Snapping into gardening high gear

By WANDA CHURCH

For a combination or reasons, late last fall I made a decision not to plant a winter garden or to try and save all my pot flowers from freezing. One reason was that I knew I would be having some physical impairments, but the others were things like simple laziness and lack of motivation to get out in the cold to cover and uncover the tender plants each day.

It was a sad decision as I watched the beautiful fountain grass and other plants in my yard droop and die in the few days we had temperatures below freezing. I did manage to cover my favorite succulents, so all was not lost. I missed the fresh lettuce and spinach I was so accustomed to harvesting for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners too.

A couple of days ago I received in the mail a gorgeous Seed Catalog, and it was my undoing! It snapped my attitude into gardening high gear. Such beautiful pictures of enticing plants, like eye-candy heaven for any gardener. If you want a quick start on your garden, you can get those seeds and start them indoors, or you can order the live plants. If that is not your thing, you can wait until the plants come on the market locally, but you won’t have the vast selection and different varieties.

Eye catchers were a geranium called “Havana Blues” (imagine! a blue geranium!), a breathtaking new sunflower called “Solar Flare” and the herb “Stevia.” Stevia is a sweetener similar to other low-calorie sweeteners that has recently come on the market. Now you can grow your own, let it dry, then crush it — and there you have it! It’s also an attractive plant. “Mesclun” lettuce is simply a mix of different lettuces, but what colorful mixtures are available!

If you are having gardening thoughts, it’s time to learn what you can and cannot grow in this climate. A new 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map has recently been made available and is the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a specific location. The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree-F zones.

For the first time, the map is available as an interactive GIS-based map, for which a broadband Internet connection is recommended, and as a static image for those with slower Internet access. Users may also simply type in a Zip Code and find the hardiness zone for that area.

No posters of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map have been printed. But state, regional and national images of the map can be downloaded and printed in a variety of sizes and resolutions.

From what I can determine, Ridgecrest is in Zone 8B showing low average temperatures of 15-20 degrees F. You can access this map at http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/#. There is a wealth of other information at this site, which may be of interest to most gardeners.

Happy New Year and Happy Gardening!

Story First Published: 2013-01-09