Microclimates

ChiloquinNews article 5/16/2011

Microclimates make a huge difference in the plants we can grow, and the Chiloquin area has more microclimates than any other place I’ve ever lived.  Even within my yard there are microclimates, with the sheltered south facing area right up close to the house much milder than the open west sloping face where the cold north winds sweep across unhindered. My yard is protected from the prevailing westerly winds by a row of tall cottonwood trees along the bank of the Wood River Canal, but when the winds turn northerly, there is no protection from that biting cold. 

 If you pay close attention to your yard you will be able to find that sheltered spot to put a more tender plant that you really must have, and in the harsher areas you can plant the hardy plants that nothing seems to faze.  You can also start to develop your own microclimates by planting windbreaks, erecting rock walls, or even just laying rock or gravel in an area where you would like the ground to be a little warmer in summer.

When you are talking to your friends about gardening though, you do need to know just where it is that they live.  Where I am, on the edge of the water, wisdom has it that it should be warmer because of the moderating effect of all that water, and that is true to some extent. However the water is also at the lowest point, and cold air flows downhill to settle right along the edge of the water. For this reason, my neighbors across the road and up the hill a little, tend to miss out on the first few freezes of fall, and their growing season is a little longer than mine. But on the other hand, my soil is so much better than theirs. I have 6 feet of topsoil and can dig as far as it’s possible for me to dig and never hit a rock, while up the hill what soil there is, is filled with rocks.

The moderating effect of the lake is noticed as soon as you cross that first hill back from the lake. Those people living along Hwy 62 get colder temperatures than those of us along the lake. And if you go over another hill to Chiloquin, you will find even colder temperatures—as much as 150 colder at times.

 The long and the short of it is that you can listen to all the advice that people give about what will grow here, but you have to figure out your own yard for yourself.  Just because something should grow, doesn’t mean that it will.  On the other hand, if I covet a plant that my neighbor is growing, but it hasn’t done well for me (like milkweed), then I pay close attention to where she has placed it in her yard. It may just be the difference of moving it from a western exposure to a southern exposure, or giving it more shade, sun, water or better drainage.

 Stay alert to all the possibilities, and happy gardening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These grape hyacinths are growing only about 40 ft from each other. Those on the left, which have been open for weeks and now almost finished flowering are in a sunny, sheltered south–facing spot, while those on the right, which have yet to open, are on the shaded, cold  north-facing side of the house.

 

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