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Gardening in California

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Depending on the time of year, your property’s micro-climate, and where you live in California, planting and tending a garden can be both enjoyable and rewarding. It’s also a chance to play in the dirt. Here are some tips for planning your garden in the Golden state. 

Know your growing season
California is a big state with a lot of different growing regions. We have the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the east, coastal mountains in the west, the Tehachapi range in the south, and the Cascades to the north. These all affect climate, along with a cool California current. To find your growing zone, use the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Plant Hardiness Zone Map. California ranges from zones 6 to 10 in the north, and zones 6 – 11 in the south. 

That zone info is essential in planning your garden. Choose plants that grow best in your area by comparing zone information on the back of most seed packets with what you know about your region. 

Monitor your yard for a week
Before you plant anything or build a raised bed, take note of where the sun graces your property and how many hours it sticks around. A vegetable garden requires at least six hours of full sunlight every day to flourish. But too much sunshine and heat can be an issue also. Find the right mix of shade and sun for best results. 

Careful of too much heat
Some parts of California can get pretty hot most of the year. If you live in one of those areas, try planting your garden in movable pots or hanging baskets. This will allow you to move them into shady areas during the hottest parts of the day. While it might seem tempting to water your garden to cool it down, don’t do it. Water droplets only amplify the sun and can cause plant damage. If you must water in the heat of the day, use a soaker hose to get the water into the soil. 

Watch the water
It’s a mixture of sunshine (heat), soil, and water that make a garden grow. Sure, you’re an important part of that mix, but your job is to monitor the amount of water your garden gets. Some of your best watering friends include sprinklers, drip systems, and soaker hoses. 

Wherever it is you plant your garden, try to avoid standing water. Not only does it kill off most plants, it can be a breeding ground for mosquitos in the summer months. Nobody likes that. To avoid that issue, monitor your soil for water saturation. If the ground is still wet at the end of a hot day, lay off the water for a day or more. 

Year-round gardening may be an option
Depending on where you live, there is a long list of vegetables and other plants that can grow into the fall and winter months. The University of California Cooperative Extension has published a Gardening Basics manual to help you choose varieties. 

Don’t forget about aesthetics  
Whether you like to relax on the porch or deck, or watch the world go by from the air-conditioned comfort of your home, give yourself a good view of the garden. Everyone in the family will enjoy watching your plants grow. Plus, keeping a close eye on things can help when it comes time to harvest.