Gardening in Big Bear Valley where Jack Frost visits are early as September and sticks around as late as June, is challenging but rewarding. Not only is Big Bear’s climate different from down the hill, microclimates and geological variances honeycomb the valley.
“Boulder Bay gets the snow pile, Sugarloaf gets the high winds,” says Vicky Roney, President of “A” Garden Club. “When flowers are blooming in Big Bear City, snows can be falling at Boulder Bay and in Sugarloaf they grow rocks.” Rocky areas bound in Big Bear, but the Sugarloaf area is notorious for its hard earth. When you can’t dig, create a raised bed.
One thing garden areas in the valley share is altitude. The Alpine climate makes for a short growing season. On the positive side, the sun shines more than 300 days in a year.
“We can grow mostly anything, except with the vegetable gardens due to the shorter growing season, the plants need to be larger before setting into the ground,” Roney says.
A general rule of thumb among green-thumbers is not to plant a garden before Mother’s Day, Robbie Bos says. Bos is an avid gardener who, along with his wife, Christie Walker, spearheaded the Big Bear Community Garden.
Use cold frames to protect the garden from frost, Bos says. This can be as simple as corrugated plastic (roofing plastic) tented in a U-shape over a row of plants. Lettuce and onions can grow all year long in a cold frame.
Bos recommends cold frames over greenhouses because the latter are expensive to heat and must be strong enough to withstand mountain storms.
“Gardening in Big Bear is definitely a challenge, but it’s a fun challenge,” Roney says.