Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Gardening: Get Into Your Zone

To make the most of your garden come spring use your autumn and winter months to design your garden. Before you begin selecting plants it would be beneficial to know your plant hardiness zone. This lets you know which plants can survive in your garden based on your climate conditions, such as, minimum temperature. It can also save you money buy not having to replant year after year. Although I love annuals for there colorful blooms all-season long the majority of my gardens are perennials. Each spring I get so excited to see my perennials sprouting up from the soil! It's also smart to use plants that re-seed themselves.

The temperatures are based on the average annual minimum temperature.

If this map is difficult for you to tell your zone, the National Garden Association has a tool where you can enter your zip code.

Now that you know your zone you probably want to know which plants grow well in your zone...
Try this Landscape Plant Selector and select from a list of criteria to find the perfect plants for your garden and get just the look you want!

Most plants and seeds from major nurseries and stores will be labeled with the zones in which they should be grown. At the same time some sell the same plants nation-wide, so be sure to check. 

If you live in a cooler zone, you might be experiencing "zone envy." But rest assured there are things you can do to "stretch" your zone by created a few extra growing days on either end of the season. You can do this with the use of cloches, row covers or a greenhouse. Also, starting seeds indoors will jump-start germination by several weeks.

My dream greenhouse...

Others factors to consider: 
  • Growing Season / Frost Dates (number of frost-free growing days)- this is especially important when growing vegetables and annuals.
  • Amount of Sunlight: Full Sun (at least 6 hours of direct sunlight), Partial Sun (3 - 6 hours of sun, emphasis on minimum sun requirements), Partial Shade (3-6 hours of sun, needs relief from intense late afternoon sun), Dappled Sun (sun that makes it's way through the branches of a deciduous tree), Full Shade (less than 3 hours of direct sunlight and filtered sunlight during the rest of the day).
  • Soil Type: clayey, loamy or sandy. Loamy soil is ideal, as clayey and sandy soil create challenges with irrigation. Here's a simple test you can do to find out what kind of soil you have... pick up a marble-sized bit soil and attempt to roll it into a ball, if you're successful you have clayey soil, if you're completely unsuccessful you have sandy soil and if you have some successes but it falls apart after you release the pressure you have loamy soil.
{My garden in Roeland Park, Kansas is nestled in zone 5b. Due to my house being surrounded by large trees, most of my gardens have shade... front gardens: full shade, North side gardens: full shade, back gardens: partial shade and dappled sun and South side gardens: full sun.}

Although hostas have a late, simple bloom that last only days, I love them for there foliage and hardiness. They're also great to separate and move to other places in your garden and share with friends!

Which zone is your garden located in and what plants have thrived in your garden?

Images courtesy of Wikipedia (scale), Thrifty Fun (map), The Slow Cook (cloche) and Victorian Greenhouse (greenhouse).

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