Where To Grow Your Garden On This Planet

Map of the world

Let’s say you’re the type of person for whom establishing a big, organic, food-producing permaculture garden is a major goal.

And fortunately, you’ve just come into a windfall – a huge sum of money.

You can finally buy or build that house you’ve been dreaming of and then get to work on planting your organic garden.

The question today is: where should you build it?

(If you, like me, don’t find yourself suddenly and mysteriously wealthy, and are instead quite stuck gardening right where you are, there’s still a reason to read this, which I’ll outline by the end.)

Here are the ‘big picture’ points that jump out at me for consideration (another time I’ll write more about the ‘micro’ decisions when buying a property – what type of soil to look for, water availability, bylaws, etc.)…

Latitude. Would you rather grow at the equator (Ecuador, Kenya, Indonesia) or the 30th parallel (Texas, Morocco, Tibet – I’m favoring the northern hemisphere today, but you can substitute 30 degrees south if you don’t mind your toilet flushing in the opposite direction) or the 60th parallel (Alaska/Yukon, Norway, middle of Russia) or somewhere in between?

The closer you get to the equator, all else being equal, you’ll have a much more diverse selection of plants, and perhaps the biggest benefit – a year round growing season. But that also means your plants’ predators (big animals, insects and microorganisms) will find it an easier place to live, too. And it also means you must either love heat or air conditioning.

At the other end of the spectrum is the wintery Yukon that inspired Robert W. Service (“There are strange things done in the midnight sun, by the men who moil for gold”). The short growing season makes the prospect for year round food rather disappointing, but the 18 hour summer days do promote some huge vegetables in record time.

Of course, latitude is only part of the picture…

Altitude. Houston, Texas and Lhasa, Tibet may both be near that 30th parallel, but at 45 feet and 12,000 feet above sea level, respectively, they’re going to present very different growing experiences.

We all know that temperature decreases as you go uphill, but what also changes is soil, humidity and rainfall, and solar radiation.

When it comes to mountains, there’s a sweet spot on each one – much nearer the bottom than the top – where the growing is optimal. Often there’s a wet side where all the rain falls, and a dry side where there’s not much moisture left. I suppose people on the dry side wish they could have more rain, and people on the wet side have had enough by now.

Speaking of wet…

Longitude. Would you rather grow near the ocean or further inland?

On the one hand, I tend to lean to the coast so I can harvest ocean water and kelp for the garden, not to mention experience the beauty and majesty of being near and bathing in the ocean.

On the other hand, 80% of people live within 60 miles of the ocean, so I’ll need to like having a lot of…

Neighbors. City vs rural? I love living in the city because I can walk and bike everywhere without needing a car, rent an apartment that’s only a few hundred square feet (I like small), and easily meet up with friends or go see a movie when the occasion arises.

But the countryside has sky and stars, forests and fields, creeks and coyotes. Peace.

Personally, I want a house and garden in both places, but that’s not sustainable, so I know I have to choose.

Why I’m Writing This. Obviously most of us aren’t planning a big move anytime soon, but my motivation for writing this today is mostly to ask you what it’s like to grow where you are live.

What do you like about your latitude, altitude, longitude and neighbors? And what do you wish was different?

I think it will be fascinating to hear what everyone has to say. I hope some of my international readers will chime in, too.

We can learn from each other, get a little envious of the conditions we don’t have, and perhaps appreciate our own part of the world a little more for the conditions we do have.

I’ll start in the comments below…

25 Comments

  1. Phil on January 24, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Garden location. Rural Southwestern Ontario, 2.5 hours west of Toronto.Latitude. 43rd parallel. I wouldn’t mind being 10 degrees south for a longer growing season and a wider selection of fruits available to grow, but I still love a snowy winter for tobogganing, fires, hot chocolate and reading books.Altitude. 800ft. I’d love to have a mountain to look up at or down from, but the temperature/soil/water in this area is good, so no complaints.Longitude. I don’t live near the ocean, so I buy liquid sea minerals and seaweed to make sure my soil and plants get broad spectrum nutrition. I’d prefer to have an ocean view, but not having one does make it exciting every time I do find myself on a coast. Being in between the great lakes provides adequate moisture for most of the growing season, save for a little irrigation to get seeds sprouted, and an occasional summer draught.Neighbors. I currently grow food out in the countryside at my parents’ house, but I live in the big city of Toronto. I’ve always wanted to build a small house and big garden in some idyllic combination of mountain/forest/lake/pasture (you know what I’m talking about), but I’m in no rush. The city makes practical sense to me right now – I like being car-less and I prefer to rent my home because I’m not ready to settle in one place just yet. I appreciate the kindness of my parents’ rural neighbors and have gotten used to the bustle of the big city, even appreciating the multitude of things to do that comes with it, but it doesn’t necessarily strike me as ideal for the rest of my life.What about you?

