Tips to Identifying Cold Spots in the Garden

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I grew up in the city where there are a lot of heat-absorbing materials, and I often focused on observing the patterns of extreme heat. I earned my real garden chops for 15 years on the roof of my old house against what I often call full sun. Times have changed and now I garden in a thin urban bowling alley-style courtyard. Of course, I spent the first winter carefully watching the light fall in the yard (all day) to see how you can get close to the space in the spring.

I have also been paying attention to the heat, wind, drainage, soil and slope of my garden, and I have made adjustments over the past two seasons to solve or work better with these problems. Now that I am about to start my third spring in this garden, I have seen with clarity that a condition that I had not fully recognized — probably out of habit — are the places in the garden that are the coldest.

What are the cold spots?

In my backyard in Toronto, these are places where the snow and ice last the longest. While the rest of the garden is waking up from its winter dormancy, these cold microclimates are sleeping. In autumn, these are also the places most affected and hardest hit by the deadly frost. Even if you live in a climate where there is no frost or hard snow, you will always have cooler and warmer places than others.

What factors cause cold spots?

Aspect: it is the slope of the earth and the direction that takes the slope. Here, in the northern hemisphere, a slope that tends to the south is warmer than the one that points to the north. My yard faces north, but the yard is steeply sloping, with the highest part of the slope being where the sunlight hits the most throughout the day. As a result, most of the courtyard is quite warm, except for the part in the shade of the house, which is also the lowest part of the Courtyard.

Orientation: sun and wind. It goes without saying that the areas that receive a lot of sun throughout the day tend to be the hottest and vice versa. The wind can have a strong cooling effect. However, areas without air movement can be colder if the fresh air is stuck and does not have an escape route to the outside. Like many townhouses, there is a very narrow path on one side between my house and the neighbor. This corridor can act as a wind tunnel, sending strong, cold or hot winds directly on the bed located at the end. That’s why I have to be careful not to put wind-sensitive plants (like Japanese Maple) in their way. Needless to say, I found out immediately after moving in, but guess what I got there? A Japanese maple (although particularly hard). And yes, he suffers from leaf burns, especially in summer, when the wind is hot.

Materials that absorb heat: Brick, Cinderella, concrete and metal walls absorb heat and release it slowly at night. The areas of the garden surrounded by these materials are usually the warmest places, especially if they are directly affected by sunlight throughout the day.

Bed height: I mentioned The appearance (tilt + direction), but the actual height of the bed can affect the temperature. I find that raised beds warm up faster in the spring and stay a little warmer in Season afterwards. That said, I find that this condition is partly related to soil drainage (below), as raised beds also tend to have good drainage and dry out faster at the beginning of the season.

Drainage: Areas where the water flows faster tend to be warmer. However, too much drought can make plants more sensitive to cold, as stress conditions and the lack of a healthy root system can make them more sensitive. This is just one of the reasons why we organic gardeners try to build loamy soil and a cake rich in organic matter – it supports and promotes healthy root growth, resulting in stronger and more resistant plants.

Why is this important?

Now, knowing which places in my garden are the coldest has prompted me to move some plants that prefer to be woken up earlier in the spring sun. In some areas, I simply make these changes because I want to see flowers earlier. As a food gardener, I want to extend my harvest as long as possible, and I realized that perennials planted in cool places appear in the spring and are dormant earlier in the fall. Early-season crops like lettuce and salad vegetables grow slower there, but last a little longer in the warmer months and tend to grow much slower. As you can see, fresh stains can also be very useful!

Ways to observe hot and cold patterns in your garden

Look where the snow and ice linger the longest.
Which parts of the garden wake up first? Who wakes up after that?
Plant the same bulbs, seeds or plants in different parts of the garden and observe where they appear first and last.
Measure soil temperatures regularly with a meat thermometer.

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