What is a Growing Zone and How to find yours!

A Growing zone (also called Hardiness zones) are areas that determine what plants are likely to thrive in that locations. The average winter extreme low temperature is what the USDA uses to determine growing zones. This means the USDA has collected data from hundreds of research stations across the country to determine what the lowest average temperature is in each spot every year.  They then build or adjust the map of Hardiness Zones to illustrate what kinds of plants will survive the winter temperatures in each area.

This doesn’t take into consideration any abnormal extreme low temperatures. So sometimes there can be lower than average temperatures to watch out for.  Luckily, natural forces aside, the USDA Hardiness Zones map is usually very accurate. When used correctly, it can be one of the most useful tools you can use to determine which plants will grow and thrive in your garden, and survive your winters and/or summers!

Finding your Growing Zone

To see an interactive and more detailed map (including a zoom function and to search by zip code) please visit the USDA’s map website: here:http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/phzmweb/interactivemap.aspx

Here is the current USDA Plant Hardiness Zones Map, with half-steps.

all_states_halfzones_title_legend_logos_72dpi

To find your zone, look for your region, state, and approximate city area.  Then use the key to determine what zone the color represents.  That will be your Growing Zone.  For best results in your garden, only purchase and plants rated for your zone. Plants that do not mention your particular zone may not survive the average winter/summer temperatures in your area.  

Growing zones that plants are rated for are usually on their tags and/or online descriptions when they’re sold.  For example, if you are in Zone 4, and check a tag/description that says ‘Zones 4-8’, you can grow that plant! If the tag/description says ‘Zones 3-9’ you can grow that one, too!  If the tag/description does not cover your zone, it’s not a good idea to grow that plant in your garden.  We’ll talk more about that later.  

Marginal Growing Zone Areas

If you are in between zones near a zone boundary line, for example where zones 3 and 4 meet you may want to be extra careful with your plantings.  Being cautious and purchasing/planting for the lower-numbered (in the example’s case, zone 3) or colder zone is a good idea.  

If you’d like to plant for the higher-numbered (in the example’s case, 4)  or warmer zone, proceed with caution. Experiment with the knowledge that some of your plants might not ‘make it’ through the winter cold or may ‘die back’ in the summer heat.  

You can also utilize a winter mulch/covering to increase your chances of winter survival. You could also use extra shade/water in summer to increase your summer survival rate. But that may not make 100% of plants tolerant of the temperatures involved.

Growing Plants Out of Your Growing Zone

If you want to try growing a plant rated higher than your particular growing zone, you can also try winter mulch and summer shade/extra water. However, your plant has a good chance of not making it. For any plant grown out of its zone, that’s normal. There is nothing wrong with that plant. It just means the plant cannot survive a place to which it cannot adapt.

We cannot recommend growing perennial plants in zones they are not rated for.  If there is a plant you enjoy rated out of your growing range, consider planting it as an annual. Have the expectation it will die at the end of your growing season. But you can always replant it next year and enjoy again.

Growing Perennials as Annuals

Plenty of our customers have a great time growing their favorite perennials as annuals!  Most gardeners the world over have planted annuals to brighten up their yard for just one season (or replant every year). Annual plants fill out most container gardens!

When you think of how you use plants like geraniums, petunias, impatiens, and marigolds (to name a few popular annuals in our area), know you can also use perennials out of your growing zone that way as well!  Why not try some interesting perennials like penstemon, euphorbia, geum, and more in your containers and beds?

Remember, your plants will only have one season of growth. So they may not get to their full mature size, or have as profuse of blooms as they would if they had more years to accumulate growth. But the plants grown by you can still be enjoyed in the garden for what beauty they provide!

Rest, Renew, Regrow | Hosta Growth Stages After Planting

Author: Peter Kelly, Content Manager

Rest, Renew, Regrow

Those are are three “R”s of horticulture.  They apply to hostas just as they do to any other plant. The three “R”s help us understand the hosta growth stages.  With those words I will answer one of our consumer’s questions: Why are my hostas NOT growing?

Before getting to those three “R”s, the gardener needs to understand that EVERY TIME they move a Hosta it goes into what is known as; “transplant shock”. Then it will go through different hosta growth stages as it adapts to its new surroundings.  

It is a thousand times better to find that right place for the hosta, plant it, and care for it as you wait for it to grow vigorously!

OK, so you have your new hosta or heuchera planted and you’re excited for it to mature; but the plant just sits there.  We assure you that only in film can a plant go ‘sproing’ and suddenly become full sized.   The thing with gardening is that you have to be patient.  How patient?  Rest, Renew, Regrow!

Hosta Growth Stages Using the 3 “R”s

The first stage after you plant something it will … Rest.  Resting means acclimating itself to where it is planted, getting used to the new spot of sun; trying to figure out what nutrients are below it.  If you plant it late in the season it might rest through the second year as well.

