Regional Gardening Guide - Zone 9-10

February1 to February 29-- Discover what you should be doing right now. Our experts share gardening advice, techniques, news, and ideas to make your garden the best ever.

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It is time to plant seeds, plain and simple. Those of you in zone 9 can get away with fast-growing cool season annuals like lettuce, peas and radishes since there’s still a threat of frost, but growers throughout the area can begin planting warm season veggies, herbs, perennials and annuals. If you’re unsure of your growing zone, how gardening in the Southern states is different, or if you have ‘full sun,’ ‘well-drained soil,’ or ‘part-clay sunshine’ – okay, I made that one up – there are links below to answer those questions and help you plant the right seeds. The good thing about winter around here is that spring is always just around the corner, so be prepared when your garden explodes into growth.

map for zone 9-10

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Steve Asbell is an illustrator, the author of Plant by Numbers and blogger of The Rainforest Garden.

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Know your garden

Every garden is different: Some are shady, while others get full sun. Some stay relatively moist, while others seem to dry out, even after heavy rains. There is also a big difference between winters in zone 9a and 10b: Gardeners in zone 9a can expect to receive regular frosts and low temperatures down to 20 degrees, while temperatures in zone 10b almost never dip below freezing. Whether terms like ‘zones’ and ‘full sun’ are a foreign language to you, or you just need a refresher, below are some links to help you understand your garden’s growing zone, sunlight and soil. Burpee tailors your search results for your growing zone, so enter your zip code at the top of the page to get plants that are right for you.

Start warm season annual seeds early

If you’re used to filling your shopping cart with cell-packs of annual flowers in spring, planting annuals from seed saves a tremendous amount of money. Though frost is still a threat (average last frost date is Jan 1st-Feb 28th), you can start the seeds of warm-season annuals like begonias, impatiens, coleus, nasturtiums, celosia, sunflowers and marigolds. The trick is to plant them in trays so that they can be easily brought indoors on nights with frost or freeze in the forecast. Those of you in zones 9b and up may even choose to take a chance by inter-planting warm-season annuals with existing cool-season annuals for continuous color.

Start warm season vegetables early

Tomato time is here if you live in South Florida or Southern California, and it’s just around the corner for everyone in zone 9. Though the frosts and freezes will be here for a while, you can still start your favorite warm-season veggies in trays and bring them indoors on frosty nights. Plant a variety of different vegetable seeds in one or more trays, and as you wait for them to grow, prepare a plot in your garden for the transplants. Either cultivate a new spot by cultivating deeply and removing all weeds and their roots, or plan on replacing cool season veggies in an existing bed. Lettuce, carrots and mustard greens will bolt first, so they might as well be harvested before it’s an issue. When planting, add a topdressing of compost to enrich the soil. An additional layer of hay or pine straw mulch will help prevent weeds.

All about gardening in the south

Gardening in the South is different to say the least, especially if you’re gardening in the warmest parts of the south like us. Since winters aren’t as cold, we can garden year-round with relative ease. The downside is that some plants actually need that downtime in winter to thrive. This means that traditionally grown bulbs like tulips, daffodils and hyacinths are all but impossible to grow from zones 9-10. Temperate trees such as most apples, pears, cherries, and even Japanese maples are also iffy, so choose varieties that are suited for our region. Another obstacle for our region is that summers, at least on the Gulf Coast, are so hot that all but a few vegetables will thrive. Still, these little inconveniences sure beat ice storms and subzero wind chills.

Start Seeds

Plant warm season annuals and vegetables in seed starting trays or fiber pots so that they’re easier to care for while they get established. They’re also easy to bring indoors on frosty nights. Gardeners in zone 9 can still plant winter annuals, but either choose fast-growing ones like peas, or plant greens that can be harvested while young. The XL Ultimate Growing System is an easy and compact way to start seedlings with minimal fuss. Once the roots of your seedlings begin to fill their space; transplant to fiber pots, fill with seed starting formula so that the top of the mix is level with the base of the plant’s stem. Water thoroughly to eliminate any air pockets, and top off with more soil if it sinks lower after watering. When you’re ready to plant outdoors, transplant the plant, fiber pot and all into your garden.