San Diego’s ‘climate zone’ allows for ideal growing conditions

Coastal San Diego County is an excellent place to garden. There are thousands of homes adorned with countless varieties of cultivated plants. With a 12-month growing season, San Diego gardens require only irrigation and some gardener love for optimal growth.
Different plants necessitate different growing conditions. California is segmented into climate zones in order to best understand what areas will support what plants. These zones are designated based on latitude, elevation, ocean influence, topography and weather patterns. According to the “Sunset Western Garden Book,” coastal San Diego is in Climate Zone 24. Frost-free with mild summers, cool winters and generally moist air; this zone is dominated by the Pacific Ocean.
Water usage is a critical consideration when developing a San Diego garden. San Diego receives an average of only 10 inches of precipitation annually. This is enough to naturally support only hardy plants. Without human intervention, all of San Diego would resemble the chaparral and sagebrush landscape that remains on undeveloped land. With human intervention (irrigation), the landscape has changed dramatically. Non-native plants dominate the scenery. Ice plant, native to Africa and now naturalized here, is the most common invasive, non-native plant. It is helpful in limiting erosion on hillsides, but harmful when crowding out and killing native plants.
Gardening is a very popular hobby/passion for San Diego residents. Climate Zone 24 provides plenty of sunshine for most garden plants. Gardeners grow everything from vegetables to succulents, fruit trees, flowers, ornamentals and many other varieties. According to master gardener Peggy Kenney, soil quality is an important consideration when planning a garden. “Most of our soils here in San Diego will need good quality, organic amendments added before planting,” she said. These amendments include compost, worm castings and fertilizer.
Organic is a prevalent catchword in today’s garden culture. According to Kenney, “organic” represents gardening “with soils and fertilizers free of synthetic materials or chemicals. Also, utilizing natural means to control weeds (i.e. hand-pulling or hoeing).” Organic pest control includes the introduction of “good garden pests” such as ladybugs and praying mantis to combat the “bad garden pests” such as aphids and green worms.
The San Diego Master Gardener Association is a wonderful resource for green thumbs and beginners alike. They offer educational outreach, garden tours and a variety of events for all interested gardeners. Visit mastergardenerssandiego.org or call their hotline at (858) 694-2860. Gardening is a fascinating and exciting activity. If you have ever grown a vegetable and watched from germination, to flower, to harvest, you know how delicious and rewarding it is. Gardening is a multifaceted topic, too complex to cover in one article. I will cover other garden subjects in future editions. But for now, here’s to rich soil and beautiful new growth!
Correction from the previous Coastal Cosmos: The James Webb Telescope is not being built at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. The JWST is currently being assembled at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. The Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity) was built at the JPL.

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