Microclimates in Water-Wise Landscapes

Water Conservation for Lawn and Landscape November 21, 2012|Print

What is a microclimate?

Cartoon of two people sitting on either side of a hedge. The person on the left is in full sun while the person on the right is freezing in the shade

The hedge in this cartoon creates two distinct microclimates.
Image source: Geography wiki at Blackwood

Microclimates in landscapes are small localized areas that differ in temperature, precipitation, and wind protection from the greater surrounding area.  Structures, topographic features, and plant orientation can create microclimates.  They can be naturally occurring or intentionally designed.   


Examples of Existing Features that can Create Microclimates

  • Topographic depressions - influence temperature, water and snow retention, and wind
  •  Hills and berms influence temperature, snow melt, and wind
  •  Slopes influence runoff and temperature depending on orientation to the sun
  • Groups of existing plants, buildings, and other structures influence temperature and wind

These areas may or may not need to be modified based on what opportunities and constraints were determined by the site inventory and analysis.  


How to Create a Water-Wise Microclimate

  • Use walls, fences, plants or other structures to block use areas and keep sensitive plants from drying winds.
  •  Create shade using water wise tree species or structures to reduce evapotranspiration.
  • Plant tree species that leaf out later in the spring to maximize seasonal use of outdoor areas.
  • Create depressions, swales, or rain gardens to capture and slow water infiltration into the soil.

Additional Resources:

Midwest

Nebraska - Microclimates

West

Healthy Garden Tips - California
Evaluation Form - California

South

Florida - Microclimates