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Location, Location, Location applies not only to real estate, it also applies to gardening. One of the joys of living in the south is the ability to garden almost all year long. You can actually have something blooming in your garden twelve months out of the year. In return for this, southern gardeners have to understand micro-climates. According to Wikepedia, “A micro-climate is a local atmospheric zone where the climate differs from the surrounding area. The term may refer to areas as small as a few square feet (for example a garden bed) or as large as many square miles (for example a valley).” Before starting any garden plan take the time to study your garden and familiarize yourself with your different “micro-climates”. If you live in an older established area, it is not unusual to have many different micro-climates in your yard. If you live in a new subdivision with few remaining trees, you will probably have only one or two, full sun and not quite full sun. 

     Several years of trying to grow “full sun” plants in full sun will leave you wondering what you may be doing wrong. In the South, “full sun” is considered 6 hours or longer of direct sun and many plants labelled as full sun will wilt in all day direct sunlight. Another thing to remember is that all sunlight is not the same. Many plants do well with morning sun but struggle in afternoon sun when temperatures are hotter. 

   Most plants in a southern garden welcome some shade during the day.  The opposite is also true; if you give a full sun plant too much shade it will probably do well for a year or two, but will eventually begin to fade. One of the first indications of this is the lack of flowers. Roses that do not receive enough sun will grow slowly, but will not flower. If you plant Daylillies in shade, over a period of time the plants will become smaller and stop flowering. So when planning your garden be sure to take the hours and type of sunlight into consideration. 

    Study how the sun hits the different areas throughout the day and for how long. Are the trees shading  areas evergreen (pines) or Deciduous (Oaks and Maples)? Each type of tree gives different types of shade based on their leaf structure. Evergreens usually give a filtered shade year round, while oaks and maples will provide a deep shade in summer and allow ample sun in the winter to grow plants such a Lenten Roses (Hellebores). 

    Soil is another element of micro-climates. Is your soil sandy, loamy or clay? Does the soil drain quickly or remain boggy? Once again, if you live in an established neighborhood your topsoil has been built up over time and may only need a soil test and fertilizer applications to correct it to the essential elements and proper pH for your plants. In new subdivisions it is not unusual to have had almost all of the good topsoil removed during construction. Here more work must be done, but choosing plants that can grow in poor or wet soils will be cheaper and easier in the long run. By adding mulch and compost yearly the soil will begin to correct itself. After all, isn't this how mother nature does it in the forests? 

    It has been said if you have not killed a plant three times you have not learned how to grow it. Don't fight mother nature, she will usually win and you will only waste time and money on water and chemicals to keep plants alive. Proper siting will result in happier and healthier plants and an easy to care for garden for you.