What is a microclimate?
Our question this week comes from Central Texas Gardener’s Facebook page, where viewer Curtis Fesser asked about microclimates: What are they, and can he create one?
Microclimates are areas that have a different environment than the area surrounding them. You most often hear about them when horticulturists have to explain why a normally tender plant is somehow surviving, and even thriving, outside of its normal range.
At one point when I was an Extension agent in El Paso, there was a news story about someone who was not only successfully growing a banana tree in their yard, but also producing edible fruit. And I don’t have to tell you that a banana should not survive in the high desert of the southwestern U.S.
To create a microclimate, you need to recreate the environment that you’re looking for. For example, to create a warmer, more humid space for a tropical species, create a small, protected area, complete with walls, bright sunlight, and ample moisture to evaporate into the air. The walls, closely spaced, would be important in this situation, protecting the area from drying winds and creating a greenhouse effect to keep warmth and high relative humidity. In fact, a greenhouse is the best example of a microclimate, but you can also create a microclimate indoors by using a tray of pebbles under container plants, or by using terrariums or bell jars.