Creating and Working with the Microclimates in the Garden

garden detail in aerial view

A microclimate is an area that continually has a different climate than the greater regional climate. On a grand scale, this phenomenon is exemplified by the urban heat island effect. The urban heat island effect is caused by the excess pavement absorbing, reflecting, and releasing heat energy making urban areas hotter than the surrounding countryside. Microclimates can be on a smaller scale as well. In your garden microclimates can be created by walls, trees, and pavement.
Building a small wall in the garden can cause a huge change in your garden by creating a microclimate around the structure. Depending on the direction the wall is constructed- north to south, east to west, or some direction in between, the shadows cast will turn areas that were previously full sun areas into the part shade. This needs to be taken into effect when designing because plants need to be selected for these newly created microclimates. The ground on the bright side of the wall could become dry and the plants that grew there before will not do well anymore.

Ways to create microclimates in your garden:

  • Plant trees to shade patios and other open spaces.
  • Install a pergola to shade your house as well as the patio.
  • Reduce the amount of paving around your house. The color of the pavement should also be considered. A dark color absorbs more heat than a lighter color.
  • Plant sun-loving and drought-tolerant plants next to walls.
  • Cold air is much like water. It runs downhill and gathers in the low-lying areas.
  • Be aware of this and choose plantings to accommodate this.
  • Slopes, depending on which way they face, create zones that are warmer than others.
  • Slopes facing south are generally warmer than slopes facing north.
  • Use walls and dense evergreen plantings to create windbreaks.
  • Use trees and shrubs to shade the south side of your house.
  • This keeps your house cooler and will save you money on your energy bill.