General Area in Sonoma>Question Details

Mark Short, Both Buyer and Seller in East Hampton, NY

We're relocating to Sonoma County (from NY). Where are the best areas for growing vegetables & fruits?

Asked by Mark Short, East Hampton, NY Thu Jan 13, 2011

We've already figured out that the coastal climate areas are not good, but would like to narrow down our search to a few atreas where gardeners do really well and which is within 90 minute drive to SF. We're going to be looking for a small acreage (either raw land or existing home). We know there are microclimates as well as overall climes, but would love to narrow down our search to much less of the entire county. Thanks for any direction. My partner is in CA this weekend for his first view of the area with a realtor, but would love some other input from this forum!

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Dave Roberts’ answer
I've seen beautiful gardens all over the county...except at the coast. You're right to exclude that area from your search. Petaluma has the most coastal influence of the inland cities so it's hard to ripen tomatoes there. On the other hand, cooler season vegetables like lettuces, peas, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc. do really well there. Each fall there's a beautiful corn maze between Petaluma and Cotati, so corn will grow there, but not as well as farther north.
Luther Burbank had wonderful gardens in Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. The loamy soils in Sebastopol may be the best in the county. Rohnert Park was a seed farm for flowers and vegetables before it was a residential subdivision, so clearly any gardening effort there starts off with a decent heritage. Healdsburg was a fruit paradise for pears and prunes before it was a foodie's mecca for food and wine. Nearly anything will grow successfully near Healdsburg. There's a wonderful heritage tomato stand on Westside Road every year and marvelous peaches just a few hundred yards away on Felta Rd. That's not to mention the heritage apple farm on the same road.

Good luck with your move and your gardens. I'm looking out my window at a blooming purple princess and thinking of my planned dinner of lovely fresh spinach and chard that are fresh from the gardens of one of my listings in Santa Rosa. Tasty and fresh as only home gardens (or a great farmer's market) can provide.

My final advice is to make sure you have a great water supply. Gardening is water intensive and water isn't cheap. You can fix soil. It's a lot harder to fix a dry well.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 13, 2011
Thanks dmjinks! We have moved to our new home at the corner of Mill Station and Ferguson Rds already and are thankful we have enough heat to successfully raise tomatoes (have been eating large ripe tomatoes already this year for three weeks). Turns out we were lucky in that our hillside home is higher than the area nearer the Atascadaro creek (which pools cool air) and we get good heat in the afternoons. That being said, we are also pleased that we are still cool enough to still be harvesting good broccoli in July! Tip for tomatoes - try planting them in pots on or beside heat "sinks" like concrete patios, structure footings or even large stones. These will hold the heat and release it during the cooling evenings for earlier flower fertilizing and fruit ripening. My best and good luck with the sale of your home!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jul 14, 2013
you will need some heat as the Sonoma county west side is cool most days for good veggie growing
I would suggest some where in the Barnes Rd area as it gets warmer but stays cool enough for salads etc,,What are you planning to grow?? I grow everything where I'm at but having some trouble getting Tomatos to ripe..
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jul 13, 2013
Be prepared to trap pocket gophers or grow everything above hardware cloth if you're thinking of Western Sonoma county. And you'll have to set up a drip irrigation system since there is virtually no rain between May and October. So make sure you have adequate water. Here's the link to the local extension office, they're the experts:
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 13, 2012
...and just one more thing. Think not only about microclimates (you are right, there are many here in Sonoma County) but be sure to ask about soils. They are very different depending on where you live and can really impact what you decide to grow, and what grows best. If you're visiting this weekend, plan on going to some local nurseries - you'll get good info from very experienced people. Good luck and I hope you get the garden of your dreams. See you at a Farmers Market soon!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 21, 2011
Thanks Mark and good luck! When I bought my property I worked with agents in the Valley of the Moon and along the 101 corridor. I was in the corporate world then and not in real estate. Now that I am a realtor, I would have approached my search differently, focusing my work with one realtor for that entire area who really knows your needs and the county as a whole. Of course when I was looking there were no decent internet search tools, I remember getting barely legible faxes with splotches of black ink that were supposed to be photos. I had to use my imagination a lot. It was also difficult to get to know agents in the way that you can on sites such as Trulia (thank you Trulia!)

