A microclimate is the unique type of weather in a small-scale
area (garden, park, or valley). The
various characteristics include temperature, rainfall, wind or humidity.
It is the mixture of multiple microclimates that make up the
climate for a town or city.
For coastal areas, such as
Oxnard, Ventura, or Santa Barbara, gardeners need to understand beach
microclimates that can vary in different parts of the same city
depending on the elevation and distance from the ocean.
When the warm onshore air comes in contact with the cold land
surfaces, condensation of the warm vapor occurs, creating mist or fog.
Plants, such as single or double petal flowers would be a better
choice than tight thick petal flowers that tend to rot because of the
moisture before they can bloom. Coastal
microclimates have land and sea breezes that are cool during the summer
and are mild during the winter. Select
plants that manage well with cool summer weather or choose early
varieties of warm season crops, such as Early Girl tomatoes.
Use mulch with care. An organic mulch can cool the soil as much
as 10 degrees. If you are
trying to get warm season plants such as tomatoes or cucumbers started
in spring, mulch in May.
Microclimate questions you
can ask yourself or your local garden center:
is your area’s average rainfall?
are the high and low temperatures?
are the characteristics of the seasons (cool summer, warm
are the wind factors; does your microclimate experience dry
Santa Ana winds, or cool off shore coastal breezes?
Another way of
understanding what may grow well in your area is simply walking around
your neighborhood. See what
works well for your neighbors and talk to them; not only will you gain
knowledge, but you may make a new friend!
Remember, microclimates can vary from neighborhood to
If you live close to the
ocean, remember that soil and spray are saltier than in inland
neighborhoods. Winds can carry salt spray miles inland.
Low or little rainfall can contribute to high concentration of
salt in the soil. Soils in
Ventura County tend to have an acceptable pH. However, if the pH
is incorrect, it tends to be alkaline.
Ask your local garden center for soil amendment and plants that
are more tolerant of salt concentration.
To amend thin topsoil, or soil that is sandy or heavy clay, add
organic matter. Adding soil
conditioners, peat moss, compost, leaves, or grass trimmings can improve
the condition of your soil while improving water retention capabilities.
An added bonus for our county’s drought areas.
--Jade H. Smith
photo by Ray Smith