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Monday, September 2, 2019

Microclimates in the Desert are Important


Some people think I’m crazy when I mention the importance of microclimates in landscapes. Others may be unsure about what they are, how to establish these microclimates and if they’re worth the expense. It’s really whether you value the selection, appearance and quality of plants growing in your landscape.

This microclimate was established next to a hospital on Maryland Parkway in Las Vegas. It is sunken, protected from Maryland Parkway traffic on the left and its noise. It also gets several hours of midday sun and the smaller plants and the ground protected from late afternoon sun from the West (left). This makes an area for employees where there is less noise and cooler.

Microclimates affect how plants grow and appear in the desert, their quality if you’re talking about vegetables growing in raised beds or fruit on fruit trees and how comfortable we are when enjoying a beverage or meal outside. Landscape microclimates change something about the outside: the air temperature, wind speed, humidity, noise level or may address privacy issues. All these change the microclimate in an otherwise open landscape.
Some construction going on so the yellow cord is there but plants that might normally struggle in rock due to the heat and intense sunlight perform better with a break due to a microclimate.

A recent stroll through a commercial property on Maryland Parkway reminded me how important these changes can be for plants and for us. A section of this commercial property lowered the strolling and sitting area below this north to south running street. This change provided morning and afternoon shade, change the direction of the wind and lowered wind speed and reduced the noise level from passing traffic 20 feet away.

Plants like this Japanese privet perform better where they have a break from the intense desert environment.

Here I found outside sitting areas enjoyed by employees on a hot morning. I found plants thriving, compared to their struggling counterparts 50 and 75 feet away. A simple lowering of the landscape elevation provided “comfort” for plants and humans alike without changes to the soil or irrigation different from the rest of the landscape.
Plants like this daylily planted in rock looks much better than its counterpart planted along the street.

Be Creative with Microclimates at Home

Changing the landscape elevation is one way to address problem areas. Other methods include trellising, building wind screens or diversions, use of gazebos, building partial walls, using manufactured screening, paint and other methods that provide a microclimate that improves the quality of plant growth and the outside living area. Remember that cement and steel are more durable surfaces than wood in the desert.
            I will talk more about this subject on my podcast.

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