Thursday, February 3, 2011

Planning Your Garden- Step 1

You can plant anything in your garden, but it doesn't mean just anything will grow there. 

So before you start running away with ideas of what kind of vegetables and fruits you would like in your garden, you need to find out which plant hardiness zone you live in. The USDA divided North America into 11 hardiness zones

These zones provide a guide in figuring out which plants will grow and survive in your location and minimum annual temperatures. The National Gardening Association has a great zone finder tool. Just  type in your zipcode and it will tell you what zone you live in and also gives you a lot of helpful resources like a regional report with helpful hints suited to your area and a tool to help you find plants that grow in your zone.

Tips:
  • Just because the map says you live in one zone doesn't necessarily mean that you only can have plants rated in that zone. If you have a lot of snow cover in the winter the ground stays warmer so you can probably grow plants that are rated for a high zone since their roots will be well insulated. Also keep in mind your summer temperatures, length of days, soil moisture and drainage and elevation as these can affect plant choices too.
  • Your hardiness zone number does not tell you when you can plant your garden. You need to go by your first and last freeze/frost dates. This gardening website has a really user friendly frost date finder tool with more in-depth information. 
Based on these tools I found out that
  • I live in hardiness zone 6B and that each winter, on average, my risk of frost is from October 26 through April 22. Almost certainly, however, I will receive frost from November 14 through March 25. I am almost guaranteed that I will not get frost from May 20 through October 7. My frost-free growing season is around 187 days. 
This information is going to be what I use to plan my garden. More on that next week. Until then, check through some lists of which plants will grow in your area.

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