A couple years back, I got really excited about springtime. Thoughts of chirping birds, sunny weather and spring blossoms filled my head. I thought it would be a great idea to start a spring garden as soon as I could. At the store I considered the vast options of plants. Would I choose seedlings or a full-grown plant? The question I should have asked myself was, ‘What gardening zone am I in?’.
I thought it would be a good idea to start from the beginning, planting seeds right into the ground. Things were going well, the weather was warming up and my sprouts began to poke through the soil. I was so excited for my plant babies to grow.
Sadly, it was still too early in the spring season and the weather was not completely warm. One cold night covered the ground in frost. When I checked on my plant babies in the morning, they had all frozen over, too frail to survive the cold.
I had been too hasty in my excitement to plant a garden. I forgot to look at my seasonal hardiness zone chart.
Back to Basics: What is a Gardening Zone?
This may not be the first question that comes to mind when you consider planting a garden, but it should be. Rather than considering which plants to grow, you should think about what season you are in regionally and figure out “what gardening zone am I in?”
If you live in the United States, there is a huge range of temperatures and rainfall and soil types. These gardening zones are also known as plant hardiness zones. Different plants are native to their specific hardiness zones, although some can survive and even thrive in different zones than those they naturally grow in.
There is an easy way to determine which hardiness zone you live in. Once you recognize your zone, it will be vital to your garden’s health.
Getting Started: Find Your Hardiness Zone with a Map
Find your hardiness zone by clicking here!
The USDA offers an interactive map of each state’s hardiness zones for prospective green-thumbs to learn their garden zone.
Getting in the Zone: What Gardening Zone am I in?
There are 11 separate gardening zones, each divided by 10 degrees Fahrenheit regions. The temperatures are based on winter conditions and temperatures, determining the ability of plant species to grow in the coldest conditions of the year. The colder regions, obviously, starting at the north-most part of the country and the warmer regions towards the south. The gardening zone map is an easy key to reference to determine your zone.
An example of how one might use the garden hardiness map is determining when is a good time to plant a spring garden outside. For most crops it is important to wait until after the final frost of winter. Zones 1-4 are harsh during the winters, and for spring planting should wait until late March through April.
Zones 1-4 are harsh during the winters, and for spring planting should wait until late March through April. Farther south, Zones 5-10 should wait until mid to late March. Deep south regions, Zones 7-10 where the temperatures are warmer, February and March are great times to start planting.
Ensuring a Successful Season: Gardening Zone Importance
Learning your gardening zone is crucial to your plants success and understanding gardening literature or instructions. Look for planting instructions on seed packets or plant labels. On the back of each seed packet you germinate should be a map of growing areas. The information listed on the back of the packet will describe which is the ideal growing time for the specific plant and region.
This is important to keep in mind when planting both vegetable and flower gardens for factors of rainfall, temperature and sunlight. Determining what zone you live in will assure that you know when to plant certain vegetables and which will thrive best in certain locations.
Planting hardiness zones especially are important to know if you are starting your garden in early spring or late fall. Depending on your zone there could still be snow covering the ground or it may already be warming up. You wouldn’t want to plant a garden that is fated to fail merely because you planted it too early or late in the year.
So What Comes Next? Starting Your Garden
After you find your gardening zone, the next steps are to start that garden! Even if you realize that it is the wrong time of year to plant certain flowers or vegetables outside, consider starting your garden indoors. You can germinate seeds inside the warmth of your home in small containers, keeping them safe from the last winter frosts. Not sure where to begin garden? We can help with you get a garden started in 10 easy steps.
Frequently Asked Questions: What Gardening Zone am I in?
What does hardiness actually mean?
Hardiness is a term to describe your plant’s ability to survive through a certain climate. In a cold, northern climate, high hardiness means that plant has a strong resistance to freezing temperatures, snow, or frost. Comparatively, hardiness in a southern zone indicates whether a plant can thrive well in warm temperatures or a humid environment.
Is it possible to garden with another zone?
Yes! There can be spots in your yard or garden that get more sunlight or shade than others. South-facing areas tend to be exposed to and retain more warmth. Use the hardiness zone as a guide to get you started, but don’t be afraid to experiment with perennials from another zone and see how it works in your own zone. You might find more options are available for your garden!