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Try microclimates for plants that won't grow

Published On: Jul 09 2013 12:15:04 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 09 2013 12:15:37 PM CDT

By Beth Stetenfeld

Have you ever had a plant that struggled in one location in your garden but thrived when you moved it to another spot? Perhaps you found a better microclimate for that particular plant.

Microclimates are small areas of unique growing conditions, or "climates," that are different from areas around them. They often vary in soil moisture, temperature, sunlight, wind or other factors. A few examples: areas on either side of a stone wall, garden beds adjacent to your house or plots with extreme variances in sunlight.

Sometimes you can "push zones" with a few plants in warm microclimates. Most Dane County gardens are located in USDA zone 5a. Plants recommended for zone 6 might survive—especially if planted in sunny, protected spots near houses or other structures. But don’t count on it.

If you live in the city near brick, concrete and asphalt surfaces that absorb the sun’s energy, your garden might be warmer than one in the suburbs. If you have a roof garden on top of a building, your plants are exposed to more extreme temperatures in both summer and winter. But if you live near a lake, the temperatures likely are moderated slightly in all seasons.

While July can be a little hot for new transplanting, it’s an excellent time to take stock of the microclimates in your garden. Notice which plants seem a little parched, and which look like they could use more warmth or wind protection. You might find clues for transplanting in the fall or ideas for next year’s garden.

Beth Stetenfeld is a McFarland-based editor and writer and the creator of the gardening blog PlantPostings.com.

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