The weather this winter has been fairly mild. Rainstorms since mid-January have kept the average low temperatures at night from dipping very low. Spring is right around the corner and on time. As your thoughts turn to gardening make sure those new plant choices are the right ones for your area.
Some gardening tasks are dependent on the weather. Many shrubs,perennials and grasses are to be pruned after danger of frost is past and many vegetables should be started after this time as well. As a reminder the . I’ve kept a weather journal for my area, the San Lorenzo valley, since 1992. Based on my records, we may get a few light frosts, especially after a storm, in late March or early April but for the most part, we have mostly passed the chance of having a frosty morning. Still it’s a good idea to have a cardboard box or blanket ready to protect your young seedlings.
Knowing the climate in your area helps determine what you can grow in your garden. Notice how much sun or shade an area gets during the growing season, from April through September. Every year I get asked which zone we 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 in zone 7 on a ridge top instead of on the valley floor. . Another problem with Sunset’s current book is the typical winter low they show for each of the three zones around here. For example, zone 17 ( Pasatiempo and the banana belt ) is described as having lower temps in winter than the summit. It’s confusing to both new and seasoned gardeners alike. 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.
I hope this helps in choosing plants that will thrive in your garden.