USDA Plant Hardiness Zones

Knowing what can and cannot grow in your climate zone can significantly accelerate your gardening success rate.

Three weeks ago I met with a client who said that they wanted to grow food in their yard for the first-time. During our consultation he said that they wanted to grow lemon trees in their backyard and I instantly told him that there was no way that he could grow lemon trees and expect them to produce lemons where he lives unless he was going to constantly bring the trees back and forth from his yard to his home. He understood this and then he asked me “Well why does the Home Depot here sell lemon trees?” My answer was “They’ll grow in a greenhouse here and lemon trees need the summer heat of Arizona or Southern California to grow”. I can understand the hope that that my client got from seeing a lemon tree at the Home Depot and it made me realize that people are not aware of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones and how they affect what can and cannot grow in their climates.

I really thought that everyone knew about their USDA Plant Hardiness Zone or at the very least understood that only certain fruit, vegetables, flowers and bushes only grew in certain climates. Yet most people don’t and it’s not because they are ignorant or unaware, it’s because books, YouTube Videos and Pinterest posts exist that tell people that you can grow 250 pounds of produce on a quarter acre of land, that you can start a lasagna garden that will restore the health of your soil in no time and provide an abundance of organic veggies and posts that show that you can grow pineapples in cold climates if you follow this garden hack. Yet gardening for the most part is not magical and there are so many factors that go into your success including your experience level.

Are these things possible, yes? Does it take a solid amount of knowledge, skill, experience and problem-solving ability to make it happen? Yes, yes it does. New gardeners need to start small and learn the basics first and one of the key basic principles to know is your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone. Your plant hardiness zone is based on the climate that you live in and gives you a historically accurate view of when you can begin to plant where you live, when your growing season ends and what types of fruits, vegetables, flowers, trees and bushes will grow well in your climate zone.

Your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone will also help you to determine when you should start the different types of crops that you want to plant for the year and will save you a lot of guessing time. Armed with this knowledge, you can scientifically plan your garden for the year and avoid some of the challenges that have stopped you in the past.

Michael Forman is an urban farmer who founded Pure Love Sustainability Inc. and teaches gardeners and farmers how to create optimal conditions for soil health and help gardeners and farmers get maximum yields year in and year out. Michael loves teaching these techniques and principals to new gardeners and offers no-cost initial garden consultations that help gardeners create and maintain the gardens of their dreams. If you want to learn any of these techniques, need support in your garden and/or want to try your hand at gardening for the first-time, please fill out a contact form on his website

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