Friday, June 29, 2012

Garden envy

What a difference a half-mile makes!

Here in microclimate land, I live in one of the more micro climates. Hence this blog title -- our yard behaves like Zone 3 even though we live, according to the map, in Zone 4. It's all because of one hill and a curve in the road.

Two of my neighbors are my gardening buddies. We get together in late winter and swap seeds, discuss crop successes and failures, and arrange who will start what for whom. Then we plant about the same time in May, each of us varying each year in what sort of early-season and pest protection gizmos we employ. We live approximately a half-mile apart, with me at one end of the road and them across the way from each other at the opposite end.

Regardless of timing and fertilizing and protection variables, by this time each season the difference in our private landscapes becomes obvious. My transplants are always smaller; I get lower rates of seed germination; and everything in general is less fecund. Originally I believed this reflected my inadequacies, but now I realize it's all about sunlight and soil.

I amend the soil; they amend the soil; though who's to say which combo is better. I fertilize; they fertilize; but who's to say which fertilizer and frequency has what effect.

The bottom line is: They have tons of sun and I don't. Even though my new garden location gets tons of sun since we cut down the pine trees, it's still not as much as they get. In fact, they have environmental problems I don't: wind in one case, overheating in another. I get a little of both but to a lesser degree, because our end of the road gets clouds more often. That extra 10-30 feet of altitude, combined with the hill, combined with directional orientation (they have open southern exposures), makes a huge difference.

The hill (aptly called Hateful Hill) trips clouds and drops moisture more than on the other end of the road. There are many days when the weather radar shows perfectly clear skies throughout the region, yet it's either cloudy or precipitating at our place. One neighbor and I both have rain gauges; after each rain, we measure different amounts, with usually more at my place. Could be a calibration difference -- neither of us has Official Weather Stations -- but the trend is consistent.

I envy my neighbors' burgeoning crops, and am glad I don't rely upon my garden to feed us. How anyone who lived here in the 1800s and had to live off the land survived, I can't imagine. Well, there was a large evacuation when the midwest opened up, with its unrestricted light and rich, dark soil . . .

Whatever. The upside is: Every year my garden produces food, no matter the sun, rain, insect, predator, pest problems. The perennials that have survived here are decades old. It's a wonder that bedazzles me every year.

But there's no mystery why I don't plant a bigger vegetable garden and can/freeze/pickle for the larder every fall!

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