Spring is coming. Like me, you’re probably anxious to get started in your garden. We’ve gotten some much needed rain and hopefully there is more to come. As you’re thoughts turn to gardening, though, make sure those new plant choices are the right ones for your area.
Notice how much sun or shade an area gets during the growing season- from April through September. Knowing also which Sunset climate zone you are in is equally as important to make sure your garden thrives. Every year I get asked which zone the areas of Scotts Valley, San Lorenzo Valley, Bonny Doon are in. It’s confusing in Sunset Western Gardening Guide as our area has many microclimates and their map is not detailed enough to reflect this. They even show Felton as being on a ridge top instead of on the valley floor. Here are some tips to help you determine in what zone you garden.
Zone 7 has the coldest winters in our area. Very high ridge tops like the Summit area and the most northern portions of Bonny Doon lie in this zone. My records show average winter lows ranging from 15-25 degrees based on 20 years of input from gardeners in these areas. This does not apply to other areas of zone 7, just those around here. Record lows have occurred during freezes in 1990, 1996 and 2007 but as gardeners we rely on average highs and lows to help guide our planting times. Spring weather comes later in this zone with the growing season mainly from April – October.
Zone 15 – this zone encompasses most of our area. Winter lows average 20-30 degrees. The valley floor of both San Lorenzo and Scotts Valley lie in this zone and are what I call "a cold 15". Cold air sinks and is trapped in these areas. Often there is damage to the tips of oleanders and citrus while gardenias and tropical hibiscus need extra protection.There are warmer parts of this zone, though, where the growing season starts in March and ends in November. These areas rarely get a freeze after March 15th or before Thanksgiving.
Zone 16 – those who live up off the valley floor but below ridge tops live in this "banana belt". Pasatiempo also falls in this thermal zone. Light frost can occur during the winter but mostly the winter lows in this zone stay above freezing. Lucky you.