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USDA Plant Hardiness Zones

To help gardeners understand which plants will grow well for them, the entire USA has been segmented into ‘Plant Hardiness Zones’. Knowing your zone number is helpful when shopping for plants because:

  • Cold-area gardeners can avoid buying plants that simply won’t survive their lowest winter temperatures.
  • Warm-area gardeners can steer clear of plants that need a period of cold weather in order to bloom again.
Find your Plant Hardiness Zone here.

Growing Bigger in a Small Garden

My edible gardening pursuits are facing a few new challenges these days. When I moved into my house ten years ago, my garden was mostly a blank slate and I could plant veggies in any patch of sunlit ground I wanted. But over the years, the situation has changed quite a bit. I’ve planted several dwarf fruit trees and quite a few flowering perennials that have crowded out or shaded out more and more ground. That, coupled with the fact that about half of my back yard is covered with concrete, is causing me to rethink how I’m going to grow more veggies this year.

Container gardening is going to be a big feature of my edible efforts now. The Strawberries I used to grow in a bed around a dwarf flowering cherry tree barely fruited last year because they had become too shaded. This year I dug them up and tucked them into a strawberry pot and around the edges of some other containers where they can get full sun. Tomato plants are going in 10-gallon pots with sturdy cages; strategically placed on the sunny concrete patio, they should be able to absorb as much heat as my bay-side climate can deliver. Beans and Tromboncino squash are also going in containers so they can climb up the pergola over my deck.

But I also want to take advantage of some of the shady ground I have. So I’m planning on moving a raised bed from a crowded section of my back yard to my partly shady front yard where I intend to grow shade-tolerant veggies like kale, chard and beets. My front yard has a sprinkler system already installed, which will save me some time in hand-watering these greens that appreciate even moisture.

The weather here is just warming up and I’m anxious to get going with my warm-season vegetable garden. But it’s important to take this time to plan it out and make sure I’m utilizing the space I have as wisely as possible. Every garden has its challenges, but challenges are not necessarily limits. With every passing season, I become more and more convinced: We can always grow more!

Claire Splan is the author of California Fruit and Vegetable Gardening (Cool Springs Press, 2012). She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area (Zone 10a) and blogs about gardening at An Alameda Garden.

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