How cold does it usually get where you are? And how cold was the coldest winter was? Did you have to protect your plants? And when do you start your spring planting?
Here in Reno-Sparks, the lowest temperatures used to be about -20Â°F. That hasn't happened in a LONG time. The lowest measured temperature in my back garden last winter was 14Â° F, and I don't protect anything. What lives, lives. What doesn't, doesn't. Okay, I sort of don't protect anything. The leaves that fall in the flower beds get left there, and all the spent potting soil gets tossed out there, too, so everything gets kind of haphazardly mulched.
The front garden runs 5 to 10 degrees colder, and I definitely don't mulch out front or protect anything. I select my plants accordingly.
I start my spring planting as soon as pansies are on sale at Lowe's, which is in March, I think. That's not vegetable planting, though, or tender annual planting--it's just when I start putting out primroses, primulas, pansies and violas. I don't get to *really* planting until mid-April when there is still considerable frost danger, so that's "only" perennial plants and shrubs. The tender perennials go out in mid-may, even if I started them earlier inside. Tomatoes I don't plant until the end of May, because I get them from the local master gardener plant sale. There really isn't any point in putting them out earlier.
A couple of lessons learned, though--if I want sweet peas in Fall, I have to plant the seeds in mid-March. I need to start another planting NOW (frosts and all) so it will give me flowers in late spring and early summer.
And a final confession: I plant all year. I grow from seed, I buy bare-root, I buy started plants, I buy bulbs...There's always something going on in the house or outside that has to do with growing plants.
Thanks for that nice summation of gardening in Reno. To me, 14 degrees is really cold. I haven't felt that in about 10 years when all of CA got an arctic blast. I was at my parents who then lived in the SF Bay Area, and it hit 14 deg. with a wind chill was supposedly 7 deg. F. The lemons and calamondin trees were severly frost bitten, despite my tenting efforts. The apple, pear, and persimmon didn't mind and put out great fruit, and there were far fewer pests that following spring! I can't even imagine -20 deg. F. My parents have yet to experience a winter in North Vegas at their new house. They're going to have me plant an apple and persimmon tree in a few weeks. They also want some perennials. So, I appreciate the tips.
I am reminded regularly about the importance of a good chill in growing great stone fruit and apples. One of the local farmers markets vendors in Irvine Farmers Market (Smith Family) have their orchards near Reno. IMO, they have the sweetest Fuji and Pink Lady apples and white nectarines (Arctic Snow variety) the the whole market. They believe that their organic methods plus their big chill are the reasons it's a tad sweeter than everyone else.
It sounds like you've got Zone 7 gardening to a science. Your techniques all make sense. It sounds like you're gardening every day inside in winter. I was wondering though about the sweet peas that you have to plant in March to have them in the fall? Is that because it's too hot? We don't deal with extremes like you do where I am (in Southern CAL). For late fall sweet peas, we just plant in early September. We could get 100 deg. temps once in awhile, and we can get frost once every three years. But really, we can plant seeds from Labor Day through St. Patty's Day and be guaranteed really sweet smelling pea flowers about 2-3 months later. Some plant them all year.
Again, thanks for that info. I'll make sure to wear a down jacket when I'm in that part of Nevada in winter. My brothers go up there regularly. They're expert level snowboarders and skiiers even in their late 40s, and don't even own a down jacket! Meanwhile, I just sit in the hotel room looking at gardening catalogs sipping a hot toddy.