The second stage will … Renew.  Renewing means the plant might grow even a little smaller or to the size of what you first planted it.  Fear not brave gardener for the plant is not being lazy on you!  Be it known your plant is growing UNDER the ground and sending out rhizomes and gathering those important nutrients.  Again, depending on the variety, it might carry its renewing into a second year. This is all just part of the hosta growth stages.

We get to the third stage … when the plant Regrows.  This is that hosta growth stage where we may see leaps and bounds of growth.  This is also the time where you might see your first scape and blossom on your plant.  With each year after, the plant will keep moving toward maturity.  Some hostas mature in three (3) years and others take 6 to 8 years primarily due to size and general rate of growth.

Even after that, the plant will continue to look good for years to come if cared for properly.  Over these years, if the gardener is nice they may put in some extra fertilizer to help and encourage the plants to grow.  Remember over-fertilizing can have hazards as well, so fertilize responsibility.

Now lets all take a deep breath and reflectively say, “Rest, Renew, Regrow.”;  and remember to fully exhale.…

Gardening Tasks for July

July is a great time to get out and enjoy your garden. By July most of the hard work of spring is completed and this leaves you with plenty of time to sit back and enjoy all your hard work.

We’ve put together a list of six gardening tasks for July to keep up with as your garden progresses through the growing season:

1.     Keep up with deadheading flowers. This not only makes your garden look nice, but also encourages some plants to continue blooming. Who wouldn’t want more flowers?water plants-gardening tasks for july

2.     Make sure your garden has plenty of moisture. The hot summer days can sometimes be quite daunting on plants and they may need more water on hot days. It is recommended that one inch of water per week should be good for hostas. Spread this out over two or three days of watering throughout the week for best results. You don’t want to drown your hostas with too much water at one time. Plants in containers will need to be watered more regularly than ones in the ground. Hanging baskets, especially, dry out quicker and will likely need to be watered daily. If possible, collect rainwater to water your plants.

3.     Keep up on the weeding in your garden. A little time now could save you a lot of time down the road. I’m sure we can all agree that weeding is not the most fun task out there, but it is important. Not only does it help with the appearance of your garden, it can also help prevent slugs and other pests. A clean garden is less likely to have a pest problem than one covered in weeds. Spending ten minutes weeding your garden once per week is better than spending an hour doing it once per month. Do not let the weeds go to seed!

4.     If you haven’t done so already replace/place mulch in your garden. This is one of the important gardening tasks for July because the mulch will help keep moisture in the soil around so they don’t get as dried out, especially on the hot days. Mulch can also help keep slugs away from your hostas.

5.     You can continue fertilizing your hostas throughout the month of July, but we recommend not doing it any later than July 31st.

6.     Bring a lawn chair out to your garden. Sit back and enjoy your hard work.

That concludes our list of gardening tasks for July. It really isn’t too bad, is it?!

Keeping up with these six gardening tasks for July will keep your garden in tip-top shape throughout the summer. It really is a great month to enjoy your garden when most plants will be in bloom and most of the hard spring work is over.

Enjoy!

Comment below on how your garden is doing this year so far. We’d love to see pictures!

8 Steps for Growing Hostas in Containers

Planting hostas in containers is a growing trend. Not only do they grow successfully in containers, they look great as well. Container hostas work great for small urban spaces, around a pool, or on a patio/deck in your backyard.

We have put together a list of 8 steps to having beautiful container hostas.

hosta in round container

1.    Select a container for your hosta. Hostas do great in several different container shapes, but make sure to keep the mature size of your hosta in mind when selecting a container size.

This will not only save you time and energy replanting down the road, but it will ensure that your hosta has enough room to grow.

2.    After you select a container, make sure it has drainage holes in the bottom.

If the container doesn’t come with pre-drilled holes, you can always add them using a power drill. It is recommended to have at least one, but two or three are ideal.

3.    Add a layer of rocks at the bottom of the container. This will aid in drainage and prevent soil from falling through the drilled holes.

4.    Fill the container with nutrient rich, easy draining soil.container hosta with ivy

5.    Plant your hosta in the container. Container hostas look great alone or with ivy hanging down the side of the pot. Just make sure that any other plants you add to your hosta container have relatively similar growing conditions.

Hostas prefer to be kept in shade to partial sun, so it wouldn’t be recommended to add a plant that requires full sun.

 

6.    Water your container hosta regularly, especially in times of extreme heat and wind. Hostas like to have moist soil, but they don’t do well with drenched soil (this can cause their roots to rot). Watering once every one or two days should be good.

7.    Fertilize regularly since the nutrients in the soil will wash away with watering.

8.    Enjoy your beautiful potted hostas for years to come!

potted hosta

*Note: It’s necessary for container hostas to go through a winter dormancy just like those planted in the ground. Don’t leave the containers outside.

Instead, they should be brought into an unheated garage or porch for the winter months. Once the threat of frost is over, your containers can go back outside for the upcoming season.

