Friday, January 27, 2017

Push the Zone!

"Have you ever wished you could grow mangoes, coffee, oranges and other delicious tropical plants… but find yourself limited by a less-than-tropical climate? If you long for Key lime pies at Christmas, or homegrown bananas at breakfast, you’re not alone! Expert gardener and mad scientist David The Good fought for years to figure out how grow tropical plants hundreds of miles outside their natural climate range… and he succeeded!

In PUSH THE ZONE: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics, David the Good shares his successes and failures in expanding plant ranges, and equips you with the knowledge you need to add a growing zone or two to your own backyard. Based on original research done in North Florida, PUSH THE ZONE is useful for northern gardeners as well. Discover microclimates in your yard, use the thermal mass of walls to grow impossible plants and uncover growing secrets that will change your entire view of what can grow where!"

Featuring a foreword by Dr. David Francko, the author of PALMS WON'T GROW HERE AND OTHER MYTHSPUSH THE ZONE is the third book in the Good Guide to Gardening series, is DRM-free, and retails for $4.99. It is already a Gardening bestseller.

From the reviews:
  • If Dave Barry wrote gardening books about his mad experiments, this would be the book he would write. If you want to grow mangoes, coconuts, or other tropical plants outside of their established zones this book will show you how.
  • I live in New York State, where it gets mighty cold, and there is no way I'll ever be able to grow tropical plants in my garden. Nevertheless, many of the fundamental zone-pushing concepts in this book can definitely be applied to my 4b-5a USDA Hardiness Zone.  
  • I'm thinking, for example, of peaches. They don't grow particularly well in my zone because of the cold. But in the zone 6 regions of Pennsylvania, a few hundred miles south of me, Pennsylvania peaches are a big deal. After reading Push The Zone, I now feel confident that I could successfully grow a peach tree by finding and/or creating microclimates.

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Blogger SouthRon January 27, 2017 8:17 AM  

Yes! Now I just need a David clone up here in North Carolina.

BTW, can't post to VP from Brave for Android.

Anonymous Farmtastic January 27, 2017 8:38 AM  

Paperback please!

Blogger Earl January 27, 2017 8:40 AM  

Last year's garden ended up in the penalty box for us.

Blogger David The Good January 27, 2017 8:41 AM  


It will be out in paperback soon. Same pattern as the other books: early ebook release, followed by hard copy later.

Blogger Cluebat Vanexodar January 27, 2017 8:47 AM  

Castalia has a nice spectrum of very interesting books. This title looks to be a good complement to that stable.

Blogger Timmy3 January 27, 2017 9:11 AM  

Tropical plants are invasive. You need the space. Or prepare to dig them out after a few years.

Blogger Martin January 27, 2017 9:31 AM  

Does it have tips about gardening close to the arctic circle?

Anonymous fop January 27, 2017 9:34 AM  

Buying this! David, did you ever do that wacky thing where you make a coconut tree grow sideways?

Blogger 4499 January 27, 2017 9:35 AM  

End of January, budget's tight, payday is still 5 days away, but I purchased this book anyway even though I have to gamble on rugby today and throughout the weekend. C'mon 4499, you can make it.

Anonymous James Parliament January 27, 2017 9:36 AM  

Great news! Will be buying a bunch of paperbacks.

Blogger David The Good January 27, 2017 9:36 AM  

@8. Heh. Read the appendix. ;)

Blogger David The Good January 27, 2017 9:37 AM  

@6 Invasive? Outside their zone, no. Most tropical plants barely live where there are any freezes.

Blogger David The Good January 27, 2017 9:38 AM  

@9 Thank you. May you make it back 100 times over.

Blogger Johnny January 27, 2017 9:38 AM  

Timmy3 wrote:Tropical plants are invasive. You need the space. Or prepare to dig them out after a few years.

Depends on the plant, but in general when a plant is outside its natural zone it is not so vigorous, and therefore not so invasive.

I forget the variety name, but we have an invasive pea vine plant, but one zone further north than its natural range. Selectively takes over some sheltered areas but is otherwise not a hassle.

Anonymous fop January 27, 2017 9:41 AM  

Next book - how to grow apples at the equator?

Anonymous Rather, Not January 27, 2017 9:42 AM  

David the Good, approximately how many zones do you think it is realistic to push with extreme season extenders? (Zone 6b myself)

I would be skeptical I could keep even an amazing greenhouse with great thermal mass truly frost free without very significant supplemental heat. No oranges or bananas in my future?

Blogger Bobo #117 January 27, 2017 9:46 AM  

It's as if you write books directly at my wife's soul...

Blogger David The Good January 27, 2017 10:02 AM  

@15 I was beaten to the punch on that one.

Check it out:

Yep. I own it.

Blogger David The Good January 27, 2017 10:05 AM  

@16 Two zones is possible just by planning/identifying proper microclimates.

