If you live in a hot climate, there are many plants that may\nnot be able to survive there \u2013 at least, not under ordinary circumstances. If you can create a microclimate in your\ngarden, you might be able to coax these plants to grow and survive, despite the\nhot weather in the surrounding areas.\n\n\n\nSo, how do you create a cooler microclimate? Some\nof the best ways to create a cooler microclimate include the clever use of:\n\n\n\nelevation\nand sloperocks, hedges,\nand wallstrees and\nshrubssoil\namendmentsirrigation\n\n\n\nIf you take advantage of all of these factors in your\ngarden, then you can create a cooler microclimate for the plants that just\ncannot take the heat. Let\u2019s get into microclimates,\nwhat causes them, and how you can create one yourself.\n\n\n\nHow to Create a Cooler Microclimate\n\n\n\nBefore we can create a cooler microclimate, we need to\nunderstand what a microclimate is, and how it is created naturally. Then, we can take the steps to create our own\ncooler microclimate.\n\n\n\nWhat is a Microclimate?\n\n\n\nAccording to Wikipedia, \u201ca microclimate is a local set of atmospheric conditions that differ from those in the surrounding areas.\u201d These microclimate areas can be as small as a few square feet or as large as many square miles.\n\n\n\nAs far as gardeners are concerned, a microclimate has a\ndifferent temperature, soil moisture, and sun\/shade profile than the\nsurrounding areas.\n\n\n\nWhat Causes a Microclimate?\n\n\n\nIn nature, a microclimate is caused by things like:\n\n\n\nElevation (How high is the microclimate above or below the surrounding climate?)Slope (How steep is the land within a microclimate? This can affect how water flows and drains.)Closeness to Mountains (For example, a valley between two mountains will form a pocket of cold air, called a cold sink).Distance from Water (For example, the \u201clake effect\u201d occurs when warm air from a lake meets cold air passing by, and creates snow). For more information, check out this article on the lake effect from Wikipedia.Exposure to Wind (Natural rock walls, trees, and other factors can block wind entirely, or create a wind tunnel to make it more extreme).\n\n\n\nThe temperature in a valley can be much lower than the surrounding area, due to a microclimate between mountains.\n\n\n\nCheck out this article from Washington State University for more information on the factors that cause natural microclimates.\n\n\n\nHow to Change Microclimate (Methods for Creating a Cooler Microclimate)\n\n\n\nTo create our own cooler microclimate, we can take advantage\nof the ideas mentioned above. One great\nway to change your microclimate is by playing with elevation and slope.\n\n\n\nUse Elevation and Slope to Create a Cooler Microclimate\n\n\n\nIf you have a slope in your yard, you can plant near the\nbottom of it to take advantage of gravity. \nAny rainfall or irrigation will run downhill and settle near the bottom\nof the slope.\n\n\n\nThis will keep the soil near the bottom of the slope nice\nand moist. Soil that is consistently\nmoist will take longer to warm up in the spring, which will give you cooler\nsoil for a longer time period.\n\n\n\nOn the other hand, planting at the top of a slope may result\nin drought conditions for plants, since water will run downhill. Also, the soil on top of a slope will warm up\nfaster, since it is exposed to more sunlight.\n\n\n\nOf course, if there are no natural slopes in your yard, you\ncan create a gentle slope by taking dirt from one side of your garden and\npiling it up in another. Before you\nstart this project, make sure that you orient your garden so that it is facing\nthe right direction (more on this later). \n\n\n\nThere is another way to use elevation to your\nadvantage. Remember the idea of a cold\nsink that I mentioned earlier (cold air trapped in a valley between two\nmountains)?\n\n\n\nWell, you can copy this natural phenomenon in your garden\n(on a smaller scale) to create a cooler microclimate. We know that warm air rises, and on the flip\nside, cool air sinks.\n\n\n\nIf you can create an area in your garden that is lower than\nthe surrounding land, then you can trap some cold air in the low-elevation area\n(like the cold air trapped in the valley between two mountains). You will need to do some digging, but the\neffort will be worthwhile.\n\n\n\nYou can create alternating mountains and valleys by digging\ntrenches and using the soil to pile up mounds on either side of the trenches. Then, plant your crops in the trenches\n(valleys) to give them cooler air and some protection from the sun (at least\nduring the early and late parts of the day).\n\n\n\nJust remember that water will drain from the mounds down\ninto the trench. If your soil is heavy\nclay that does not drain well, consider adding some compost to make it drain\nbetter.\n\n\n\nFor more information, check out my article on how to make soil drain better.\n\n\n\nUse a Compass to Create a Cooler Microclimate\n\n\n\nI know it sounds crazy to use a compass to create a cooler\nmicroclimate, but hear me out. The\ndirection that your garden faces makes a big difference in terms of the sun\nexposure and wind that your plants will experience.\n\n\n\nMake sure that your garden is facing in the right direction to minimize sun exposure for a cooler microclimate.\n\n\n\nIn the Northern Hemisphere, a north-facing garden will end\nup with soil that is cool & moist. An\neast-facing garden will stay cool and get protection from wind.\n\n\n\nCheck out this article from the Colorado State University for more information on how garden facing affects microclimate.\n\n\n\nBefore you dig any trenches, build any walls, or plant\nanything, decide on which direction your garden will face. It will save you a lot of work in the long\nrun!\n\n\n\nIf you put your garden close to a tree line, hedge, or\nstructure (house, barn, garage, shed) to give it shade, then make sure that the\ngarden is on the north or east side to take advantage of the sun\u2019s path.\n\n\n\nUse Rocks, Walls, and Plant Barriers to Create a Cooler Microclimate\n\n\n\nBarriers made of stone, wood, and even plants can help to\ncreate a cooler microclimate in your garden. \nThese barriers can provide shade to keep soil and plants cooler on sunny\ndays.