6 tips for landscaping in harmony with your yard's microclimate

If you take your yard's microclimate into account when planning your landscaping, you'll be able to expose your plants to the site's advantages and protect them from its disadvantages. You'll also save time, money and energy by working with the microclimate instead of trying to combat it.

6 tips for landscaping in harmony with your yard's microclimate

Your yard's microclimate

Each yard has a distinct microclimate brought about by the topography of the land, the locations of buildings, the proximity of a body of water, wind patterns and other factors.

1. Divide by three

Think of your yard as having three distinct parts: public spaces, such as the front yard and driveway; private spaces, including patios, swimming pools, and children's play areas; and utility spaces for items like garbage cans and firewood.

  • Public areas should appear neat and organized, while private spaces allow for unlimited creative expression.
  • Be practical when making plans for utility areas.

2. Make a plan

  • Take a pencil and paper outdoors and sketch out buildings, sun positions, shade patterns, slopes and other features.
  • Or take snapshots as a substitute for a hand-drawn plan.

3. Match your style to your personal tastes and availability

  • If you enjoy working in your yard and eating what you grow, a vegetable and herb garden should be a priority.
  • If you love flowers, a perennial bed or rock garden will provide hours of blissful distraction.

Busy weekend gardeners often are most satisfied with container plants, small beds of annuals and a well-tended patch of lawn.

4. Marry the landscape and house

One of the keys to an attractive landscape is to ease the transition between the "built" and the "natural" environments by combining plants and structural elements.

  • Plant shrubs near your house's foundation to mask the base, and use shapely small trees to visually pull out the front corners.
  • Use colourful containers or beautiful accent shrubs near entryways, or consider letting a climber run up a porch post.
  • Stick with flower colours that flatter your house in the front and explore other hues in the backyard's private spaces.

5. Take it slow

If you've just moved to a new or neglected property, don't plunge in right away. Instead, let the site grow on you. Take time to develop your plan and get acquainted with your yard.

  • If it's an older yard, you may be surprised to find treasures already growing there.
  • In new yards, look at the plants that seem to be doing especially well in other neighbourhood landscapes and envision how they might look if you used them in your own yard.

6. Keep an eye out for telltale signs

Analyze your site to recognize subtle differences that may have big implications for plants.

  • Observe which plants are blown about by wind and which stay still — the latter may indicate protected spots for growing marginally hardy plants.
  • Watch where snow melts first and where it lingers.
  • Note where soil dries quickly and where it remains waterlogged.
  • Variations in soil temperature and moisture mean the difference between a plant that merely survives and one that thrives.
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