Shirley D Smith
Somervell County Master Gardener
Have you ever heard the word “microclimate” and wondered just exactly what is that? You may have some vague idea but just have not taken the time to do the research to find out exactly what it means. I accidentally found my microclimate at my house, and it has been a great place to protect some of my plants this winter.
Here is a really simple definition I found:
A microclimate is the local climate difference of a small area within the surrounding area and can offer different growing conditions in the larger USDA Hardiness Zone. The conditions of microclimates are determined by plant orientation and exposure to heat, light, water, and wind.
Because of lack of space, I could not move all of my potted outdoor plants into my garage for the winter. There is an area just outside my kitchen dining area that gets the west sun and always seems to be warm or hot, depending on the season. It is also right next to the outside wall of the house so it is protected from the wind and absorbs lots of winter sun. As an experiment, I tried placing in that area 3 geraniums (that bloomed), a mountain laurel I am growing from seed, a spider plant, a color guard yuccca, and 1 chrysanthemum. They were doing great. When the forecast arrived that “snowmeggedon” was headed our way I made room and moved them into my garage. They are now back into my microclimate and doing well.
Since doing research for this article, I am now looking at my property with an eye to crating spaces that might grow plants I would not have otherwise tried. I have a large stand of oaks near my home and that would be a great place for hostas and other shade-loving plants. Do you have an area that is moist a lot of the time? Think about a water garden or a bog garden there. The south side of your house gets lots of winter sun so it might be a great place to put more tender seedlings until ready to put in your veggie garden.
I have a desert garden that gets the full hot summer sun. Because I have put only plants there that are sun and heat-loving, they do well. Being a successful gardener takes thought and planning and a lot of just plain old luck sometimes!