  2. Fae Perry on January 24, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    Garden location. Urban Santa Barbara, CALatitude/Longitude. 34.4258° N, 119.7142° WI live near the ocean and have been experimenting with an aerogarden so no soil needed but also have a larger semi-rural property where I put in a family orchard–mango, persimmon, apples, avocados, lemons, limes, pears, apricots, loquats, grapefruit, cherimoya, peaches.Being between the ocean and the mountains we have a mediterranean climate with dry warm summers and mild winters and temperatures typically varies from 40°F to 75°F. It was actually around 80°F a week ago. California has been in a drought so water conservation is important so drip systems work well.Neighbors. Well I am actually planning a big move soon so I will have new neighbors in Cleveland, OH. Looking forward to maple syrup making season, not sure about getting used to the cold and snow BUT that what’s you do when you want to be near a grandbaby and see her grow up.

    • Phil on January 31, 2015 at 10:17 pm

      You’re coming close to my next of the woods. Winter is wonderful if you just dress warm enough and drink a lot of tea 🙂

  3. Becca on January 24, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    Garden Location. Suburban Block, Brisbane Australia. City of 2million people. 1hour drive from the beach.Latitude. 27th Parallel south. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t dreamt of living the four seasons…the autumn leaves, the new growth of spring and the snow…such a novelty…BUT…I also think its a case of love the one your with…or the garden at least.About 200 kms (2 hours drive) south of where I live is probably my ideal…and I do catch myself dreaming of a permaculture garden and straw bale home and being completely of the grid…but I also like the convenience of living in a city. I have an a normal suburban block which theoretically is enough to grow what we eat and some fruit trees (we are not eating much from the garden yet but the possums are having a party every night !)My goal now is to live sustainably…grow enough for the possums and the people who live or eat at my house. We use some solar power, use rainwater tanks and need to get an electric car.I have just received my soil tests back and am excited to be able correct the balance of minerals instead of gardening in the dark as I have been all these years.

    • Phil on January 31, 2015 at 10:16 pm

      Sounds like an exciting time. I suppose it would be difficult to keep the possums away from the food, short of fencing in the sides and roof of the garden?

  4. mensamom on January 24, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    Garden location, Upstate SC Longitude: 78° 30″W to 83° 20′ WLatitude: 32° 4′ 30″N to 35° 12’N Elevation approximately 800 ft. and about 60 miles inland. Monthly average temperatures range from a high of 91.9 degrees to a low of 31.2 degrees. We get occasional snow, sleet, and freezing rain in the winter with lows in the teens. Biggest challenges are humidity and inconsistent rainfall. Some years are too wet and some years are too dry creating a challenge for the home gardener. I have a tilled garden with raised rows in an area with full sun. We live in the country which I really enjoy. I’ve tried to grow things like artichokes but have failed and failed again. You can only push my 7b zone so far but I like to experiment. Overall, I do enjoy the veggies I can grow as well as my flowers and shrubs – not forgetting the majestic oak trees on the property. Moving to SC from CA has been a BIG adjustment as a gardener. I could grow almost anything but cranberries in CA, now in SC I have bigger limitations.

    • Phil on January 31, 2015 at 10:18 pm

      I’m a 5b, so also limited, but there’s still plenty of food to be grown…

  5. MK on January 24, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    Rural 100 miles east of Houston. Sixty inches of rain,great drainage, lots of bugs and I can plant starting around March 5.

  6. Kari Bedi on January 24, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    SE Iowa with latitude: 41°; elevation: 775ft; zone: 5bGrowing season is from May through October. A lot of fruit tree varieties can be grown here, though not as many as I would like. All four seasons are experienced: summer temperatures range mainly between 60-90°F; winter temperatures are mainly between 0-35°F. All over the place in regard to rainfall. A few years back, we experienced 3 years of drought during the summer seasons; last summer we had adequate rain that I hardly had to use the tap.Last spring I planted 11 fruit trees in my front yard – I live in an urban location, on less than .2 acres, in a small town that promotes sustainability and edible landscapes. Growing up in northern Wisconsin on Lake Superior, I miss the natural beauty of the forested regions. I am plotting a move (eventually) to a more picturesque location with good gardening potential (and career potential too), so great topic Phil.