In the case of the two existing agents you are currently working with, hopefully they are aware of and cooperating with each other so that each can be compensated for their time in some way.

Best wishes to you!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 21, 2011
Thanks to everyone who gave us such great advice - you are great!

Our home in East Hampton has not yet sold and we will be waiting until it sells to travel back out to look. The great news is that we are in negotiations with a buyer.

We've settled on two different realtors to work with in Sonoma along geographical lines (who we started working with before I posed this query). But I thank all of you for your input (and if something Godforbid happens, we have a great list of super people here!).
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 21, 2011
Hi Mark:
My family has lived in Sonoma Valley since the early '40's. It's a favorite area among lots of Bay Area people for proximity to urban centers...and it's great for gardening and farming (hence the proliferation of vineyards.) I live in Glen Ellen which is said to have the nicest microclimate in the valley. If you want more info on properties here get in touch...I can be reached at 707.337.1182.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 21, 2011
Theres several towns mentioned in this article. They must all be good for your purpose:…

Happy funding, Rudi
Web Reference:
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Mar 19, 2011
Sounds like you are really doing your research. Sonoma County is filled with family-owned farms and our Farmers Markets are filled with great fruits and vegetables. The north County (Windsor, Healdsburg, Geyserville and Cloverdale) have long summer days and balmy nights. All of these towns are within 90 miles of San Francisco. Crops like chard, tomatoes, squash grow well here. Citrus actually does well, even though it sometimes can get below freezing in the winter months. You just have to cover the plants. Peaches grow well here. Dry Creek Valley peaches are delicious. There are also master gardener clubs you can contact to get more information. Good luck!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Mar 19, 2011
Dear Mark:

Lots of good info from knowledgeable agents here. I'd just chime in that Luther Burbank, who was one of the most prolific botanists ever, settled here after searching for the best play to grown gardens. His experimental farm is located in Sebastopol, which is a great, farm-friendly eco-sensitive community and home to the famed Gold Ridge soil... He made his home and also worked in Santa Rosa. Throughout Sonoma County, there are many wonderful spots for gardening. I'm sure your agent will help you find the best spots!

Lisa Thomas
Web Reference:
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 14, 2011
Dave gave you a great answer--except i have seen some beautiful coastal gardens, but not for growing fruits and vegetables.

Almost anywhere in the county is horticultural paradise of one sort or another. Then it becomes a matter of your personal preferences and budget. I work with many out of town buyers and we look throughout the county depending on their preferences. To find the right country property for you it will pay to cast a wide net. You should also work with an agent who has experience in country property, and who knows a broad portion of the county. And water and soils will be very important to you. For example, Westside Road in Healdsburg has a huge range of water production depending where you are on the road and relative to the valley floor. Parts of eastern Cotati have very clay-ey soils, and I for one would prefer to start out with decent soil to begin with. I would consider Sebastopol, Graton, Santa Rosa (east and west), Healdsburg, parts of Forestville and parts of the Valley of the Moon (Sonoma,Kenwood) until you find the right combination of acreage, setting, location, water, climate and soil for you. Plus it doesn't hurt to know how close you will be to great restaurants, nurseries, wineries and shopping. You have a lot of fantastic options ahead of you and I wish you the best of luck!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 13, 2011
In the heart of Wine Country, I don't think you can go wrong for a place to grow anything as Sonoma County. The nice Country Properties with acreage can be found near Sebastopol, Santa Rosa, Healdsburg and Sonoma. Our company Pacific Union specializes in these types of properties.
David Poulsen
(707) 328-1889
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 13, 2011
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