If you are interested in outdoor gardening, and if you do not have access to a greenhouse, you will need to know your plant hardiness zone to have a successful garden. Before you buy any plants or seeds, take a moment to research your plant hardiness zone, also referred to as a “growing zone,” or simply a “planting zone,” or “hardiness zone.” Especially if you are a self-taught, beginner gardener, knowing your planting zone will help you determine what plants and seeds you should buy.
What are plant hardiness zones?
Plant hardiness zones are different areas you can find on a Plant Hardiness Zone Map. A Plant Hardiness Zone Map divides different locations into different “zones,” based on how cold the location usually gets during the winter. These zones are calculated based on a location’s average extreme minimum temperature. It’s important to know your planting zone because certain plants will die if the weather gets too cold for them. Your planting zone will show you which plants and seeds you should buy, and which ones simply do not have a chance of surviving in your area.
The original Plant Hardiness Zone Map was created by the USDA in 2012, to help agricultural companies in the United States and Puerto Rico determine which plants to grow in different locations. The map has since been adopted by backyard and small-scale gardeners. Many gardening websites have the map, or slightly revised versions of the map, on their own websites as well.
You can find the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map here. Search by your address and you will find your zone, based on the color-coded map.
After you learn your plant hardiness zone
Once you know your plant hardiness zone, you need to know your “hardiness dates” or your “frost dates.” Frost dates are important because plants are vulnerable to cold weather, and they are more likely to survive if they are planted before the first frost date or after the last frost date.
For example, let’s say you live in Zone 9b. If you want to give your plants the best chance of survival, you will not plant them between December 15-ish to February 15-ish, because that’s when the weather is the coldest in your area.
Plant hardiness zones and hardiness dates are not exact science, but they are a great guide, especially for a beginner gardener.
Average frost dates by plant hardiness zone
|Zone||First Frost Date||Last Frost Date|
|3||September 15||May 15|
|4||September 15||May 15|
|5||October 15||April 15|
|6||October 15||April 15|
|7||October 15||April 15|
|8||November 15||March 15|
|9||December 15||February 15|
|10||December 15||January 30|
Note: Zones 1 and 2 are not found in the United States, and Zones 11-13 do not freeze.
After you learn your hardiness dates
For those who are buying seeds and plants online, once you know your plant hardiness zone and your hardiness dates, you can research which plants are able to grow in your zone. A simple web search such as “fruits and vegetables for zone ___” will guide you in the right direction.
PRO TIP for beginners: Your local nursery has seeds and plants for sale. The gardeners at your local nursery will more than likely be able to answer any questions you have regarding the best plants for your location and the best times to plant, as well as provide additional tips.
By Tureygua Inaru