You could almost certainly keep a greenhouse frost-free without supplemental heat if you dug it into the ground and faced the glass south, plus added water barrels painted black.

Blogger David The Good January 27, 2017 10:05 AM  

@17 She sounds like a great catch.

Blogger David The Good January 27, 2017 10:07 AM  

"Our sustainable greenhouses run themselves year round with the use of stored water as thermal mass. The water both heats and cools the greenhouse - regulating it in spite of Colorado's wild fluctuating temperatures. Cord 'approximated' this greenhouse then improved upon the design creating his 13'X16' totally optimized greenhouse, below. Cord's greenhouse can grow tomatoes year round with no supplemental heating - it brought the plants through temperatures as low as 31 below zero!"

Blogger Johnny January 27, 2017 10:18 AM  

There is a local landscaper who keeps a big greenhouse warm enough with the water circulation through pipes in the ground heating method. Although he does us plants out of it in his landscaping, I would imagine it is mainly a sales device.

Blogger Brian S January 27, 2017 10:35 AM  

@SouthRon... I'm posting this from Brave on my android phone... Try turning the shield off for this site (red Lion head icon)

Anonymous VFM #6306 January 27, 2017 10:43 AM  

I thought we weren't so big on bringing Mexico here...

Oh! I forgot the "exotic food" exception!

Anonymous Rupert Steggles January 27, 2017 10:45 AM  

Greetings SouthRon, I am trying Brave as well as Pale Moon for the same reasons. Give PaleMoon a try, I am quite happy. If the page doesn't load first, just try refreshing. It has to do with the browser identification tag that the website reads. Good luck.



Blogger David The Good January 27, 2017 10:48 AM  

@VFM #6306

The French built walls in order to grow peaches in a microclimate, so...

Blogger Noah B The MacroAggressor January 27, 2017 10:59 AM  

I love your books, David. He also has a fantastic Youtube channel in case anyone who's interested hasn't seen it.

Blogger Noah B The MacroAggressor January 27, 2017 11:01 AM  

David's Youtube

Blogger MycroftJones January 27, 2017 11:04 AM  

David, glad you wrote this book, I have a key lime plant here in Canada that is slowly dying. Not enough sunlight maybe. Did you see the youtube videos from that man on Vancouver Island who is growing limes, lemons and other citrus? Drapes some landscape cloth over them, then puts 200 watts worth of Christmas lights to keep them warm, and they live. I'm buying your book today, exciting stuff.

Last winter I brought my beehives indoors into the living room. It went pretty well. Noone was stung.

Blogger MycroftJones January 27, 2017 11:07 AM
Growing Lemons and Limes in South Coastal BC, Canada (Bob Duncan)

Blogger David The Good January 27, 2017 11:17 AM  


Bees in the house. Perfect. I used to keep a bin of worms under our sink. Thank you for the link, too. Will watch.

@Noah Thank you for the plug.

My YouTube channel has the most entertaining gardening videos. I made a conscious decision to avoid the "wandering around talking about plants in a low-key way" like most YouTube gardeners do. Instead, there are explosions. And rapping. And composting rats. Etc. People like it and I don't get bored.

Blogger David The Good January 27, 2017 11:18 AM  

@Mycroft That lime may be getting too much water around the roots. That's a common problem with citrus in containers.

Blogger Francis Parker Yockey January 27, 2017 11:31 AM  

Dammit. I read the entire first paragraph before I got the real point. I think I'm getting old...

Blogger Badger Brigadon January 27, 2017 11:37 AM  

I hate to say this, but I think my nagging him on Facebook about a bunch of his advice on natural foods for those of us that live in cold northern climes may have helped influence him into writing this one.

Blogger Badger Brigadon January 27, 2017 11:38 AM  

If so, Good Call, David... this one definitely helps with those questions.

Blogger David The Good January 27, 2017 11:58 AM  

I think the proper term is "badgering," Badger.

Blogger MycroftJones January 27, 2017 12:47 PM  

Thanks David, I'll water it a bit less. How to tell when it needs more water? The lime is still alive, but leaves are dropping off.

At the Indian grocery store (of which we have many, here in Canada) I saw that they sell powdered lime leaves in the herbs and spices section. Wonder what type of recipes they are used in.

Blogger Timmy3 January 27, 2017 1:48 PM  

"Depends on the plant, but in general when a plant is outside its natural zone it is not so vigorous, and therefore not so invasive."

What is its natural zone? Tropical plants thrive in hot and humid climates. I live in Southern California, which is mostly dry and desert like and the winters can be quite cold. I had tropical plants die in the winter when temperatures were under 40 degrees; however, if it survives the winter, some tropical plants can grow out of control. I had to remove many tropical plants when their roots and vines completely overtaken the space where they were planted. I also removed some palm and cycads when they started to sprout new plants along side. Don't ever plant Bamboo. They overtaken a friend's yard completely.