\n\n\n\nYou can also use these barriers in a clever way to funnel\nwind into a tunnel, to help cool down a microclimate in your yard.\n\n\n\nYou can use all sorts of barriers to provide shade and\nproduce a wind tunnel, including:\n\n\n\nBerms \u2013 a berm is just dirt piled up to form a mound, which can be long enough to surround your entire garden.Stone Walls \u2013 you can build a wall out of stone, which can be expensive and time-consuming. However, a solid stone wall will block the wind, allowing you to direct it to where you want it to go.Fences \u2013 you can also build a stockade-type fence out of wood or vinyl by purchasing panels from Home Depot or another garden and landscape store.Straw \u2013 this is a much more economical option than stone walls or wooden fences. All you need to do is build a barrier using bales of straw. Unfortunately, this straw barrier will not last very long, so you will probably need to do it every year. The good news is that you can use the decomposing straw in a compost pile to feed your garden every year. For more information, check out my article on how to make your own compost.\n\n\n\nA stone wall can help to direct wind into your microclimate to cool things down for plants that can't take the heat.\n\n\n\nCheck out this article from the University of Vermont Extension for information on microclimates in your garden.\n\n\n\nAnother benefit of barriers is that they can reduce traffic noise from the street in your garden.\u00a0 For more information, check out my article on reducing traffic noise in your garden and my article on plants that make a good sound barrier.\n\n\n\nUse Strategic Planting to Create a Cooler Microclimate\n\n\n\nIt takes some planning, but you can be clever about the\nplants you put in your garden and where you put them. With a little thought, you can create a\ncooler microclimate for the plants that need it, without affecting the ones\nthat don\u2019t.\n\n\n\nCompanion planting is the idea of planting two or more\nspecies together so that they can help each other to grow. For example, planting marigolds together with\ntomatoes can help to protect tomatoes from root-knot nematodes.\n\n\n\nIn the same way, you can use companion planting to provide\nshade (and thus cooler soil and air temperatures) for plants that can\u2019t stand\nthe heat.\n\n\n\nFor example, you can plant taller plants (such as corn,\nsquash, pole beans, or sweet potatoes) to provide shade. Nearby, you can plant shorter crops that\nprefer shade or cool soil, such as lettuce, spinach, or carrots.\n\n\n\nYou will need to give the taller plants something to climb\non, such as a trellis (lean-to or A-frame). \nA trellis will serve a dual purpose, since you can put shorter plants\nthat prefer shade under the trellis.\n\n\n\nFor more information, check out my article on trellises.\n\n\n\nBuild Structures to Create a Cooler Microclimate\n\n\n\nIn addition to building trellises, you can also build arbors\nor pergolas to help create shade, and thus a cooler microclimate for your\ngarden. If you\u2019re not sure about the\ndifference between these structures, here is a summary:\n\n\n\nA trellis is a lattice, which can be freestanding, and always supports plants.A pergola can be freestanding, and has sturdy posts to hold up a flat roof, which provides partial or full shade for a deck or patio.An arbor is often freestanding, and creates a tunnel to shade a garden gate, path, or bench.\n\n\n\nFor more information, check out my article on the differences between trellises, pergolas, and arbors.\n\n\n\nA pergola can provide lots of shade under its canopy, especially if taller plants are already growing on it.\n\n\n\nThe best part about these structures is that you can use\nthem as a support for plants to grow up and along. As the plants grow leaves, they can provide\nshade to other plants underneath the canopy of the structure.\n\n\n\nEven without plants climbing up a pergola, you can use a\nlight-colored tarp or fabric cover to provide shade and reflect away sunlight\nto keep things cool.\n\n\n\nUse Soil Amendments to Create a Cooler Microclimate\n\n\n\nIf you think soil does not matter for your microclimate,\nthink again! The type of soil you have\nwill affect the moisture levels in the ground. \nThis, in turn, will affect the microclimate.\n\n\n\nSoil that stays consistently moist will warm up more slowly\nand stay cooler than dry soil. If your\nsoil is sandy and drains quickly, then even heavy irrigation may not help.\n\n\n\nAdding compost to sandy or dry soil will improve water\nretention. Lighter colored soil will\nabsorb less sunlight and will stay cooler as a result.\n\n\n\nFor more information, check out my article on how to treat dry soil.\n\n\n\nUse Irrigation to Create a Cooler Microclimate\n\n\n\nThis goes along with the last point \u2013 it\u2019s no use having\nsoil that retains moisture if there is not enough to go around! Water your plants frequently or install an\nirrigation system to give them the water they need.\n\n\n\nYou might be able to catch rainwater in gutters and barrels\nand direct it to your plants to save on water bills.\n\n\n\nWhat to Avoid when Creating a Cooler Microclimate\n\n\n\nAvoid planting near driveways or patios with dark-colored\nstones. Dark material will absorb more\nheat from sunlight during the day, and then release it at night.\n\n\n\nAlso, avoid planting in a greenhouse or cold frame \u2013 it may\nkeep plants alive during the winter, but plants that prefer cool weather (such\nas lettuce) may bolt early and become bitter if left in these structures for\ntoo long.\n\n\n\nFor more information, check out my article on why lettuce gets bitter.\n\n\n\nConclusion\n\n\n\nBy now, you know how to create a cooler microclimate. By taking advantage of some ideas from good\nold Mother Nature, you can make things a little cooler for plants that can\u2019t\ntake the heat.\n\n\n\nI hope you found this article helpful \u2013 if so, please share\nit with someone who can use the information. \nUntil next time, stay cool and enjoy your garden\u2019s pleasant\nmicroclimate!