    • Phil on January 31, 2015 at 10:54 pm

      Sounds like a nice town to live in and hopefully you find something just as excellent for your move.

  7. jgstansell on January 24, 2015 at 6:05 pm

    32 degrees north 99 degrees west 1640′ elevation, near Abilene Texas. USDA zone 8 because of “global warming”, but if you don’t follow zone seven rules you will lose your warm season crops most of the time. Very sandy soils, live within a 15 mile diameter area of sand with a 50 mile circle of poor clay soils surrounding. Best guess is an ancient earth quake and sand blows created the soils we have today. Biggest problem is the expense of adding nutrients and minerals to the soils. We get an average of 25 inches of rain which is plenty, but often don’t get the rain when it’s most needed. I would prefer a deep volcanic based soil, but my ship didn’t come in, again!

    • PJ on January 24, 2015 at 8:34 pm

      Lat: -30.9, Long: -55.6 at 194 meters or 636′ Rivera UY. We do not have a dry nor a rainy season, therefore no need to irrigate crops. Soil is either fit for watermelon or everything else. You have to find the right farm land. It’s difficult to find garden supplements like a large amount of good compost and wood chips. The growing season is long and can get 3 rotations of crop in some years. Frosts maybe 3-4 times a year during winter but not severe nor able to withstand the morning sun. Importing seeds can be a real problem so if coming here, bring all you can with you.

  8. Lars Karlsson on January 24, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    Garden location: Small town 55 kilometers south of Stockholm, the capitol of Sweden.Latitud: N 58º 54.071Longitud: E 017º 57.223Altitude 15 meters.300 meters from The Baltic Sea.If you compare latitud with the map of Canada you realise that I live quite far north. Luckily enough we have the Gulf Stream passing by outside Sweden and Norway and that gives us a much better climate than you would expect. We get long hot summers, with some dry spells and some rainy periods. We have cooler springs and very long autums. I can grow almost year round. There is a gap between January and March when everything is frozen. With the help of polytunnels och fresh horse manure (hoy beds) you can almost grow during the winter too.The weather typically is like this – mixed cool weather in April, varm in May, rainy in June with the occational frost, hot and dry in July, a bit cooler in August, rainspell in late september, golden autumn, first frost in early november and then a long period with mixed weather until mid-January when the cold and snow comes. Losts of snow in Februay and March, thaw in April…I grow in our garden, SW slope, sandysoil with pure clay about a meter down. It´s the old seabed. I can grow most things that take under 90-95 days to grow. Things like watermelons need some help… Since my plot is welldrained and southfacing i got a good microclimate. The one big issue is the wind. We get quite a bit of wind from S or SE some N.The key to succes is to stop the wind and to keep the moisture in the ground, but not above since we have a slugproblem. I´ve manged to keep them a way with some slugpellets, removing places they can nest and having plants they like where I can collect them.I think I have a good location for growing – small town close to a big one, good communications, close to the sea and a community that is awakening when it comes to growing and good healty food.I could write a lot more…You are welcome to visit if you ever come to Sweden. If you want a perfect holiday come in July or early August!That´s me.

    • Phil on January 31, 2015 at 10:16 pm

      Thanks for sharing. It sounds like an excellent place to garden and I’d love to visit some day 🙂

  9. Mary MacKay on January 24, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    As much as I loved gardening in Iroquois Ontario(just south of Ottawa) here in Cold Lake Alberta it has so many challenges that I have not gotten straight yet. I have to start planning in Jan just to get a handle on the gardening in this climate nothing is easy.

  10. Monika Fraenkel on January 24, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    Garden location. Rural Northwestern British Columbia, 1 hour from Terrace.Latitude. 55° 15′ N, 127° 36′ W I wouldn’t mind a longer growing season and a bit shorter winter season but I do enjoy snowy winters with great sunshine tobogganing and snowshoeing.Altitude. 305 m. Tucked in between several mountain ranges with great rivers and valleys and good healthy soil and our own deep well with glacial water. Longitude. North Coast and the Pacific are 240km away I could harvest my own kelp if I wanted. I really like my mountain views with snow capped mountain tops until late July, many great Rivers including the Skeena River just 1km from our property, plenty of lakes and we are surrounded by great fishing spots for salmon, steelhead and rainbow trouts. Home of the Spirit Bear – great hiking, canoeing and mushroom region. We do get moisture from the Pacific and sometimes mild temperatures in winter, and we have long sunny days in summer with sunshine around 16 hrs/day and temperatures in the 30ies.Neighbours. We live rural on 16 acres with a handful of neighbours on a hobby farm, with two former strawberry fields, a hidden valley with a little creek that we want to extend into a pond system in the future. Good pasture with Alfalfa and Timothy, barn-type structures that are housing our chickens and will shelter ducks and geese in the future. We have 2 greenhaouses to extend growing season 16 raised beds, a little orchard, a new pollinator, medicinal herb garden that I started last spring and many many more projects. Although I sometimes miss the city regarding buying gardening and home improvement supplies I do enjoy my new rural life so much that I can’t see myself going back to stressful city life, my theatre is the sky, me entertainment are my animals, plants and all my little pollinators and friends….

