One of the things I have come to understand over the past few years is the huge difference, even on our own property, in moisture, shade and sunshine. As they say when buying real estate, location, location. Location is just as important when planting a fruit tree, a vine over the fence or vegetables. Matching the right plant in the right location in your garden is going to make the difference between success and failure.
One of the crucial elements in organic gardening is to understand your micro-climate this will avoid disappointing results and a lot of wasted time and money. This is the very first step in planning your organic garden, you will be well rewarded for the time you spend researching and documenting.
Micro-climates are the variations within the climate of the overall backyard area. Walls, hedges, amount of sunshine thrown onto the area, shade from adjacent buildings and other structures or trees and the position of existing plants introduce subtle differences across the backyard area or micro-climates.
Technically, the term micro-climate is used to describe very local conditions, such as the temperature or relative humidity within a canopy of a plant, but it is often used more broadly to describe the conditions at an individual site… nothing beats measuring the conditions of a specific site yourself”.
Measuring Micro-climates in the Backyard
Farm suppliers, garden centres, online gardening stores and other gardeners, sell equipment for collecting data on the variations within the climate of a your backyard area. Gardening equipment that will measure important climate data includes:
- A maximum and minimum thermometer when taking measurements from the same area of soil in the backyard. When buying a soil thermometer, a maximum/minimum thermometer has two mercury columns and can also display the current temperature.
- Rain gauges can offer new insights into rainfall across a yard. By collecting the data yourself, you will see that there can be a three-fold difference from one area to another depending on location. This data can be combined with observations of where water stands on the soil and for how long after rainfall.
- Soil pH testing kits that do what they say on the label.
Planning Fruit Location to Grow Well
In the book Vegetable and Fruit Gardening: The Definitive Guide to Successful Growing, (Dorling Kindersley, 2008), Michael Pollock in ‘Growing Fruit and Vegetables’ lists four key variations in garden climate creating a micro-climate:
- Open areas
- Walls and buildings
- Sheltering hedges
- Low-lying areas
Sunshine on open areas of a backyard will be a good location for early crops. Backyard garden walls and other structures can create wind funnels that damage fruit crops but can also offer protection to some other crops.
Hedging can be an effective wind and rain barrier to fruits planted adjacent. In sloping backyard gardens, pockets of frost on the colder wetter soil are likely to form in low-lying areas.
Planting garden fruit, whether oranges, mango, a pear tree or a fig requires you to understand your backyard garden’s micro-climates and plan accordingly for your fruit to grow well.