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So You Just Moved Here?


Welcome to the Eastern Sierra!

Let's be honest: you didn't move to our area because of you wanted to grow a garden. You probably came for our outdoor opportunities and scenic beauty.

It's great that you want to garden, but know upfront that this is a challenging place to raise crops. 

The Eastern Sierra, and the Owens Valley in particular, has a long history of raising crops, but it was never easy. 

Garden knowledge from other places you have lived is helpful, but be ready for lots of surprises. This is not like the Bay Area, southern California, or the Pacific Northwest.

We have:

  • Blazing, bright sunshine that burns plants like it does your skin
  • Very cold winters
  • Too much calcium in soil
  • Either excessively drained or poorly drained soil
  • Wind. Lots of wind.

Learning to garden here takes practice and experience. Don't expect overnight success.

What Doesn't Work

Some things just don't work here. Either our season is too short or the environment too intense.

Here are some examples: 

  • Cool-season crops grown along the coast like broccoli or lettuce will not grow in summer below 6,000 ft. 
  • Sweet potatoes will grow here, but if left too long in the ground you will not be able to cure them
  • Subtropical fruits will not work: no citrus or avocados
  • Bell peppers usually get sunburned without shade
  • School gardens are a challenge: the growing season doesn't coincide well with the school year.
  • Gardens in Mammoth Lakes. Wildlife issues. Also small growing window. Maybe a few containers on a sunny porch but otherwise it's not a gardening area. This mostly applies to June Lake too.
  • The timing you may know about when to plant is probably wrong here. We do not grow much in winter without cold protection.

Things to Try

We highly recommend easing into gardening here. Spend time getting your garden area ready for planting and cleared of weeds.

Because you may be anxious to get started, here are some ideas of successful planting strategies you can try now while you learn the nuances of our climate.

Things to try if you're new here:

  • Grow chileno, jalapeño, or habanero peppers. These grow great here!
  • Plant 'Juliet' or 'Sungold' tomatoes. These are foolproof!
  • Kale does well here, if you eat it. (Gets bitter in summer.)
  • 'Royal Burgundy' beans do well in Owens and Antelope Valleys.
  • Plant garlic in late September.
  • Basil of all kinds loves our summer weather.
  • Sunflowers grow very well if you don't plant the super tall giant ones. You will have some bird issues, but that's OK. (The tall ones can blow over in fall.)
  • Japanese eggplants are usually successful
  • Read our page on Alliums and give onions or leeks a try.

In the course of trying these crops, you'll learn more about the unique challenges of our area, as well as learn about your site's particular environment.