About Guest Blogger Jose Pablo (JP)
Having been raised on a dairy farm, JP has been around plants and animals his whole life, where growing his own food is typical of farming culture. Now a city dweller, he has the same hands-on desire for raising, growing, and controlling the family’s food source naturally. Limited space has its challenges, but JP has raised egg-producing chickens in his backyard for three years and tended several raised garden beds for over 8 years. Somewhat of a master gardener now, JP grows unique plants and vegetables—enough food to make jams and jellies, can, freeze, and share with friends and neighbors. And when the growing season ends, JP is a good earth steward by composting eggshells, food scraps, end of season plantings, and other yard waste.
What are Microclimates?
Microclimates are great for urban gardeners with limited space who want to grow a variety of plants, in a specific area, with specific soils—thus creating individual growing conditions for crops within the same limited space.
JP’s Gardening Journey Begins Here
Throughout my gardening journey this year, I will be referring back to the microclimates I have created in my garden. So to get started I would like to share how I established these specific climates using the GardenPODSTM Square Foot Raised Garden Grid.
A major benefit to using the GardenPODS grid is the deep-pocketed design that allows me to integrate square foot gardening techniques with microclimate gardening—creating individual planting zones for specific plant types and maximizing my yield in a small space.
Planning My Garden
There are 53 individual planting ‘pods’ in the GardenPODS system, which allows for planting different herbs, vegetables, and flowers in different soils. To create different zones for the needs of the individual plant types, I carefully planned out my garden for what crops I would grow, the best soil types for those crops, the best season for planting/harvesting, and then I assessed my uncontrollable environments (such as hours of sunlight per day).
I downloaded the free GardenPODS Garden Planner Worksheet to help with the arrangement of my garden.
With my garden plan completed and my GardenPODS grid set-up in the 4×8 ft. wood frame that was easy to build, I started to fill the pods with different soils and plantings. This image shows what soils and herbs I planted—creating those microclimates.
For the remainder of this blog, I will be focusing on the specialized drainage needs for Mediterranean herbs and long root vegetables like carrots.
Microclimate Zones for Specialized Plantings
For the root vegetable microclimate zone, I blended topsoil with sand (poultry grit can also be used). For long, straight carrots, a sandy loam that is loose, light, and drains well is ideal. Adding perlite can also help if your soils are compacted. (Perlite is a lightweight organic soil amendment that looks like little white Styrofoam balls.)
Note the different zones within the same raised bed.
The ideal pH range for carrots is 6.0 to 6.8 (slightly acidic to neutral), with the amount of nitrogen less than potassium and phosphorus levels. An NPK fertilizer with 1-2-2 is perfect, as too much nitrogen will give you lots of leaves, and hairy, cracked carrots.
Mediterranean Herbs Zone
Fast drainage is important because if the garden soil is too moist, herb roots tend to rot.
If you are choosing garden soil to add to your raised bed herb area, avoid soil with added vermiculite, as these soil blends tend to retain water instead of drain it quickly.
The ideal Mediterranean herb microclimate has a pH that is slightly acidic to neutral (5.5-6.5) and soil that is a bit rocky. Fast-draining soil is necessary!
The GardenPODS square foot garden grid has allowed me to create microclimates for my herbs and root vegetables, based on their soil needs—all in one bed!