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Home > Essentials of Gardening > Weather
Weather in Gardening
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Weather in GardeningWeather is the ultimate factor determining whether plants will thrive or perish, Temperature, moisture and their extremes have a direct effect on the survival of plants. Climate is the main reason plants favour certain places to grow. Climate is the behaviour of the weather which can be described by both average values and extremes over a period of time. Knowing the climate is a key factor to successful gardening. The weather can affect the health of your garden. Some plants may need protection from harsh winds, scorching sun or prolonged frost.

Weather describes the variations that occur in the atmosphere from day to day, while climate refers to the typical weather found in an area based on years of observations.

To understand these concepts, it helps to understand what influences climate. The most important factors are how warm an area is and the amount of precipitation it gets. This, in turn, has a big influence on the plants and animals that live there. Nearness to the equator is the most important factor, affecting the amount of sunlight, and thus warmth, that an area receives. Because of the angle at which the sun`s rays strike the earth, the equator, which receives direct rays that pass through less atmosphere, is warmer than locations nearer the poles.

Other factors that affect weather and climate are proximity to water (particularly an ocean), direction of prevailing winds, and relief (e.g., mountains). Consider, for instance, how these factors influence climates in this country. The coasts tend to have more moderate weather, with relatively cool summers and mild winters, and less of a temperature range than the center of the country. This occurs because the ocean, though it warms slowly, holds heat and releases it more slowly than does land, moderating the air temperature. The Midwest experiences cold winters and very hot summers because the expanse of land heats more quickly and cools more rapidly than water. It also tends to be drier in the center of the country, since prevailing winds from the west have lost most of the moisture gained over the ocean. Mountain areas tend to get cooler temperatures and more rainfall since thinner air is less able to absorb and retain heat, and can hold less water. The Southeast, nearer the equator, has hot summers and short, mild winters, and remains fairly humid. The Southwest, though warm, is much drier since warm moist air cools as it rises over the western mountains and drops its moisture. The descending air is warm, but has little remaining moisture.

Factors that can affect microclimates include manmade features like buildings and roads, geographical features like rocks, slopes, or water runoff channels, or living things like trees or meadows. A garden site on the south side of a building or slope may get more sun and be much warmer than one on the other side, for instance.
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