    • Phil on January 31, 2015 at 11:01 pm

      Well said: “my theatre is the sky, me entertainment are my animals, plants and all my little pollinators and friends”

  11. Nancy Clark Zychek on January 24, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    Garden location in southwestern Connecticut. Suburban location. Latitude 41.21556 N and 73.13164 W and at an altitude of 929 ft. I live about 6 miles from Long Island sound and that helps moderate the temperature throughout the year. Although I don’t get the shore breezes, being near the coast makes it a little warmer in winter and cooler in summer. I love living here. We live in a suburban neighborhood and the houses are very close to each other. I am very fortunate because our property in about 3/4 of an acre with some wooded area and a nice clearing for a garden. Our property line is like a jigsaw piece and my garden stretches over behind two of our neighbor’s back yards. I feel like I am in their yard during the gardening season, but it makes for good sharing of garden produce and that makes for good relations with neighbors.I have resisted putting up a big fence because it would block the sun.I have been building raised beds over the years because we have big boulders here that like to surface in the spring when I am ready to plant. When they get too close to the surface and are too big to dig up, I build a border around them and add soil on top so my plants have room for their roots to grow. It makes for a little irregular organization, but it works for me.

    • Phil on January 31, 2015 at 11:02 pm

      Nice to have neighbors who are into growing food too.

  12. Debbie Shepheard on January 25, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    Garden location Devon, Alberta, Canada, approximately 20 minutes southwest of the Capital city of Edmonton.Latitude: 53.36 Longitude: -113 Altitude 2000ft.Landlocked, prairie, mostly dry.We moved from an acreage with incredible gardens to a rental house in a small town. I do not know anybody here so cannot comment on my neighbours (one side is noisy in the summer). The vegetable garden is sterile. It has taken me five years of adding compost and other amendments and still barely get anything out of it. I started growing in containers a few years ago and get a few tomatoes that way.Ideally, I would have land an hour’s drive northwest, toward the mountains. There are more forested areas, richer soil and better water. Good quality water is very hard to find with all the gas and oil production here.

    • Phil on January 31, 2015 at 11:05 pm

      Does sound like a challenge. Perhaps soil testing is in order, for nutrients and contamination…

  13. karen on January 26, 2015 at 12:44 am

    garden where ever you can. Climate and earth’s changing atmospheres will impact how and were we will be able to grow. Learn to grow and save seeds.

  14. bonnie on April 23, 2015 at 10:30 pm

    I live in south Arkansas. Zone 8. We have temps as low as 18 F. In the winter and as high a 105 F in the late summer. We have wet winters and springs and very dry hot summers. Our day length doesn’t change much as much as the north between winter and summer. With a high tunnel you can grow cabbage carrots tomatoes broccoli and a few other cool season plants all the way to January. Then start back in late February. At present my garden is 30 by 100 feet where I let my chickens on in the winter to prepare it for me. I love our four season climate and I love to garden here in the fall. We have grown crops of watermelons as large as three acres and also strawberries and sold at the farmers market and road side.

  15. Lynda Jones on July 15, 2016 at 11:51 am

    No Idea about lat and long, but I’m in Paradise Beach, Jeffreys Bay, South Africa. The land is virgin soil, after having been cleared with a bushcutter only so that the loess topsoil stays in place- and what a thin, fine layer it is. The soil is millions of years old seasand, so for now I’m putting in compost, bonemeal and 3:2:1 because I happen to have some. So far so good.

    • Johnny on March 12, 2017 at 7:28 pm

      Hey Lynda,

      How are you getting along with your project?

      We are considering moving to paradise Beach and growing a lot of our own veggies. We thought it was going to be sandy, and that we may have to bring in soil and build boxes possibly. What is your experience?

      LAT/LON is:
      34°2′S 24°55′E

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