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Home / Lifestyle / Gardening / MICROCLIMATES IN THE LANDSCAPE

MICROCLIMATES IN THE LANDSCAPE

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A cold snap arrived as the New Year started. Nighttime
temperatures in my home landscape dropped into the low
twenties for a few hours.
After moving cold sensitive plants indoors, I decided
to repeat an experiment with water-filled Solo cups that
I first conducted one year ago on Saturday, January 7,
2017. As with my first experiment one year ago, I set out
several 16-oz. capacity Solo cups which I had filled to the
brim with tap water.
Solo cup #1 was placed out in an open area in the back
lawn. Solo cup #2 was placed on the ground under the
dense foliage of a red firecracker plant growing along the
concrete slab foundation.
Solo cup #3 was placed on top of the soil about 18
inches away from the outer branches of my Meiwa kumquat
citrus grown in a raised bed. Kumquats are the most
cold hardy of all edible citrus and can survive temperatures
down into the 16 – 18°F range but their cold tolerance
is dependent on a tree being properly conditioned
or acclimatized well before the arrival of a cold snap.
I was not taking any chances with my Meiwa kumquat
sustaining cold injury, so I draped two cotton sheets over
the nearly 6-foot-tall tree. When television meteorologists
later predicted a chance of rain, I placed a sheet
of plastic over the bed sheets. My Meiwa kumquat was
in full production and looked like a Christmas tree with
its plethora of bright orange-yellow fruit against the dark
green leaves.
Solo cup #4 was placed on the ground near the trunk
and underneath the dense canopy of the Meiwa kumquat
tree that I had placed two bed sheets plus a layer of
plastic.
While I have no delusions about submitting experimental
results from my rather rudimentary New Year experiment
to a revered scientific journal for publication, the
findings nevertheless can provide some insights to home
gardeners on what happens when a cold snap arrives.
So what were my findings? The surface of the water in
the Solo cup #1 (in an open area of the back lawn) was
frozen to a depth of nearly 1.5 inches by the following
morning. The water in the Solo cup #2 (on the ground
under the dense foliage of a red firecracker plant growing
along the concrete slab foundation) remained in a liquid
state.
The water in the Solo cup #3 (placed on top of the soil
about 18 inches away from the outer branches of my
Meiwa kumquat citrus) was frozen to a depth of nearly 1.5
inches by the following morning.
The water in the Solo cup #4 (placed on the ground
near the trunk and underneath the dense canopy of the
Meiwa kumquat tree protected by two bed sheets plus
one layer of plastic) had a paper-thin layer of ice on the
surface.
What are the implications of this study? There can be
subtle microclimates in a given area. Microclimates are
the little weather variations that can occur from one side
of a hill to another, from one street to the next, and even
within different sites in the same yard. Wind exposure,
bodies of water (ranging from small water gardens to the
Gulf of Mexico), etc. can influence a microclimate.
Even the brick walls of homes can create subtle microclimates.
Brick walls with a southern exposure to the sun
warm up earlier, reach higher temperatures and have
greater variations in temperature than north facing brick
walls. I observed that leaves on the lower branches of my
blue plumbago plants growing next to a south facing brick
did not sustain cold injury from last week’s cold snap.
The interior-most leaves of a large blue plumbago
growing near my office in Carbide Park also escaped
cold injury. That’s why I strongly recommend not pruning
away dead foliage until late winter after the likelihood of
cold weather is lessened.
The occasional colds snap made many gardeners
scramble to protect their cold sensitive plants. Tropical
and subtropical plants can be used effectively in the
landscape, but they must be protected or replaced when
necessary. The best approach is to plant a good balance
of tropical and winter hardy plants, so that your landscape
is not totally devastated in the event of extremely
cold weather.
At a Glance
WHAT: Collection & Storage of Burwood for Grafting
WHEN: 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, January 11
WHERE: Discovery Garden in Carbide Park (4102 Main,
La Marque)
WHAT: Growing Great Tomatoes
WHEN: 9:00 – 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, January 13
WHERE: Galveston County AgriLife Extension Office
located in Carbide Park (4102-B Main St.in La Marque).
Pre-registration required (e-mail galvcountymgs@gmail.
com or phone 281-309-5065).
WHAT: Kitchen Gardening
WHEN: 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 13
WHERE: Galveston County AgriLife Extension Office
located in Carbide Park (4102-B Main St.in La Marque).
Pre-registration required (e-mail galvcountymgs@gmail.
com or phone 281-309-5065).

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