In previous articles I have mentioned micronutrients. This week I want to talk about microclimates. By definition a microclimate is an area within a larger area that has some difference such as light, wind protection, less or more water, and or change in soil. The differences can be either good or bad.  I am sure that each of us has one or more of these areas in our landscape.  Sometimes we can use these areas to grow a plant that would not survive otherwise.

          My yard has a wood fence on the north and east sides as well as shrubs that break up the force of the wind.  One of my garden magazines had an article on fences and gave what distance the boards should be spaced so the wind is slowed but not completely stopped. If it hits a solid fence turbulence is created that harms the plants.

          Parts of my yard thaw out as much as two weeks before others.  There are areas that freeze much later than others.  Cold air goes downhill and collects in obstructions. Some people make maps of their yards over the years to show these various differences. By doing this they can plant a favorite plant in different areas of the yard and have a much longer blooming period for their pet.  For example, crocus on the south side of your house may be up and blooming before the ones on the north are coming up.

          Another micro-climate is found in yards that drain away to low spots that retains water.  There are a number of plants that can stand wet feet. For example, if you like willows of any kind, as well as some iris (Siberian, Louisiana, Japanese and the tall yellow Iris pseudoacoris) they will do fine in a wet area. Some of these iris do not like wet feet after they have bloomed, so you will need to check on the species before planting.

          There are some that can be planted at the edge of your lily pond in water several inches deep.  There is a story of one king who was backed up against a bog by an opposing Army and was about to be destroyed. He noticed pseudoacoris growing and knew it was a bog and not a pond and he and his troops escaped during the night.  Ligularia dentata needs to be moist all the time or they droop badly. They also prefer light shade and protection from winds. Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium) is a tall (6 foot) plant butterflies love and prefers a damp soil.  It is a perennial that will not grow as tall without plenty of moisture.

          Trollius (Trollius cultorum) also called Globe Flower lives on the edge of my bog area and has a very bright or yellow bloom but never lives over 2 or 3 years for me. It may be I don’t keep my bog wet enough. Queen of the Meadow (Filipendula rubra) lives in the same area-wet feet and high shade. The Queen is taking over the bog area growing about 4 feet high with big, fluffy pink flower heads about six inches long and 4 inches wide.  Some people call it Meadow Sweet. Lobelias, Astilbe, hostas, heleniums and calla lilies like constant moist feet but not covered with water.

          Most of us in Lincoln and South Central Nebraska are plagued by hot dry areas rather than wet ones.  Here the natives shine such as Coneflowers, Achillas, and Mexican Hats. Many annuals do well such as Zinnias, Cosmos, and annual Poppies. I lost a number of Penstemons before I realized they prefer a desert to a pond. The ones doing well now are planted on a slight slope facing south that drains well after a rain. Nearly any gray leafed plant prefers drier soil.  If you look closely at their leaves they may be gray because of the many hairs that slows down evaporation. My gray garden does well out in the parkway with several species of Artemesia, Lambs Ears, and Pussey Toes.

          You can make a climate map of your yard by observing what goes on! The west side of a heavily branched shrub makes a wind protection area. The south side warms up first in spring which is not necessarily a good thing as an early bloomer is likely to get its flowers frozen.  Putting your earlier bloomers in a cold spot may save your flowers. 

          Your can make your own microclimates. A raised bed will warm up faster and drain sooner for earlier crops such as radish and lettuce. The natives of Southwestern United States planted their crops in ditches as they did not get much rain and what they did get went into their ditches.

          I find that just my mulching in the fall after the first freeze helps me keep a number of USDA Zone 6 plants from year to year. The books on xeriscaping all recommend separating your plants into areas with the water lovers together and near the house with the dry lovers to the back. It saves you on carrying hoses very far or often.


Copyright 2011   





·        Bananas came from Asia but now most of them come from South America.

·        Grapefruit is from the West Indies and was brought to Florida in 1820.

·        These and many other facts came from the book “How a Fly Walks Upside Down” by Martin Goldwyn. It was first printed in 1979.

Copyright 2011