If you’re just starting out in the gardening world and you want to plant a few things this spring, you might never have heard of the term plant hardiness zone. And that’s okay! We all learn sometime.
But knowing what zone you live in can save you a lot of headaches and heartaches when it comes to gardening, so let’s explore this for just a moment.
What Is It?
The plant hardiness zone–also sometimes referred to as simply your zone, planting zone or hardiness zone–is basically a classification of the weather and temperature variations where you live.
Climate and weather changes all play a big part in how you plant, after all. It makes sense that each area of the US is a little different.
Why It Matters
Knowing your zone is going to help you figure out what you can plant and when. While it isn’t the end-all, be-all guideline – you know your area and climate best, after all – you will be armed with enough knowledge to make smart choices about what you’re planting.
Once you learn your zone, a lot of your past mistakes are going to start making sense. If you’ve been struggling to cultivate a plant or herb, perhaps you’ve been putting it in the ground too early or too late, as dictated by your zone. It’s also possible that the plants you want to grow simply can’t handle the heat or cold of your zone.
Zones also help determine if your plants are going to be perennials or annuals, which a lot of first-time gardeners struggle with!
Zones Will Help With Varieties, Too
It’s tempting to buy a lot of specific varieties that sound good to you without doing research, especially if you’ve never gardened before and you’re getting really excited for spring to come around.
But your zone is important in determining what varieties you pick up. Getting a hardy tomato plant variety that will stand up to hot, humid summers if you live in the South is vital to good growth, just like getting a variety that will handle cooler nights, if you live up north.
This is going to save you a lot of money when you first start out, and you won’t feel quite so discouraged because you’ll be struggling a lot less, too.
So, What Is My Zone?
This is a zone map courtesy of the USDA, covering the entire US. If you go to the USDA’s official site, you can get a breakdown of your state, too, but this is a good starting point.
Once you know your zones, you’ll be able to determine a lot of things, including your first and last frost dates, cool and warm weather crops (so you can plant staggered crops and get a better haul), and more.
Select the crops and plant dates that are best for your area and then create a plan of attack. If this seems like a lot, it’s not! Once you know your zone, you have opened up a whole new world of planting possibilities. Knowledge and planning are how a good gardener gets the most out of the spring and summer seasons.