall, the snow melts right away on one side of the house, yet on the other side, it can linger for weeks? That’s evidence of a microclimate!
Microclimates can really affect the growth in your flowerbeds and gardens, so it’s helpful to understand the microclimates on your property. Without understanding them, you can waste time, energy and resources in the yard and garden.
WHAT ARE MICROCLIMATES?
A microclimate is an area of your yard, which can include flowerbeds and garden zones, where there’s a major difference in the environment compared to a nearby area. Microclimates cause sections of your yard to be cooler or warmer and wetter or drier. Microclimates may also be formed in areas that are subject to higher winds, intense sunlight or blocked from receiving regular precipitation.
Here are some microclimate examples:
- Shade Microclimates – This microclimate is created by the shade of a house, shed, fence, tree or hedge. This area is constantly blocked from getting sun for any significant amount of time. In gardening terms, it’s a Full Shade area.
- Reflective Microclimates – This microclimate gets an exaggerated amount of sun due to a bright or highly reflective object nearby. Often these objects are a white vinyl fence or a building with light-colored siding. Pools and large windows can also create this microclimate. Each of these objects reflects and intensifies sunlight.
- Soil Microclimates – Sometimes soil gets absolutely saturated with a particular material, which creates additional nutrients in the soil. Other times, the saturation results in leeching of nutrients. These microclimates are created by perpetual ground cover, such as shed pine needles and leaves. Yet another variation is created by intensified human or animal activity.
- Water Microclimates – Runoff water from rain or even a leaky pipe can create a water microclimate. The result is moist ground and higher than normal humidity in a small area.
- Heat Microclimates – Certain things can increase the warmth of an area, which triggers a heat microclimate. These can include a sidewalk, rock formation, raised garden bed or landscaping blocks. Even a landscaping/soil-retention wall can increase the temperature of the soil it’s holding.
- Weather Microclimates – Buildings, tree lines and certain geographic formations could create another microclimate in your property – one based on how wind or precipitation moves through the area. Two buildings close to one another could funnel strong winds causing cold spots. A well-placed tree line may block most rain from reaching a section of your property. Frost may develop regularly in one area and never show up in another because of these formations.
- Geographic Microclimates – The geography of your yard or garden could also cause a microclimate to develop. A dip in your property could create a cold spot. A rise or mound could be intensely warm.
HOW DO MICROCLIMATES AFFECT PLANTS?
Microclimates can offer advantages and disadvantages to your plants. The key is to exploit a microclimate for all its advantages while lowering the impact of the disadvantages. Here are just a few ideas:
- Extra Heat – A variety of situations can create additional heat in a portion of your yard or garden. These areas, often called heat traps, will likely see more growth and a more substantial presence of pests, who are usually more active when they’re warm. Use warm spots to start plants early! If pests become a problem, treat plants with Safer® Brand End ALL® Insect Killer, which features neem oil and potassium salts of fatty acids.
>> Ideal plants: Mugwort, Apple Blossom Beauty
- Cold Spots – If there’s a cold zone or “frost pocket” in the yard or garden, it will likely be the perfect place to add cold-weather crops a little after their normal growing season. Keep plants that are frost-sensitive away from these areas.
>> Ideal plants: Kale, Spinach
- Soggy Areas – The places in your yard that collect moisture can be perfect for some plants that soak up water like sponges. These areas may also propagate fungus and mosquitoes. For fungus, treat your plants with Safer® Brand 3-in-1 Garden Spray. Deal with mosquitoes by using Safer® Brand Mosquito & Tick Killer.
>> Ideal plants: Cattail, Iris
- More Light – Where light is amplified, you should add plants that require Full Sun conditions, even if there’s only reflected light hitting the area. Be aware that these will also dry out quickly due to evaporation. Look for plants that also appreciate well-drained soil.
>> Ideal plants: Shasta Daisy, Lavender
- Less Light – Areas that receive less light than the rest of your yard may soon be overrun with moss and algae. This area, however, is also likely to contain rich, moist soil that is great for growing plants that require Full Shade. To deal with moss and algae, attach Safer® Brand Moss & Algae Killer to your hose and apply thoroughly to the area.
>> Ideal Plants: Hydrangea, Lily of the Valley
- Nutrient Boost – For areas that are chock full of nutrients, you have lots of options. First, you can dig up the soil and mix it in with lesser soils elsewhere. You can also use it for raised beds and container gardens. The easiest thing to do, however, is to plant something right there! With the boost in nutrients, you can expect robust growth which may also lead to weed and pest problems. Apply Safer® Brand 3-in-1 Garden Spray to battle fungus, plant disease and pests with one treatment.
>> Ideal Plants: Practically any vegetable or flower!
- Nutrient Gap – If you suspect your microclimate has created a nutrient gap, then test the pH value of the soil and its levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Clear out any debris that may be leeching nutrients, turn the soil as you add helpful nutrients.
>> Ideal Plants: Periwinke, Black-Eyed Susan
MICROCLIMATES AND SEASONS
Microclimates can also rise and fall depending on the season. In the Summer, for example, heavy overhead tree foliage may create an area of intense shade that keeps an area cooler than normal. Another microclimate example is a super-swampy area as the result of spring snowmelt.
Other seasonal conditions may create temporary microclimates in your yard or garden. Consider how snowdrifts, fall winds, leaf piles, spring rains and summer sun change growing conditions. These can certainly be taken advantage of if you have a quick-growing plant, a plant that requires certain growing conditions or even a plant that you’re hoping lasts a little longer.
No matter what happens, there are definitely opportunities to use microclimates to your advantage!
WHAT MICROCLIMATES ARE IN YOUR GARDEN AND LAWN?
Do you have a microclimate in your lawn or garden? What creates this microclimate and how does it help or hurt your plants? Let us know when you visit Safer® Brand on Facebook. We would also love to see pictures and hear how you’re using them for your benefit.
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