Weather - is the combination of rainfall, temperature, wind sunshine and air humidity which affects your garden at a particular point in time.
Climate - is the summary of the weather that is likely to affect your garden right through the year. The climate maps of your area should be used as a rough guide only. They provide averages over many years instead of telling you the extremes of weather conditions which you are likely to enjoy (or suffer) during a particular year. Furthermore, the overall climate of your region will probably much modified by factors all around the garden (the local climate) and the factors around each plant (the microclimate).
The general climate provides a rough guide to the weather you may expect in your garden. In Britain it varies from nearly sub-tropical (S.W. coastal areas) to nearly sub-arctic (N.Scottish highlands). The general climate is controlled by the latitude, altitude, direction of the prevailing wind as well as closeness to the sea. The effect of latitude is obvious to everyone, southern gardens are warmer than northern ones. The effect of being close to the sea is equally recognized, western coastal gardens are kept virtually frost-free by the Gulf Stream. Less well known is the effect of small increases in altitude and the plant-damaging effect of salt in coastal areas for as much as 5 miles inland.
The local climate is the modified type of general climate. It is controlled by:
Slope - a south facing sloping site begins its growing season about 1 week before a level plot.
Openness - nearby trees and bushes can cast shade and reduce solar energy, but they do also reduce the damaging effect of high gusts of wind.
Proximity of buildings - town gardens are affected in several ways by the proximity of walls, houses etc. Walls cast shadows and so reduce solar energy, they can also cast rain shadows and so reduce rainfall. Walls affect the temperature, heat is released at night and south facing walls can potentially form a sun trap.
Soil type - frosts are more likely to occur over sandy soils than over heavy ones.
Proximity of water - a close-by large lake can have a cooling effect on hot summer days.
Micro climate - The is the modified type of local climate in a direct vicinity of a plant. Big variations can occur from one part of a garden to another part. Nearby walls and hedges or overhanging plants will of course lead to less light and less rainfall than in an open garden, the effect of this rain shadow can be to cut the water supply to only 25% of the rainfall in the open garden. On the credit side the effect of nearby walls and plants is to cut the risk of frost on clear, still nights and to reduce the harmful effect of wind. The general climate cannot, however, be changed. The local climate is usually impossible to alter but they can often be improved by introducing cloches or windbreaks.
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