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Why are microclimates important?

“I watched a gardening show about microclimates a few days ago. What do you know about planting in microclimates,” Jim asked me recently.

“Probably not as much as I should,” I responded, while thinking, “Uh-oh, is this topic going to involve a lot of technical terms like permafrost, turbulence, and biome that I will have to decipher and explain?” Well, yes, the topic actually did include such terms, but learning the basics of microclimates doesn’t necessitate memorizing the definition of each one. In fact, most of us already utilize microclimates in planting our vegetable and flower gardens.

As Maria told Captain von Trapp’s children, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start,” but instead of Do Re Mi, we will begin with USDA Hardiness Zone maps, which divide the country into regions with similar annual low winter temperatures. The Hardiness Zone maps present a starting point for selecting plants that will survive our winters, but they don’t offer the full p...

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