Gardening in your environment
My biggest takeaway from the Master Gardening program that I completed many years ago is that you need to adopt a beginner’s mind when moving to a new area. You have to learn the rhythm of the seasons, the microclimate in your yard, the native plants. Sometimes this means letting go of some of your old favorites. But I can assure you: you will be dazzled by new choices. In my Pacific Northwest Maritime garden, that new-ish favorite is Lenten Rose or Hellebore. A plant that looks good all year and blooms in winter: how can you not fall in love with a plant like that? Hellebore was the first plant that I bought here, and I’ve bought many since – I even discovered a few volunteers in my yard.
The other thing that will save you a lot of frustration: work with your climate. If you have a short growing season like I do, focus on growing things that work where you live. Growing for your zone often means that you need to unlearn what you know from another climate. If you live in Arizona, you have two growing seasons, neither of which is in the summer (northern hemisphere summer, that is). If you live in a place that gets a lot of rain, choose varieties that love wet feet.
Not sure where to start?
In the U.S., Find your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone. Check out the resources from your state and county cooperative extension. Cooperative Extensions are part of Land-Grant Colleges and Universities in the United States. Land-grants have a mission to provide science- and research-based agricultural information at the county level; this includes home horticulture and the Master Gardener Program. Your local cooperative extension will offer many free resources like this one Home Vegetable Gardening in Washington State.
How do you decide what to grow? It helps to think about your climate and pick appropriate varieties, but it’s also helpful to think about what is better to grow versus buy. Check out this list of High-value home crops. Tomatoes are universally on lists of varieties to grow yourself.
Tip for Arizona gardeners who want tomatoes: go for small, short-season types. I love this list of vegetables for short seasons by Northern Homestead: Annual Vegetable Varieties for a Short Growing Season.