The Gardening Zone series, 13 bloggers talk about gardening in zones 3 to 9.
This is my first gardening year in Texas. Last fall I moved 2300 miles from the Pacific Northwest to Central Texas. Funny enough, both of my gardens are in zone 8b – and I thought “no sweat, I can do this! I’ve been gardening for years and I’m just trading one garden for another, right?”. Unfortunately, they are both in zone 8b, but they couldn’t be more different.
What does it mean to be in gardening zone 8b?
It’s all about freezing temperatures
The 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at their location. The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree F zones. The division of zones into a and b is done in 5-degree F increments. Zone 8b means that the average minimum winter temperature is 15 to 20 °F. Zone 8a has an average minimum winter temperature of 10-15 °F.
When you purchase a plant that is described as “hardy to zone 8”, it means that the plant can withstand a range of minimum temperatures (zone 8a and 8b) from 10 °F to 20 °F . A more resilient plant that is “hardy to zone 7” can tolerate a minimum temperature of 0 °F. See the Hardiness Zone Chart below.
That blue zone is me! You would think that I could just pick up and start gardening where I left off, but you’d be wrong. Why is there such a difference in zone 8 throughout the country?
I’ve learned that it’s all about timing.
Each of these areas of the country has different gardening seasons. In the Pacific Northwest, November through February is the “off season.” The only way you are going to be growing anything is if you have added cold frames, greenhouses, and cloches to your garden repertoire. People are successful growing many cold weather crops in the off season of the Pacific Northwest using these tools.
Central Texas’s offseason is just about opposite and falls in July and August. These months the climate is so hot that most gardeners “take the summer off” by planning their crop harvest for June. The season begins again in September with their cool crop rotation. Warm weather crops are planted in March and mature by the end of June.
Luckily I can use all that prior Oregon gardening knowledge in my new Texas garden! I’ve also learned that I can grow everything in Texas that I could in Oregon – and even more. Now okra, cotton, peanuts and all kinds of melons are itching to get into my garden.
These 8 Tips will help you be successful in garden zone 8b, no matter which area of the country you live.
- Have your frost protection ready – Even in Texas 8b, plants are susceptible to frost damage, just not as frequently or for such extended periods of time. You still need to have frost protection ready. Learn about using a simple cloche from recycled materials and adding a grow tunnel to raised beds. Even a sheet will keep frost off your prized starts in a pinch.
- Use a cover crop in the offseason to protect and build your soil. Soil building is the key, no matter what zone you live in. The time for your cover crop in the PNW is after the fall harvest – October through January. Texas cover crops are used in the hot season and are planted at the end of June, with plans for tilling in September.
- Don’t start too early. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wasted perfectly good plants by setting them out too early. It wastes your effort, time and money. Pay attention to the first and last frost date for your area and don’t push it too much. (but push it a little!)
- Make plans for heat protection by using strategic planting methods. Utilize afternoon shade by placing tall plants on the west side of the garden. While planning my new Texas garden, I chose to make use of a fence on the west side. I’m hoping that the afternoon shade will allow my lettuce and spinach to grow longer before bolting.
- Use water saving measures in the garden. Drip irrigation and rain catchment practices will make your watering time easier. Learn about the benefits of mulch and other permaculture practices that help to conserve water in the garden.
- Connect with gardeners in your area. Consider joining a local gardening club or find a local group on Facebook. The Pflugerville Gardeners group has been a great place to ask questions. At the very least visit the library and check out a good gardening book for your area.
- Keep records from year to year. I’m a big believer in keeping a garden journal. I have at one time or another kept a red notebook, binder, and even used an online system. I’ve found that the most consistent way for me to me to keep track – year to year – is The Gardening Notebook (affiliate) from SchneiderPeeps. I use it as my garden journal, yearly garden planner, and I expect it to be my future garden problem solver.The Gardening Notebook has been especially insightful to me as I adjust to the new garden seasons of Texas. I can look back and apply what I learned from Oregon to my new garden here. All garden knowledge is helpful.
- Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. Gardening is about experimenting, after all! Just because the gardening books say it won’t grow in your zone – doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Grow something outside your comfort “zone” and see what works best for you.
Zone 8 gardening can be challenging and rewarding, no matter which part of the country “your zone 8” is in, if you take these 8 steps you will be successful.
Remember, it’s all about the zone! See what my friends around the country are saying about gardening in their zone. You will certainly find an article to fit your situation.
Joybilee Farm in Canada
The Northern Homestead in Canada
Homespun Seasonal Living in Montana
Idlewild Alaska in Alaska
Grow a Good Life in Maine
The Homestead Lady in Utah
Learning and Yearning in Pennsylvania
Little Sprouts Learning in Oklahoma
Pierce Ponderosa in Georgia
Homemaking Organized in Washington
The Farmer’s Lamp in Louisiana
Preparedness Mama in Texas
SchneiderPeeps in Texas