When planning a garden we’re often warned about areas to avoid: shade, wind tunnels, frost pockets—you know the sorts of things. But what some growers don’t realize is that you can harness the power of different microclimates to their benefit. Here are some tips on taking advantage of areas that can positively help your growing.
Grow heat-loving crops, such as tomatoes and chillies, against hard surfaces, such as walls, fences, and even big rocks to encourage them to ripen more quickly and evenly. Build a lean-to greenhouse or cold frame against a sun-facing wall to enable you to start seedlings two to three weeks earlier than you’d be able to with outdoor sowings.
Conditions in a suntrap can be a week or two ahead of less-sheltered areas in spring. Grow vegetables in pots, troughs, and hanging baskets on sun-drenched patios. Don’t forget to water more often.
In hotter climates, shady areas of the garden enable cool-season crops, such as lettuces and peas, to grow well even in midsummer. Shade is especially helpful in the midday and afternoon heat. Use shade netting to create temporary shading for young seedlings and plants.
Rooftop and balcony gardens benefit from their position high up away from frost pockets on the ground. With a few carefully placed screens, a balcony can become a sheltered garden ideal for growing more tender crops in containers.
Garden beds raised above soil level—whether within a framed raised bed or on a natural mound—warm up earlier in spring. Orient beds to face the midday sun to enhance this effect. Cover raised beds with a row cover to extend the growing season even further. Early crops, such as carrots, especially benefit from these improved conditions.
Learn more about creating different gardening microclimates in this video.
Our popular Vegetable Garden Planner can help you map out your garden design, space crops, know when to plant which crops in your exact location, and much more.
Need crop-specific growing information? Browse our Crops at a Glance Guide for advice on planting and caring for dozens of garden crops.
Watch more videos on growing food and other self-reliance, DIY topics on our Wiser Living Videos page.
Photo by Fotolia/donnasuddes.
Shelley Stonebrook is MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine’s main gardening editor. She’s passionate about growing healthy, sustainable food and also runs Stonegrass Farms Soap Co. in her spare time. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.