How to Figure Out Your Plant Hardiness Zone

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If you’ve been learning how to plan a garden, you may be feeling overwhelmed. Planning a garden for the first time can be a daunting task and most people don’t realize just how much work it actually can be. There is a lot of information that you need to gather before you even learn how to start garden seeds and that information can easily become information overload if you’re not careful. You’ll need to decide which type of garden is best for you. You’ll need to figure out which plants you want to grow and with that comes knowing which plants will grow best in your plant hardiness zone and which won’t.

How to Determine Your Garden Zone - Planting a garden soon? Make sure you know which plant hardiness zone you live in! It really is the difference between a strong garden or a failed garden!

There is a reason that experienced gardeners put so much stock into knowing your plant hardiness zone and it isn’t a complicated one. If you plant your garden plants in the wrong climate, they will not flourish. Some plants need full sun to grow – if you plant these in an area that gets shade or strong cloud cover most of the year, they will not grow. Some plants need shade most of the time to flourish – plant these in a full sun environment such as Texas and they may not grow as they should. Plants that may not need a lot of water won’t do well in a rainy environment just as plants that need a lot of water won’t flourish well in a drought environment. Knowing what your plant hardiness zone allows you to plant on the seeds that will do best in your environment.

How to Figure Out Your Plant Hardiness Zone

Figuring out your plant hardiness zone can be hard to do if you’re new to gardening. Luckily, the USDA puts out a map for gardeners. The USDA map is based on the average low temperature of a region which means that it can help you figure things out in a pinch! It gives you a pretty good idea as to how cold it could potentially get in your area so that you can plan which plants you will have in your garden. The USDA map has three main plant hardiness zone ranges: 3-5, 6 & 7, and 8-10. These zones will determine which plants will survive and do best in your area. Once you’ve figured out your plant hardiness zone, picking up a gardening book (or two!) about your specific zone can be extremely helpful.

Simple, right? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Every plant hardiness zone is also separated into either subzone A or subzone B. This means that you could be in subzone A but your friend who lives an hour away could be in subzone B. There are varying reasons for different subzones, but it is usually due to something simple such as subzone B typically receives more rain than subzone A. While you should pay attention to subzones, they aren’t quite as important as the main zones. Usually if you choose a plant that says it’s hardy in zone 8a, it is usually okay to plant it in subzone 8b as well. The main plant hardiness zones on the USDA map are the ones that you must pay attention to it. If you plant in the wrong zone, you take the risk that your plant will not grow.

So how does this knowledge help when you’re ready and raring to head outside and start your garden seeds? That answer really is a simple one. You need to know what your plant hardiness zone and what your subzone is in order to even buy garden seeds. If you don’t, you could easily buy seeds that won’t grow in your zone. This would not only be a waste of the seeds and of your time, but a waste of money as well which would defeat the purpose of having a garden on a budget.

What grows best in my plant hardiness zone?

If you live in a colder climate, you will have the best luck growing plants that need to be cold hardened and can tolerate a bit of frost. Most bulb plants like tulips, crocus, and hyacinths love to pop up in the spring when there is still snow on the ground. Other cold-hardened flowers that grow well in these zones are Foxglove, Geraniums, Roses, and Lilacs. Cold season fruits and vegetables like peas, carrots, lettuce, and cranberries are also a great idea for those that are wanting to save money on groceries. You’ll want to check the USDA map to be sure of which zone you live in if you suspect you may live in one of the cold zones.

The majority of the middle part of the United States are Zones 5-7 that have milder winters with warm summers. In these zones try planting Hostas, Asters, Black-Eyed Susans, Clovers, Cosmos, Crocuses, Daylilies, Foxglove, Geraniums, Marigolds, Roses, and Zinnias. The majority of all fruits and vegetables will grow well in this climate including strawberries, blackberries, tomatoes, corn, broccoli, cauliflower and even cherry trees!

The hottest zones are plant hardiness zones 8-10 and they are found in the southern states.  Planting season here typically starts in February and you’ll find Cosmos, Dahlias, Geraniums, Hibiscus, Hollyhocks, Marigolds, Poppies, Roses, Sunflowers, and Zinnias grow quite easily.  Heat loving fruits and vegetables are do quite well like melons, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, and citrus trees! Depending on your area, it may be recommended that you split your planting season. I know that for our area, some recommend planting early and harvesting by June to avoid the harsh summer sun only to plant again for fall/winter crops after the hottest months have passed.

So there you have it! The info in this post is only the basic information you will need to figure out the USDA map and how to find your plant hardiness zone. You’ll want to do more specific research as you go about planning your summer garden.



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Stacy Williams

Stacy Williams is a 37-year old wife to a USAF Gulf War Veteran, mother of two teen girls and fur-mamma to a rescued pit bull. The face and brain behind the frugal living and lifestyle blog Six Dollar Family, she also owns and manages Long Haul Wife, Republic Preparedness, The Genealogy Queen and a handful of others sites. By the age of 30, Stacy had overcome a drinking problem, a drug addiction, divorce, survived domestic violence, and had built a life for herself and her daughter after spending 10 months in a homeless shelter. Stacy is passionate about homeless advocacy and addiction education.  Her first book, also called Six Dollar Family is available on Amazon.

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