Comment below with any questions or experience you’ve had growing hostas in containers!

Cold Frames

Cold Frame 3A cold frame will give you greater control over the weather by creating nearly ideal conditions where and when your plants need them most. A cold frame will extend your growing season, and allow you to grow plants suited to a warmer climate. You can think of a cold frame as a passive solar collector that captures the warmth and light of the sun.

Cold frames are most commonly used in spring for starting seedlings, but they can be used for much more. Fall crops will benefit from a moist, shaded cold frame during the heat of summer. The same cold frame can be used for forcing spring bulbs during the winter.

Cold Frames Defined

A cold frame is a rectangular structure with a glass top. Most face south and have a slanting roof that enables snow and water to slide off rather than accumulate. The angle of the slope ranges from 35 to 55 degrees, as this range captures the most sunlight during summer and fall conditions. A white interior is used to reflect sunlight onto the plants, and blocks or poles are used to prop the box open for air circulation.

Choosing the Best Location for Your Cold FrameSun Exposure

Choose a site for your cold frame that will maximize exposure to the sun. It should face south, but southeast or southwest are the best alternatives if a site with a true south exposure is unavailable. Choose a site that receives full sun from mid-morning to mid-afternoon during the winter and spring. Prepare the site to be as level as possible and so that it drains well. Protect your cold frame during the winter by siting it with a fence, hedge, or building on its north side.

Choose Between Permanent and Portable Cold Frames

A permanent cold frame is dug into the ground or built on the surface. A cold frame above ground provides less protection from frost than one that has been dug into the ground, but both offer better protection from frost than a portable frame, and will last longer, as they are sturdier.

A portable cold frame is essentially a box without a bottom, with a clear cover. They are less sturdily-built than permanent cold frames and are therefore less insulated, resulting in a wider fluctuation in temperatures. There are many types of portable cold frames that are available commercially, and many of them are collapsible for storage.

Choosing Between a Cold Frame and a Hot Bed

The only difference between a cold frame and a hot bed is that the hot bed contains an artificial source of heat, such as hot compost or a heating coil. This reliable source of heat allows you to use them earlier in the season and they maintain ideal conditions for starting the widest variety of seeds.

Create your own hot bed by digging a pit at least one foot deep, to hold the heating cable. Spread a layer of gravel at the base of your pit, and then a two inch layer of vermiculite. Lay the cable in long loops on top of the vermiculite. Don’t cross the cable, and keep the loops at least 8 inches apart and 3 inches from the edge of the frame. Spread a one inch layer of sand over the cable, and then a layer of screen or hardware cloth to protect it from digging tools. Lay 4 to 6 inches of coarse sand over the wire, and place your cold frame above this.

ThermometerTemperature Control

Bright sun on a closed, insulated and unventilated cold frame can generate temperatures over 100 degrees. Place a thermometer in a shady spot within the cold frame to help you determine when to ventilate it.

 

 

 

 

WateringWatering

With a newly-established cold frame, be sure to check soil conditions frequently so that you do not under- or over-water your plants, especially in warm weather. The majority of plants require soil to be moist but not soggy. Check your soil at a depth of 1 to 1 ½ inches. Avoid watering on cold and cloudy days, and water early in the day to discourage fungal growth. Cold water will shock plants and slow growth, so use water that is roughly the same temperature as the soil inside the cold frame.

Pests and Disease

Insects, pests and mold will thrive just as well as your plants in your cold frame or hot bed, during mild weather. Check regularly for signs of disease and pests. Proper ventilation and generous spacing of plants can lessen the occurrence of disease. If problems persist, remove your plants and sterilize your cold frame.  Pour boiling water on the gravel or soil at the base of your cold frame, or leave the lid shut to allow heat to build during the summer.

Spring Uses for a Cold Frame

Harden seedlings already started indoors by moving them into your cold frame one or two weeks before transplanting them. Shade them at first and protect them from burning with burlap or by painting the glass lid with a mixture of clay soil and water. Acclimate them by opening the vent for a longer period each day.

Germinate the seeds of cold-tolerant vegetables, perennials and annuals in your cold frame. Sow the seeds in pots or directly in the soil of your cold frame 2 months before the last spring frost date, or even earlier in a hot bed.

Summer Uses for a Cold Frame

Remove the glass top of your cold frame and replace it with screen. Use wood lath to shade fall crops of heat-sensitive vegetables such as lettuce. Use the cold frame for rooting cuttings.

Fall and Winter Uses for a Cold Frame

Cold treat seeds by planting them in your cold frame for spring germination. Sow the seeds just before the ground freezes. Use your cold frame for fall crops of lettuce and spinach. Store herbs, perennials and container plants in your cold frame for protection over the winter. Force spring bulbs in your cold frame.

 

Source:

All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Indispensable Resource for Every Gardner, Fern Marshall Bradley and Barbara W Ellis, Editors