According to the National Gardening Association, I have gardened my entire life within a single hardiness zone: 8B (Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys — minus the inland valleys in my case). In fact, I’ve gardened my entire life within a 35 mile radius of the house where I grew up. This is great in some ways. It has made me a much better gardener within my specific region (what I like to call the nor-cal fog zone, where the temperature sits at right around 55 degrees all year round). And I do love the plants I can grow here: tree ferns and split-leaf philodendrons and bamboo and of course all kinds of cool-weather, low-chill and short season fruits and vegetables. I even managed tomatoes 10 blocks from the foggy beach.

This spring, however, I will be packing up my trowel and moving to a climate so different that I don’t even know where to begin my garden planning. For starters, it snows. I haven’t lived somewhere that snowed since I was 6 1/2 years old. And in the summer the heat — a very, very dry heat — can bake the paint right off the house. And did I mention the altitude? Yeah, I’m way out of my depth on this one. But gardeners, we garden. We don’t know what else to do.

So while most well-seasoned southwest gardeners are probably starting seeds, I will be studying. Luckily I have friends out there who can help me understand this strange new/old world.

And even though my new garden may be temporary, I will give it all the green thumb I have. And then some.