Right Tree, Right Place

Posted May 11th, 2016 by admin

When it comes to varieties of trees, the list is endless. Between the sheer number of species and the addition of Hybrids, it seems infinite, but the question remains: Which tree is right for you?

In an effort to answer this question there is one additional question you must ask that is very often overlooked: Where do you live? This question is important because not all trees fair the same in every climate, and a difference of a few miles could make all the difference between life and death for your investment. That is where the idea for “Right Tree, Right Place” comes into play. Just as the country is divided into states, and the states into counties, there are also CLIMATE ZONES. Climate zones represent 5 important factors that make each climate unique:

  1. Latitude

  2. Elevation

  3. Ocean Influence

  4. Continental Air Influence

  5. Mountains and Hills

    1. Latitude

The generally accepted rule is the further you move away from the equator, the longer and colder the winters. The closer you get to the poles the number of daylight hours increase in the summer and decrease in the winter.

    1. Elevation

Higher elevated gardens tend to see longer, colder winters. This is often accompanied by intense sunlight and lower temperatures at night.

    1. Ocean Influence

Pacific ocean weather tends to be mild and moist in the cool season.

    1. Continental Air Influence

The North American Continent, creates its own weather, which is generally colder in the winter, hotter in the summer, and more likely to get precipitation than coastal regions. As you move further inland these effects become stronger. Wind becomes a bigger factor especially in open regions such as The Plains.

    1. Mountains and Hills

Mountains and hills provide barriers which will determine whether the area will be subject to more marine air or continental air. For example: Coastal ranges take some of the marine influence out of the air as it flows towards the east. On the eastern side of The Rocky’s, the air tends to be dominated by arctic and continental air. The Mountains in Hawaii pull moisture from the air which gives the large islands distinctive wet and dry sides.

    1. Micro-climate

Though it was not listed originally, Micro-climate is especially important because while you may live in a generally cooler area you might find that certain areas close by seem to be slightly warmer. For example: South facing slopes get more solar heat than flat land, while North slopes get less. The slope also plays a role in the movement of heat. Warm air rises, cold air sinks. Hillsides in winter are colder than the hilltops above or the ground below. This is called a Thermal Belt, and flat areas where cold air flows are called Cold Air-Basins. Micro-climate affects every garden.

Central California Coast Climate Zones

The central coast is dominated by 3 climate zones: 15, 16, 17. Here is a general breakdown:

  1. Climate Zone: 15

    1. Climate Zone 15 runs from Cambria, through Santa Maria. It has a wide growing season that goes from March-November.
      “…Zones 15 and 16 are areas of Central and Northern California that are influenced by marine air 85% of the time and by inland air 15% of the time.”
      Sunset Western Garden Book
      “…The cold winter areas that make up Zone 15 lie in cold air-basins, on hilltops above the thermal belts, or far enough north that plant performance dictates a Zone 15 designation.”
      Sunset Western Garden Book

    2. Some important characterizations are

      1. Moist atmosphere

      2. cool summers

      3. mild winters
        still receives enough winter chilling to favor some cold winter species with lows ranging from 28-21 degrees Fahrenheit.

    3. A few larger central coast towns within this zone:

      1. San Luis Obispo

      2. Arroyo Grande

      3. Nipomo

      4. Santa Maria

  2. Climate Zone: 16

    1. Climate Zone 16 runs from Monterey to Lompoc. Its growing season ranges from the end of February-end of November.

    2. Considered one of the finest horticultural climate in Northern California

    3. Consists of thermal belts

    4. dominated by ocean air 85%, and inland weather 15% of the time

    5. Typical lows: 32-19 degrees

    6. Gets more heat in summer than zone 17, and has warmer winters than zone 15

    7. Some larger towns within this zone: None

  3. Climate Zone: 17

    1. Growing season ranges from March to early December

    2. Dominated by ocean air 98% of the time

    3. mild, wet, almost frostless winters

    4. cool summers with frequent fog or wind

    5. The fog reduces the intensity of light and sunshine, which affects the more heat loving plants. Which could lead to less flowers/fruits

    6. lows range from 36-23 Fahrenheit
      *highs during the summer range from 60-75 degrees

    7. Larger towns within this zone:

      1. Morro Bay

      2. Pismo

      3. Cambria

      4. San Simeon

      5. Monterey

      6. Santa Cruz

Sources: Sunset Western Garden Book, Sunset Publishing Corporation, ISBN: 0-376-03874-8, ISBN: 0-376-03875-6