Designing a Holistic Garden – Part Three

Designing to take advantage of your micro-climates


Think about the micro-climates of your property and use them to advantage. A hot un-shaded spot by a south facing wall or fence would not be the best spot for a sitting area in the summer but might be a great place to grow a Fig tree or tomatoes if you live in a cooler climate because they need so much warmth. A low place where water collects when it rains might be a good place for a rain garden or a bog garden but not a great place for growing fruit trees or putting a play area for your kids.

A cool shady spot behind a garage or tool shed would work for compost and recycling bins, and or for woodland plants such as Evergreen Huckleberry, wild strawberries, mints and other plants that like moist shade.

Moist shady spot for ferns and wild ginger and a half barrel pool.

A hot dry slope may be great for some plants, like thyme and lavender, but would be slow death for others. With a little online research you will be able to find plants that will thrive in each sort of micro-climate your property offers. Make good use of them.

Spend some time really paying attention to the sun and shade patterns on your property through the day, and realize that this pattern will change with the seasons. A spot that is sunny at 10 in the morning today might not be sunny 3 months from now because the sun will have shifted lower in the sky and perhaps be blocked by buildings or trees. Will that matter?

Deciduous trees – those that lose their leaves each fall – will create shade for the part of the year that they have leaves and let the sun through in the winter after they drop them. That’s a VERY useful feature for the south side of a house or greenhouse or chicken coop, for example. The cooling shade is welcome during the hot part of the year – and in the winter when the leaves are gone the warmth of the sunshine will be welcome. An evergreen tree on the south or west side of the house will create shade in the winter as well which may not be such a good thing. However, placed appropriately, an evergreen tree is a good windbreak in the winter and a privacy screen all year round.

Think of your animals too, when you are placing their coops and pens, and plan for their sun and shade needs. Planting a mulberry tree on the south or west side of a chicken pen will give shade in the summer and fruit that the chickens will enjoy when they drop.

Potting shed/chicken coop and pen
Chicken coop and pen in a nice shady spot

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