USDA Zones - Knowledgebase Question

Big Bear Lake, CA
Question by JDHBBL
June 12, 1999
We live at 7,200 ft. in the San Bernardino Mountains in So. Ca. Sometimes (not often) in the winter it gets down to -10 degrees, but usually the temps are 15-20 degrees. It is also quite dry. What zone are we, and what is the difference between the USDA zone and local zones?

Answer from NGA
June 12, 1999


USDA Zones are a general guideline based upon average winter lows and first and last frost dates for a large, general area of the country. Each garden is unique in that there are factors that create micro-climates, both within the landscape and from the surrounding area. These factors can include elevation, mountains, hills, bodies of water, buildings, stands of native trees, open meadows, prevailing winds, etc. A better guide for you would be the zone identified in Sunset Western Garden Book. The authors have gone to great lengths to reclassify general zones, breaking them into sub-zones, based upon local influences. You're in Sunset's zone 2, the second coldest western climate. You can expect snow in the winter, along with cold air. Your growing season is mid-May through mid-September. For a more detailed description, plus suggestions for plants suited to your gardening zone, consult a copy of Sunset Western Garden book, ISBN #0-376-03851-9.

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