Micro-Environments – What The Plant Doctor Ordered
Plant culture aims to create the best growing conditions for crops. In order to achieve the best results farmers make small-scale changes to the growing conditions for plants.
Small-scale changes create modified climates called micro-climates or modified environments called micro-environments. Features such as temperature, humidity, moisture levels, sunlight and soil acidity can all be changed resulting in better growing conditions for plants.
Plant nursery operators regularly advise customers about the best way to look after a plant. For example, the location and type of soil will have a big influence on the level of success a gardener will achieve with any particular plant. In essence, gardeners are being advised on how to create the best microenvironment for that plant.
Keeping in mind the optimum requirements for a crop, the next challenge comes when providing the required conditions in a practical way.
Matching the correct growing season when planting will help to provide the broad climatic needs for the plant.
Wind, Sunlight, Soil …
Local conditions can then be modified further by making changes to factors such as exposure to wind, sunlight and humidity. Farm structures such as buildings will provide a range of environments allowing a wider range of plants to be grown successfully.
North facing walls in the southern hemisphere trap more sunlight and heat creating a warmer microclimate
Concrete or brick walls and paths will also radiate heat at night keeping a frost prone area warmer. Shelter spots behind walls and under trees will provide protection from excess heat in summer and suit plants requiring cooler conditions.
The shape and density of windbreaks will also change the way in which wind moves around these structures. A solid brick wall for example will cause wind to swirl, while a more open structure composed of shade cloth or plant vegetation will provide a more gentle flow of air.
Planting on hillsides will allow for an increase or decrease in the level of sunlight received depending on the aspect or direction chosen.
Hillside plantings generally have a reduced incidence of frost during cold weather. Locations near the sea or lakes will also have a reduced risk of frost damage due to the moderating influence of water on temperature.
Inland locations will usually have a wider range of temperature changes between day and night and may need more changes to the microenvironment for success.
Soil cultivation and general cultural activities such as the application of organic matter, lime and gypsum will improve soils in relation the specified crop. Deep ripping of soil before planting trees will also break up compacted soils and rock layers allowing improved penetration of water and plant roots. These activities usually result in improvements to the soil microenvironment and lead to better plant growth.
Water and irrigation management, often necessary for summer crops, modifies levels of moisture and air in soil. Should there be an excess of moisture in winter provisions for drainage may be required modifications in order to prevent soil waterlogging and damage to plant roots.
Microenvironment And Hobby Farming
The range of modifications is endless and often takes time to achieve. Getting the right mix of microenvironments requires experience and patience. There is always a level of uncertainty regarding weather and climate, disasters will always occur, but good management can reduce these risks.
Getting the microenvironment right is well worth the effort. You will be rewarded with a wider range of healthy plants that may not normally grow in your area.