The Dirt

Using Garden Microclimates to Your Advantage



Watch Dave’s video on garden microclimates.

As a meteorologist in New England, I know how fickle the weather can be.  Our climate brings us cold snowy winters and warm humid summers, and temperatures can vary by over 100 degrees from January to July. While all gardens fall into a specific climate and planting zone, within each zone there are smaller areas known as microclimates.

You might already be aware of your own microclimates.  A microclimate is just that: a mini or micro climate area inside a larger one.  So while you might live in zone 6, you might have an area of your yard that is a full zone higher or lower due to the surrounding conditions. For example, my north-facing yard remains snowy long after my neighbors are enjoying green grass on their south-facing yard!

When you’re trying to decide what plants to grow in your garden, it is vital to consider microclimates.  For example, an area that is open and away from any buildings or protective trees might be significantly colder than the rest of your garden.  Conversely, an area that is protected near your foundation might be a full zone warmer than the rest of your property.  I am able to grow several Zone 7 plants here in Zone 6 because those plants are growing next to my home and benefit from heat radiating off the foundation all winter.  Of course, there are other areas in my yard where Zone 6 plants tend to die.  In these areas, the ground remains colder and the area is exposed to winter winds.

All sorts of factors can create microclimates: hills, valleys, bodies of water, trees, buildings, and even large rocks.  Take a walk around your own yard. How many potential microclimates can you find?  Use them to your advantage and you might be able to grow a unique variety that no one else in your area can.

For more of Dave’s videos on gardening, visit his web site at


By Dave Epstein

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