Gardening Basics: Hardiness zones explained

Hi friends! Every day I find myself learning more and more about planting and gardening. There is With that in mind, I’m going to start a series called Gardening Basics, where we can discuss and learn all kinds of basic information for beginning gardeners like myself. First up in our series: hardiness zones.

In a nutshell: hardiness zones tell you geographically where a plant is going to be able to grow and thrive. Each zone has a specific temperature range, and there are 11 total zones in the US. Some plants like cool weather and some plants like warm weather. I have learned from experience that things get pretty disappointing when you try to grow plants outside of their comfort zone. A higher zone number equals a warmer temperature. Since I live in Orlando, that puts me in zone 9b. I want to grow Oriental Poppies sooooo bad, but alas, they will only thrive in zones 3-7. This is helpful to know so you don’t end up buying a bunch of seeds on Amazon prime that won’t survive in your yard. Whoops.

Speaking of seeds: your hardiness zone will impact the timing of planting seeds. For example, let’s look at Swiss chard. I initially read “a good yielder all summer and into the fall” on the back of the seed packet and figured it would grow happily all summer in the scorching Florida heat. When I got home and looked closer at the map on the packet, it specifically showed Swiss chard will grow from February-May and then August-September. I ended up planting the seeds around the end of March, so I’ll let you all know how it goes and what happens during the hot summer months ahead. I had picked up a pack of tomato seeds mostly because I am so obsessed with my current tomato plant and wanted another, but with 90 days from germination to harvesting the fruit, there wouldn’t be enough time before the weather heats up. They are recommended to be grown from March-May and are not specifically a “heat-tolerant” tomato. Note to self: try to plan ahead next time.


The bottom line: unfortunately you can’t grow everything you want when you want to grow it. If there’s a specific fruit or vegetable you want to grow, plan ahead. I’ve found vegetable planting guides online specific to my zone that are very helpful. This all sounds incredibly basic, but for a beginning gardener who is eager to grow everything, it can be a lot to wrap your head around. But with a little planning and practice, we can do it!

State specific maps are available on the USDA site, or you can use the interactive map to check plant hardiness in your area.


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