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Partner Post: Smart Gardening: Understanding Your Zone

Gardening is a great way to spend more time outdoors and encourage homeowners to get the most out of their property. Mature gardens help create a more beautiful neighborhood and attract pollinators that strengthen the vegetation in your community. Some associations use a vacant lot or green space as a community garden that benefits the neighborhood association. Understanding your particular growing zone is a vital part of having a yard that blooms for years to come. Learn more about the smart way to garden by understanding your zone.

Know Your Zone Number

The USDA Hardiness Zone Map is a helpful tool when planting a garden. Knowing your zone number will help you decide what plants will grow well in your garden. Locations can easily vary in their zone number as well, take Los Angeles hardiness zones, for example, the zones can range from 7a to 11, just within that county. Generally speaking though, people in Southern states can easily harvest citrus and sun-loving plants. Northern locations do better with cool-season vegetables such as lettuce, peas, and root vegetables that aren't bothered by frost. Finding your location on the USDA Hardiness Zone Map is the first step to smart-gardening.

Know the Seasons

Once you have your zone number, you can move onto what a typical weather pattern in your area looks like. The zone numbers are a great starting point, but there can be a lot of variation within the same zone. Each zone divides into two different sections depending on their recent year's frost dates. But your neighborhood could be in an elevated area or down in a valley. That can impact your ability to produce the same harvest as someone in your same hardiness zone. Knowing the quirks of your area and the recent weather patterns will help you reap a bountiful harvest.

Cool and Warm Season Plants

Fruits and vegetables are divided into two categories: cool and warm-season plants. The difference between the two includes the weather the plant prefers.

Cool-season plants are usually sown in the spring and then in late summer or early fall depending on your home’s location. These plants include lettuce, peas, carrots, broccoli, and asparagus.

Warm-season plants are those that love the hot sun and usually have a longer growing season. These plants are generally only grown once a year for most of the country. Of course, some Southern locations can grow warm-season plants year-round thanks to warm temperatures. Warm-season plants include melon, cucumbers, squash, berries, tomatoes, and corn. The hardiness zone map at the bottom of this page will also tell you the best times to plant.

Know the Soil

Starting off the garden with the best soil composition is essential for a vegetable or flower garden. Soils can be a wide variety of clay, silt, or sand compositions with mixtures and variations. The ground in your backyard may be great for a growing a green lawn, but it could be harder for fruit and vegetable roots to take hold. Consider building raised beds in the yard to help elevate plants and give them a boost in the soil. You can also get a soil test at your local extension office or garden center to identify any problems.

Knowing your growing zone will help you become a better gardener and give you the opportunity to share your knowledge with neighbors. Starting a backyard or community garden is a great way to show that your neighborhood is down to earth and provides for the homeowners.

About the Author

Patti Walsh is a home and garden writer who takes pride in her own organic vegetable garden landscape. When she’s not gardening in the backyard, you’ll find her firing up the barbecue for her friends and neighbors.