Saturday, March 12, 2011

Do I have a Micro-Climate?

With two years of experience under my belt (still a newby, I'm afraid), I'm starting to get to know my backyard a little better . After a lot of deep thought over the winter, I've come to the conclusion that maybe I have a 'micro-climate', or an area of land that has a different climate than the surrounding areas. In my case I believe my backyard plot must be in a slightly warmer micro-climate. If that is the case, I'm wondering if this means I can plant out things like tomatoes and peppers a little earlier than I have been?

Here is the evidence:

Exhibit A:
I took this picture last weekend. The backyard has pretty much been completely snow free for at least two weeks now. When I look across the street at my neighbour's yard, it is still snow covered (although I'm sure the rain we are supposed to get this weekend will take care of that). I compared my picture with others in the blog-o-sphere and my yard definitely seems much further along.

Exhibit B:
Landscape. The backyard slopes down from north to south. I have tall bushes and a shed on the west and more bushes on the east. My house on the south is 3 stories high. So I seem to have some protection or shelter from harsh winds and cold.

Exhibit C
Frost and Snow. I don't seem to get as much snow in my yard as friends who also live in the city, but in different areas. Maybe it's because I live relatively close to the Bedford Basin.  In terms of frost, the last two years I tried to keep track of when I had frost in the early morning after a warning the night before. For the most part after early May, I observed no frost. Less snow/frost= warmer micro-climate?

So what does all this mean? If my backyard truly is a micro-climate, and if (as my research tells me) the soil in a raised bed warms up faster than an in ground garden, theoretically I should be able to plant a little earlier than I have been. The last average frost date for Halifax is May 6. Last year I added a week to that date to determine when to plant my tomatoes, pepper and heat-loving crops, getting them in the ground between May 31 and June 5. I'm not going to go crazy in testing this theory out, but this year, I'm will cautiously set out and seed some plants a little earlier to see what happens. I'll use my crop cover and home-made cloches to help thing along. I'll see if earlier planting = earlier crops.

Update March 14:
I just noticed that one of the blogs I follow (vegetablegardener.com) has a recent post on micro-climates that has some good information:  http://www.vegetablegardener.com/item/10556/what-are-microclimates 

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