Microclimates & Your Veg – Diary of a Rocket Gardener

Well it’s been pretty rubbish weather and I’ve been ill too, so I’ve been poring over gardening books to keep my green fingers content. One thing that I’ve been interested in is the concept of microclimates as I’ve often noticed that perhaps some of my own veg are doing particularly well whilst my next door neighbour is struggling, or perhaps my sweetcorn are ready for harvest whilst a friend’s crop in Wales is lagging behind.

I think understanding some of the very basics of microclimates can help you get the most from your plot, particularly if you are new to growing veg. Within my own (large and sprawling) garden, I have several things at play:

  • Sun traps – very little wind, a lot of reflected warmth off walls, and day long sunshine. This is great for growing tomatoes in pots, and for other heat loving crops.
  • Shady spots – beds running along north facing walls that get an hour of sunshine in the morning, and an hour or two in the evening but that are in full shade in between. I’ve put a lot of leafy herbs in this bed and they do really well. Parsley, coriander and marjoram are all thriving, as well as mint and rosemary (which surprised me as they tend to do better in sunshine)
  • Sheltered sunny slopes – these get full sun throughout the day, and are fairly protected from stronger winds. This is where I try to grow beans, corn and taller brassicas. It’s also good for squash which doesn’t like wind so much.
  • Exposed sunny slopes – full sun, but when there’s a strong wind it’s game over for tall crops! No beans here, the supports just topple at the first sign of a strong breeze. But it’s a great area for lower (and tougher) crops, like root veg, spinach and chard.
  • Part shade – I have a few beds that are in shade for the morning, but get afternoon and evening sun. I often put salads (rocket, mizuna, lettuces etc) here as the soil is that much cooler and moister so prevents them from bolting as quickly.

Also, with being in Cornwall where for the most part the temperatures are milder, I find that some things happen early more frequently – like parsnips going into their second burst of foliage when the roots become woody and tough, or leeks and onions going to flower. I imagine this doesn’t happen so much in more northerly areas where temperatures tend to be lower.

I think it is always worth thinking about the microclimate of your own plot before you plant – you’ll of course get to know your plot better with each season that passes, but just considering a few things like wind, sun, shade, slopes etc can give you a bit of a headstart!