Knowing Your U.S. Garden Climate Zones Will Assist In Planting The Best Plants
Already planning your new garden? Then you should know what plants will grow best in the area you live. It’s important to choose plants that suit the climate where you live if you expect a great garden.
Knowing the best plants can save a lot of frustration as well as time and money, plus you can avoid the old trial-and-error gardening.
The History of Gardening Zones
Way back in 1960, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) mapped the hardiness zones for the country’s gardening climate zones. This map was called the Plant Hardiness Zone Map.
“Hardiness” in this case describes a plant’s capability to grow in local climatic conditions. Conditions like cold or very hot and dry or the combination of both.
The average minimum temperatures for a zone is what determines the garden climate zones for that area. If a garden plant is going to survive in a specific area it needs to be able to live through the lowest temperature which occur for that specific zone. So the plants that are in that garden zone are there because they can handle the cold weather.
Be sure to check those zone labels for zone recommendations so you’re choosing the right plants for your climate. You may also find that some plants are labelled for a range of gardening zones.
Discovering Your Garden Climate Zone
In North America we have eleven gardening zones.
As the zone number get higher so does the average winter temperatures for that zone. So as the zone numbers get smaller you’re heading north where we live and the winters get colder as you go.
Zone #1, the coldest, has winter temperatures below -50 degrees, I don’t live that far north. The average minimum temperature for zone 11 on the other hand is between 30 and 40 degrees, that’s just too hot for us.
The U.S. doesn’t have zones in the two extremes so it’s only colour coded zones 2 thru 10. The coloured zones represent a 10-degree range of the average minimum temperatures.
It’s simple to find your hardiness zone. Just find your location on the map and then match the colour to the legend key for your zone number. You can also use online services where you can just enter your zip code to find your hardiness zone.
Below is the hardiness zones for U.S. and their average minimum temperature ranges:
- Zone 2: -50 to -40 degrees (Prudhoe Bay, Alaska)
- Zone 3: -40 to -30 degrees (International Falls, Minnesota)
- Zone 4: -30 to -20 degrees (Minneapolis)
- Zone 5: -20 to -10 degrees (Anchorage, Alaska)
- Zone 6: -10 to 0 degrees (Chicago)
- Zone 7: 0 to 10 degrees (Oklahoma City)
- Zone 8: 10 to 20 degrees (Atlanta)
- Zone 9: 20 to 30 degrees (San Antonio)
- Zone 10: 30 to 40 degrees (Miami)
Perhaps you are blessed to be living on the border between two garden climate zones. In this case you might just be able to grow plants that are tagged for both zones. If you aren’t completely sure it’s best to go with the plants that can tolerate the colder zone.
You will find plants that don’t have the hardiness zone marked. What I do when this happens to me is just compare our climate with the climate the plant grows in.
You should probably know that the hardiness zone map is a guide but it doesn’t guarantee the plant will survive in your yard. So in addition to the gardening climate zone map you have to take summer conditions such as the amount of rain you get or the heat and humidity.
Preparing For Your New Garden
Once you have picked out your plants and seeds you will have to prepare the soil in your yard for planting them.
- Get in the zone for gardening (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
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