Here in Southern California it is said that the sun always shines. Well….. the four seasons effect may not be as obvious here as it is in the eastern states but I will say this as a native Californian, we do have four seasons. Our seasons may be milder out here in the west coast but each in their ways are still the antithesis of the other.
Although here in the Inland Empire we enjoy a special set of circumstances or as I like to say…..special benefits! You may have heard of a place in Southern California where one could ski down a fresh path of snow then hang ten on the surf all in the same day! Well its true! I could easily enjoy my 20 minute drive to Mt. Baldy in time to enjoy the morning sun while skiing down the slopes then drive right back down the mountain and south on the local freeway to end up at our popular Newport Beach just one hour (or less) away to reap the rewards of a suntan and end the day with a glass of wine at sunset! And of course not to forget that there is always some sun a hour the other direction (east) ending up in Palm Springs another famous and popular destination in our local desert!
In winter it rains plenty most years and it can get very cold. Our San Bernardino Mountains are gifted with a few great ski resorts just minutes away! As an avid snow skier, I can tell you that it is awesome living close to several ski resorts. One, Mt. Baldy, being my favorite (when there is lots of snow) is 20 minutes from our house! And then there is Mountain High, Big Bear, Bear Mountain, and Snow Valley all within 1 and 1/2 hrs drive!
Down along the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains acres and acres of citrus (mostly orange and lemon) were planted. I grew up waking to the smell of smudge pots that were fired up to keep the groves from freezing on nights when the temps would drop down into the 30’s. School boys in need of extra cash would scramble from grove to grove lighting these smudge pots so no one would lose their crop. Alas, most of these citrus groves have been replaced with shopping developments and housing. I miss the strong sweet smell of the orange blossoms that were so dominant in early spring!
Spring comes on more subtly and sometimes its a bit confusing to wake up and look out my window at a fresh clad of snow on our local mountain peaks and at the same time admire the rebirth of brightly colored new leaves bursting out of hibernation on the beautiful Moravian Ash trees that line the parkways of our street. I guess someone who lives where it is heeded to wait until after the last frost to plant their garden would be jealous of us here as we can usually plant crops directly into the garden beds; no need for a hoop house or cold frame. Often we can plant much of our spring gardens as soon as mid February. I didn’t even start any veggies by seed for the longest time. It was much easier to buy seedlings ready to put in the ground from our local nurseries or big box stores. I have since learned the value and joy of seed saving, planting those seeds and watching them grow……. as organically as possible too!
Here along the highland corridor there were also dense vineyards. It was common to visit a local winery and enjoy a wine tasting. By the time I was in high school most of the vineyards had also been sold to housing or business developers. The few that were left remained popular party destinations for high school and college students! This was because the vineyards (somewhat like a corn field) provided a discrete hideaway for underage drinking and excellent coverage from local law enforcement. There was usually an easy escape route! In my garden, I have planted a Flame seedless and a Thompson seedless which are popular table grapes for us here. I don’t plan on these vines harboring any party goers but the lizards enjoy refuge in the shade of the leaves that trail along the wall.
The summers here in the Inland Empire can be miserable. I’ve been back east plenty of times in the summer and can’t bear the humidity, however those who think a dry heat is best wouldn’t hang out outside on the our patio much when temps hit upward of 95/106 degrees! We can count on getting a few of these hot spells each summer and they can last for several days to a week or so. The heat can really stress out a garden but tomatoes and other hot weather garden veggies love it as long as their feet are cool and moist. And at the end of the day nothing beats a summer BBQ with freshly picked veggies from the garden, a rib eye and some of our favorite cold micro beers!
I love autumn! Many days are crisp and invigorating. This is my favorite time to be outdoors and particularly in the garden!
As I clean up and prep the garden beds from the summers harvest, I usually get to enjoy my Crepe Myrtles as their leaves turn, reminding me that I have much more to enjoy around my yard than whats growing in my garden boxes. In early autumn I get to plant my favorite veggies! No greens in the garden do it for me as much as spinach and arugula. I grow lots of it and in addition I always plant a variety of lettuces, Swiss chard and kale! Most of these greens can be grown equally as well in early spring. There are plans on the table for ridding more of my backyard of grass so I can put in additional raised beds for root veggies like carrots, potatoes ( I’m asking for a real challenge here) and more beets! Did I say I love beets! Another rather large raised bed addition in my yard will be for asparagus. It is a premium veggie in the stores, it grows great here in zone 9b and hubby and I never get tired of eating it. Growing your own veggies and greens is not rocket science. It takes minimum effort and the reward of eating right when you pick means that your eating the greens when they are the most potent. The vitamin factor is huge when you eat that days pick!