The past ten days have delivered a cold spell here in Greeley which have allowed me to conduct a study of my yard in the infra-red spectrum. I have been venturing out with a laser point infrared thermometer and measuring the temperatures of key areas in my landscape during the daily light cycle during the shortest days of the season in order to find out exactly what climates are present. I recorded the temperatures on south facing walls, near the foundation, and on the north side of the property in the shade in order to start understanding my property in greater detail.
This is what I learned:
1. I have several micro-climates that will maintain a soil temperature of 25 degrees F even during -2 F night temps.
2. There are some places around my foundation which supported live red onions all of the way until the 27th of December. This was possible despite 20 degree temperatures and severe winds.
3. The thermal mass from a south facing wall in my back yard is sufficient to warm nearby soil to melt snow even into the evening during sustained cold temperatures below 20 F.
So, what do I plan to do with this knowledge? I want to run an experiment with a Fig tree in the warmest micro-climate. I believe that it might take as much as three years to get to the point where it will yield however, I am patient and the addition of figs to my edible landscape will be fantastic!!
You could do a similar experiment with an infrared thermometer. There is still time in the dark winter season to find the temperature differentials of the micro-climates in your outdoor space. You might find miniature zones as much as two gradients higher lurking somewhere that could be used to plant that exotic that no-one knew was possible.