Create Microclimates With Stone
Microclimates can be a gardener's dream or nightmare, depending on where the gardener lives and what the gardener wants to grow. If you're that gardener and have a bunch of microclimates -- or want to create a bunch of microclimates -- stone may become one of your best friends. Not only can the stone affect the temperature in the immediate area, but it can also help you modify what the soil is like. From gravel to larger flagstones, stone is an amazing tool for your garden.
Absorbing, Reflecting, and Releasing Heat
Stones absorb and release heat over the course of a day and night. If you have a particularly cold spot in your garden and want to raise the ambient temperature, place decorative stones along borders, add flagstones, and even use rock mulch in some of the beds to increase the reflection factor. You don't want soils to get too hot; that would damage the roots. But if you can raise the air temperature by adding rocks that absorb heat during the day and release it at night, or light rocks that reflect warm sunlight, you can make the overall climate more hospitable for some plants.
Adding rocks, such as those used in French drains, helps the drainage in your yard and turns areas that flood easily into those that are more hospitable for planting. You can also use clean crushed gravel to amend clay soil, making it drain much more easily and also making the soil easier to work with. Combined with compost and possibly fertilizer or a pH amendment, the gravel can turn a hard, unworkable area into a better place for a garden.
Larger stones, of course, can help create better-draining and sunnier microclimates if you use them to build a retaining wall in areas where slopes face to the north. The elevated soil has a much better chance of getting out of the shade caused by a nearby tree, for example, and into the sun. Ideally, having land slope to (or terraces on) the south allows more sunlight to hit the soil. But redoing an entire hill so that it slopes the other way is a bit too much for most yards. It's easier to set up a retaining wall that allows you to create a wide, flat expanse toward the top of the slope or a series of terraces that will get the noon sun.
Talk to a landscaper and a stone supply store like Harristone to learn more about the different types of stone available for use in a garden. There are so many options that, no matter your environmental or climate issue, you'll find beneficial types.