Creating a Microclimate with a Cedar or Vinyl Fence Installation
A microclimate is an atmospheric zone where the climate is different than that of the general area around it. Microclimates can range in size from a couple of square feet to several miles. Museums often create their own microclimates to help preserve materials in storage or on display. San Francisco’s Bay Area is an example of a large-scale microclimate with its own sub-microclimates because of the basins, valleys and marine air.
A gardener can take advantage of the microclimate in his or her own backyard by carefully positioning a cedar or vinyl fence installation and thoughtfully arranging the surrounding plants. A vinyl or cedar fence installation can also help make an area in a garden cooler, wetter or less windy.
How to Use a Fence Installation to Create a Microclimate
The location of a vinyl or cedar fence installation, and the manner in which it is built, can affect the force of winds in your garden as well as the amount of sun your plants receive. A successful microclimate is one that you carefully plan. By taking the time to be thoughtful about your cedar or vinyl fence installation and the plants you choose, you can enjoy a successful garden year-round.
1. Know the temperatures in your yard. The temperature reading on your outdoor thermometer isn’t the universal temperature for your property. Areas under trees or on the shady side of a fence may be cooler and damper. On the other hand, an area near a fence that doesn’t receive a lot of shade may be warmer and drier. Place a thermometer and rain gauge in each microclimate you discover, and record the temperature readings twice a day for at least 14 days.
2. Make a map of your yard. In this map, include the location of your vinyl or cedar fence installation, trees, outbuildings, your home, shrubs and other significant structures. Then indicate the different microclimates you discovered, along with their conditions. For example, shade the cool areas with a blue marker, the warm areas with a yellow marker and wet areas with a green marker. Then use a highlighter to indicate where the fence, trees and other large objects cast a shadow. In addition, notate the most frequent direction in which winds prevail.
3. Learn more about the plants that you want to grow. Important information to know includes the amount of sun each plant needs, spacing suggestions, watering needs and ideal growing conditions.
4. Use the sunny side of your cedar or vinyl fence installation as a mini-greenhouse by simply leaning an old window or using a clear sheet of plastic against it to create an instant cold-frame. Then plant perennials that need a boost under the covered area.
5. Place fragile plants and train new trees on the sunny side of a fence so they’re protected from the wind. If you’re trying to help early-blooming fruit trees, you can incorporate an overhang made of Plexiglas onto the top of a cedar fence.
6. Use the shady side of your fence for cool-season crops, peas, lettuce or brassicas. Hang a shelf on the shady side of a cedar fence installation and line it with pots full of seedlings. This will give the seedlings a chance to acclimate to the weather without scorching.
7. Plant a garden in a small yard by creating a sub-microclimate on the shady side of a fence. Place stakes on the side of the garden bed that is farthest away from the fence. Then place eyebolts toward the top of the fence; align the bolts with the stakes. Tie twine around each stake and through the corresponding eyebolt. Grow a climbing plant (like beans or peas) near the stakes and train it to grow up the twine. Then plant lettuce or other shade-loving plants closer to the fence. The climbing plants’ leaves and vines will create a shady spot for plants that need it.
Fence lines are naturally productive gardening areas because they create their own microclimates and can give the plants in your garden a boost when placed strategically. As your garden grows, observe and make note of the plants that thrived and struggled along your vinyl or cedar fence installation. Make adjustments as necessary, watch your garden thrive and be the envy of your neighborhood.