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Gardening Hardiness Zones

We love the changing seasons, but we definitely miss spending time in our gardens. Already, we are starting to wonder when we may begin planting. When can we get back out there? The best time for starting your garden mostly depends on where you live, or in gardening terms, your USDA Plant Hardiness zone.

A hardiness zone, as defined by Wikipedia, is a “geographically defined area in which a specific category of plant life is capable of growing, as defined by climatic conditions, including its ability to withstand the minimum temperatures of the zone.” These zones, according to the USDA, are based on the average annual extreme minimum temperature during a 30-year period in the past, not the lowest temperature that has ever occurred or is predicted to occur.

So, how do you know which zone you’re in? The USDA has created a very detailed map outlining the US and how the zones are broken down. This resource is second-to-none when it comes to hardiness zones.

Once you determine in which hardiness zone you reside – and it is as simple as visiting the USDA map and clicking the mouse on your location - you can use this information to better plan your garden.

USDA plant hardiness zone map
Image via U.S. Department of Agriculture

Knowing your zone informs you of the following:
• When temperatures allow you to begin planting in regards to projected frosts
• What your average lowest temperature is
• Which plants best perform in your zone

Seed companies, and their websites, have information regarding planting success for specific flowers, herbs, and produce in regards to your zone. When you begin shopping for seeds be cognizant of the seed’s performance and what is noted in the product descriptions.

It is important to be aware that there are factors that will affect plant growth in addition to your hardiness zone. Consider the following to have a variable effect on your plant’s success:
• Pollution
• Temperature
• Moisture in air and soil
• Soil quality
• Light exposure

Planning Your Garden
After creating goals and understanding what grows well in your hardiness zone, you are ready to begin mapping out and planning your garden. We’ve found the easiest way to go about this is to take it back to good old-fashioned pencil and paper. Using our Downloadable Garden Planner, you can sketch out your gardening space and scale the area to get an accurate read on how many plants you can accommodate.

When initially sketching your garden area be sure to include walkways, fencing, gates, any hardscaping such as fire pits, patios, etc., and pools or ponds. Take into account that some plants need more space than others to grow productively and map out their spacing accordingly. Some plants can grow vertically so you may want to install plant stands and mark their spacing on the garden planner, too.

Sample plans drawn out by Avant Garden Décor gardeners

Sample plans drawn out by Avant Garden Décor gardeners can be seen here.

Gardens don’t need to be a “once planted and done” project. You can use the space throughout the season to maximize production if you choose to do so. This type of gardening is called succession planting. If you plan to succession plant you will want to have multiple garden planners and begin to define a planting timeline to better organize the activities. You can learn more about succession planting here.


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