Gardening Hardiness Zones
We love the changing seasons, but we definitely miss spending time in our gardens. Every winter, we are starting to wonder when we can begin planting again.
So, when can we get back out there? The best time for starting your garden depends on where you live. That's why every gardener knows their 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.”
The USDA sets the zones based on the average annual extreme minimum temperature during a 30-year period in the past. The zones are not determined by the lowest temperature that has ever occurred or what is predicted to occur.
Know Your Hardiness Zone 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.
Hardiness Zone Benefits
Knowing your hardiness zone lets you determine the following information:
- Planting time: Each zone has a different seed sowing day versus possible frosts
- Avergage soil and air temperature: What your average lowest temperature is
- Planting suggestions: Which plants best perform in your zone
Seed companies have information on their websites regarding planting success for specific flowers, herbs, and produce within your hardiness zone. As you shop for seeds, be cognizant of the seed’s history in your zone. Much of this information will be noted in the product descriptions.
Issues Beyond the Zone
It is important to be aware that there are factors that will affect plant growth in addition to your hardiness zone.
Your garden's growth can be affected by any of the following:
- Pollution levels
- Temperature extremes
- Moisture in air and soil
- Soil quality
- Light exposure
Planning Your Garden
Now that you understand 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. Need a little prompting? Try using our simple Downloadable Garden Planner! You can sketch out your gardening space at scale 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 a shed, fire pit, gazebo or patio), and pools or ponds. Remember to take into account that some plants need more space than others to grow productively and map out their spacing accordingly.
As a way to save space, consider growing vertically too. Some plants can be trained to grow up instead of out. All you need to do is install plant stands and mark their spacing on the garden planner, too. Learn all about vertical gardening.
Keep Your Garden Active
Gardens don’t need to be a “one and done” planting 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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