More safe to keep them in planters or just have a few as ornaments.

Blogger Jabari January 27, 2017 2:40 PM  

Post when the paperback is out - I got Compost Everything for my dad (who's a big gardener) for Christmas, he'll love this as well.

Blogger Johnny January 27, 2017 2:50 PM  

What is its natural zone?
I go by the zone table that seed companies and other groups provide.

Up where I live the issue is cold.Some of the more southern plants die over winter. Some come to life too soon in the spring and freeze off. Not uncommonly they are more easy subject to frost and expire in the early fall. And the seeds may sprout late because they require warm soil, further shortening the season.

And then there are degree days, arrived at by multiplying the temperature by the days. If you don't get enough degree days the annuals may not mature before frost.

We can grow walnut trees, for example, but only in a warmer than usual microclimate.

It a cool summer it can happen that tomatoes never even ripen, and in a good year maybe a month of fresh fruit is average. And don't even bother unless you use sets.

There are some perennial tropical plants that can be grown, if you mulch the ground a lot and anticipate complete dieback even when that is not common. It all depends on how hard you want to work at it.

Blogger David The Good January 27, 2017 3:15 PM  

@Timmy3 Gardening from fear is no way to go through life.

Blogger Timmy3 January 27, 2017 4:48 PM  

I'm not afraid of wasting a few weekends digging out an overgrown tropical plant.

Blogger David The Good January 27, 2017 5:33 PM  


I do get it on the bamboo, though - I had a friend with the running type in Tennessee. They grew 20' into the yard, randomly appearing. I love bamboo but I stick to the clumping types.

Blogger Were-Puppy January 27, 2017 8:10 PM  

Right now i'm doing the old put down cardboard and tarp to kill an area so I can plant in it later.

Blogger MycroftJones January 27, 2017 8:18 PM  

@David, any tips for growing tobacco in zone 8? I know you covered tobacco in your first book. Would that advice work for zone 8?

Anonymous BBigGayKoranBurner January 27, 2017 8:40 PM  

Tropical plants are invasive. You need the space. Or prepare to dig them out after a few years.

Making a microclimate will limit how far they can spread.

Does it have tips about gardening close to the arctic circle?

Actually you can build an earth sheltered greenhouse with a wood burning rocket stove under the grow beds

I have seen David the good posting at permies, see if you can spot me in a medium with no talk of Juuuuuuuuuuuuice

The French built walls in order to grow peaches in a microclimate They also trained the branches to basically all go along parallel to the wall, Espalier.

Blogger Martin January 27, 2017 11:57 PM  

46. BBigGayKoranBurner
Interesting, thank you.

Blogger Alister Stein January 28, 2017 1:49 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Alister Stein January 28, 2017 1:50 AM  

Castalia publishes some pretty neat stuff. I'll definitely submit more to them.

Blogger JP January 28, 2017 4:34 AM

Blogger JP January 28, 2017 4:39 AM  

Thai cooking mostly. Many Thai sauces and curries call for Kaffir lime leaves, which is different but probably close enough that you could use regular limes.

Blogger Aeoli Pera January 28, 2017 11:27 AM  

This Good kid is some kinda genius. Yes, I do want to grow coffee up north, how did you know?

Anonymous Skillet January 28, 2017 2:21 PM  

There ain't nothing better than backyard peaches, and they grow well in NC, but they get afflicted with all sorts of bugs, worms, and blight. I had to cut my poor infected trees down years ago. I sprayed plenty but still lost the crop. I would love to try mangoes but I would hate to end up just feeding bugs and fungi.

Anonymous BBGKB January 28, 2017 4:06 PM  

Martin January 27, 2017 11:57 PM 46. BBigGayKoranBurne Interesting, thank you.

If you are going to build an earth sheltered greenhouse you should make plans for a watering system so you doing have to visit it regularly. An Olla set up would just put the water where it was needed.

Blogger Rez Zircon January 29, 2017 2:48 AM  

There's an orchard in Washington state that specializes in cold-hardy citrus. They greenhouse most of 'em but otherwise no special treatment nor supplemental heat. They also have lemons producing well with only the protection of the side of a building.

An orange grower once told me that the trick to cold-hardy oranges was own-root (grown from seed) rather than grafted.

In 1970 (during the long period of very cold winters, commonly hitting -40F) in Great Falls, Montana, we planted lemon seeds outdoors (from random grocery lemons; back then it was very common to find sprouted seeds inside citrus). They survived several winters, tho never got more than about a foot tall, and didn't bloom. (We moved away so I don't know what became of them after that.)

However a friend told me of a lemon tree in Bozeman MT (also in the 1970s) that was a fair-sized tree and a good producer -- growing in an alley, with no special protection.

There's a long discussion on about cold-hardy pomegranates.

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