In this microclimate, one side of the slope is oriented to get more sun with limited ability to absorb moisture. The other side recieves less sun throughout the day, retains more moisture and creates the conditions to grow more vegetation.

A microclimate, as the name implies, is a unique and “micro” climate found within a broader area with different climate conditions. A microclimate can be created naturally or purposefully through landscaping and building placement. One example of a microclimate is a small grove of planted trees. The trees retain more moisture and shade than the rest of the area, keeping it damp and moist for other species to grow. Microclimates can vary in size, but is always relatively small and significantly different in comparison to the greater climate of the area.

Microclimates create more opportunities within a landscape. Gardeners, builders, architects and people who practice Permaculture within their lives are familiar with microclimates and their potential benefits. Home gardeners, with the help of a microclimate, are able to grow varieties of plants and food that are supposedly not able to grow in the region. The difference, of course, is that the climate is different enough to sustain a new ecology. New Zealand kiwis thrives in Brooklyn, offering delicious fruit as a testament to the extraordinary outcomes that may occur in microclimates.

With a little know how, anyone can create a beneficial microclimate to fulfill their own needs, or the needs of a habitat around them. Native Americans and other indigenous groups throughout the world have an extremely high level of land literacy, meaning they understand the patterns of the geography around them and are able to cultivate crops and make habitats that, with some work, becomes its own thriving ecosystem. Before Europeans arrived Indians around the Fingerlakes, New York, and terraced the land and planted peach trees, thus creating a thriving and unique habitat that flourished naturally with food. No water was pumped, no fertilizers used to grow crops. The Indians instead environmentally engineered a location by creating a microclimate specific to the production of peaches.

This type of knowledge and  know-how is vastly different compared to the industrial farming mindset where plants are mono-cropped, creating no supporting microclimate at all and simply relying on synthetic fertilizers to boost yields within a region that naturally is unsupportive of the land.

Microclimates are created by a variety of geographical and plant elements. The shape of the landscape, its orientation to the sun, the height of slopes, the wind patterns, bodies of water, the way the rain falls and runs-off are just some factors that can help form a microclimate. A city or urban environment with a lot of concrete could also be considered a microclimate because the pavement absorbs and reflects heat keeping the area much warmer than the neighboring countryside.

Identifying microclimates and building them intentionally is a skill set that can be learned. It’s a matter of observation. One of the best ways for an individual to learn about microclimates with no formal training in geography or landscape architecture is to take a Permaculture course, which  not only covers the topic of microclimates and their benefits, but teaches people how to think about the environment around them, and how to arrange their lives in a way that increases their well-being while having a lower impact on the environment.