What is a garden zone and why should you be aware of yours?
Your garden planting zone, or "hardiness zone" refers to the ideal conditions in which you should plant your plants in order to help them grow as large and healthy as possible. By knowing what your garden’s zone is, you can make sure that the plants you choose are those that need similar weather conditions and soil composition to grow their best. It’s important to know which zone you are in so you can be prepared to plant the correct plants in the correct conditions at the correct time…. (See the map below to get a better idea of the zones and what zone your location falls within)
USDA Plant Hardiness Zones are a way to classify climates by measuring cold hardiness. These zones dictate which plants can survive in each area. To make an informed decision when picking out plants for your garden, you need to know what hardiness zone you live in. Once you’ve established your planting zone, you’ll be able to pick out appropriate plant life that can survive your local climate.
The USDA has assigned every climate zone a number—there's even one for Alaska and Hawaii! most of us live in a garden plant zone 5 through 9. That means they're hot climates, like those found in Florida or Arizona. But even cool-climate zones like Washington state have severe weather during certain times of year. Our seasonal garden with Davis Family Nursery is located in the central Midwest in zone 6, so we typically follow a middle spring to late fall schedule.
In addition to our map above, the USDA has provided a tool on their website where you can enter your zip code in and it will report to you your zone. However, please remember these aren’t just zones for temperature. Many states have climate microclimates (particularly in regions with mountains, swamps, or beaches), so while you may live in one climate zone, areas near you may differ significantly.
Does it really matter when I plant garden plants? Won’t they just grow with water and sun?
By no means do all plants grow in any condition, under any circumstances.
There are minimum and optimum temperatures required for germination and growth. There are certain times during the year when warmer days are balanced with cooler nights, which gives your plants an ideal environment to grow and multiply in a healthy way.
If you want better quality produce that reaches its peak at a certain time of year, you need to pay attention to your garden zone.
There’s nothing worse than growing eggplants in January and harvesting tomatoes in February! You won’t get huge yields from seeds grown in an area outside of your region, so if you plant early (or late) and then leave them un-looked after for a couple months, don’t be surprised when there’s a lot less vegetable goodness than you anticipated.
You might even end up with zero harvest if frost kills off everything before it has time to mature. Be aware of your garden zones!
I've determined my zone, now what do I plant and when?
Using your hardiness zone, you can figure out when to plant your garden. The easiest way to do that is by counting back from your last frost date. If you're in a hardiness zone of 6b and your last frost date is May 15th, you can start planting tomatoes, peppers, and other warm-weather plants on May 1st. For more info on figuring out what to plant and when -- and growing your garden successfully! -- read these related posts!
Want tips on how to read/interpret plant tags from the nursery or seed packs? Click here for more beginner's guide to gardening!