At first glance, gardening seems to be easy. Dig a hole, plant a seed and water it. Still, a bit of planning goes a long way, and you should consider the size of your garden, the richness of your soil and the hardiness zone of the region in which you live.
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What is a climate zone?
A climate zone is a geographical area where certain plants thrive best in this specific climate. The USDA Hardiness Zone Map divides the United States and Canada into 1
The resilience of a plant is largely measured by how well it can withstand cold winter temperatures. Something that can survive the minimum temperatures in Zone 5 would make Zone 4 feel too cold.
Many plants, fruits and vegetables sold at your local nursery or hardware store contain a hardness zone suggestion based on this label on their labels. The 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the latest version developed by the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the PRISM Climate Group of the Oregon State University (OSU).
Maps are available for the United Kingdom and Australia, but they are not as up-to-date as the maps available for the United States. Nevertheless, they can be a useful resource for deciding what to plant in your garden.
Why do I need it?
In your garden you can set many factors such as shade, water drainage or soil quality. What you can not control is the weather.
This is where the Plant Hardiness Zone Map comes into play. It helps professional and hobby gardeners to know which plants have the greatest chance of success in their climate and avoid planting anything that does not survive the winter or spring frost. If you want a plant, a vegetable, or a tree to survive and grow year after year, you must be able to tolerate the conditions in your area.
The map is also a great way to compare your climate with the ideal climate for a particular plant that you are interested in. It does not always mean that you can not grow this plant in your area. It just means that you should be extra careful to address his sensitivities. For example, if a vegetable grows better in a warmer climate, you should always cover it if your area has a frost warning.
Inconsistencies and exceptions
The USDA card is a good guideline, but it does not have to be strictly adhered to. The National Gardening Association notes that although the map responds well to the climatic zones of the eastern half of North America, it has some shortcomings, especially in the West, where the climate is much more diverse.
For example, Seattle and Tucson are both in Zone 8, though there is a big difference between the offshore, rain-laden climate of Seattle and the drier Tuscon.
Zones are a helpful guide, but you should also consider the direction and amount of sunlight your garden receives during the day. The orientation of your garden to sun and shade plays a major role in the life cycle of your plants.
If you want to view the zone for your area, you can use USDA's interactive map to find the plant's hardness zone at your exact location. And yes, hardness zones can differ in the city.
My neighborhood is in Zone 6b, but the part of the city just to the west is classified as Zone 7a. While you may not notice big differences in which plants can survive in two similar zones, it is still important to know where your garden is on the map. Vegetables such as radishes, lettuce, peas and tomatoes thrive with proper care in my region.
Armed with the knowledge of the winter hardiness zone of your home, this season you can confidently sow, grow and harvest the most suitable plants for your part of the country.
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