Cheating the system Creating microclimates

Ah, here's where gardeners can and do cheat their zone ratings so they can successfully grow plants they shouldn't be able to and satisfy their zone envy. You can actually create microclimates (see the preceding section for general info on microclimates). Usually, the aim is to raise the temperature. For example, you can create a nice Zone 8-ish spot in a colder Zone 7 garden by employing a few gardening tricks:

1 Safety in numbers: Planting less-hardy plants in groups helps make them more resilient and better able to withstand temperature extremes and drying winds. The local humidity is likely to be higher in a crowd, too.

1 Mulch: A layer of organically rich mulch moderates soil-temperature fluctuations. It also helps hold in soil moisture so you don't have to worry about lack of rain or having to water quite as much.

1 Heat traps: These structures help retain heat. Row covers, hot caps, and cold frames (see Figure 3-2) are well-known ways to trap heat, thus raising the immediate temperature and/or protecting vulnerable plants from cold weather. You can purchase heat traps or build your own.

1 Water: Proximity to water has a moderating effect on temperature, so you may have luck pampering a slightly tender plant by growing it next to a water feature on your property (natural or artificial).

1 Wind and sun blocks: Fences, walls, buildings, and other structures offer shelter from drying winds and blasts of snow. Warmth and humidity can build up close to them, allowing you to coddle some tender plant. They often also create more shade, which can be cooling or inhibiting, depending on your plant's needs.

Create Microclimates Gardening

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