Important Planting Strategies Every Gardener Must Know
When viewing the map of North America, click on your area of the country to see a close-up map. Note the color of your region and then check the key to note the temperature ranges of the zone. For example, zone 8b experiences minimum average temperatures of 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
While on the site you can enter your zip code to learn your specific hardiness zone. It also provides a wealth of other helpful information in your area including; a regional report, listing of public gardens, events, and plants which thrive based on your zone.
Access the “PLANTS” section and you will be able to refine your search to sort on plant species by; botanical name or common name, levels of sun exposure, height, flower types and color, season of bloom, foliage characteristics, shape, your soil type and more. It’s a great resource for planning the type of plants for your garden that are specific to your region and the conditions in your yard.
Knowing your garden’s hardiness zone will help you when choosing the right plants that are appropriate for your garden. Reputable nurseries in your area make the task easier by stocking plants suitable for your zone. Many plant tags list a range, such as zone 5 to 7. In general, the lower number tells you a plant’s tolerance to low temperatures without protection. In hot climates, the upper number indicates a plant’s ability to endure the stress of drought or extreme heat.
The zone rating should also be considered in the context of your backyard conditions. Plants have a wide array of cultural preferences or tolerances. They include: soil type, soil pH and nutritional levels, moisture requirements, sun or shade levels and unique climates (such as exposure to wind or sea air).
Planting and gardening is not an exact science because there are so many variables. Keep in mind that your garden is likely to have pockets where the temperatures are warmer or cooler than the general zone for your area. A south-facing stucco wall might elevate temperatures—and the planting zone—by 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. An exposed spot at the base of a slope might capture cool air and lower the temperature by the same degree. A plant that survives midway up a south-facing slope may otherwise expire at the bottom where cold air sinks and settles.
- How does sunlight travel through your landscape? You might find it helpful to sketch a plan of your garden showing where the sunny and shady areas are from morning to afternoon. When a plant tag reads “full sun,” it generally refers to 6 hours or more of sunlight; “shade” means a plant can grow with fewer than three hours of direct sunlight. In between is “part sun” or “part shade,” which means a range of 4 to 5 hours of sun daily. Some plants grow successfully in more than one range of sun exposure. Note that afternoon sun is stronger than morning and can be harsher on plants.
- Observe factors that are out of your control. These can include a neighbor’s trees or construction activity. Even if your garden is south-facing, a 2-story home located next door can throw a lot of shade over that supposedly sunny garden.
- Watch climate patterns. Observe how wind travels through your landscape. If you’re in an exposed area, choose durable plants that can handle regular buffeting from strong breezes. Sheltered areas of the garden (such as beneath a deep, overhanging roof) can protect tender plants from climate extremes.
- Watch how your property drains. Look for areas of your garden that aren’t draining well and devise a solution. You won’t want to plant in a place where there’s bad drainage or standing water. The poor drainage could be caused by compacted soil that needs to be amended or soil with high clay content.
Working within your zone and understanding the specific conditions in your yard will help optimize your garden’s chances for success!