The Importance of Understanding Climate for a Fine Gardener


Like most other things, knowledge and its application separate an ordinary gardener from a fine gardener. On the other hand, you can just skip all that, search for “landscape companies near me” and hire professionals to create a beautiful garden for you. For now, let’s check out the importance of understanding climate for a fine gardener. 

The Details

1. US Hardiness Zone – One of the most important factors that makes a fine gardener is the understanding of USDA Plant Hardiness Zones. This zone map gives gardeners information about different plants, how they will grow in their region and how they would be affected by the local climate. The Hardiness Zone map was developed by the US Department of Agriculture in the 60s and has been updated over the years.

The map divides the US and Canada into 10 different zones with a progressive difference of 10 degrees between the annual temperatures of each zone. Higher zone numbers represent warmer climates while lower zone numbers represent colder climates. That means Zone 1 is exceptionally cold with an average winter temperature of around -50 to -60 degrees. On the other hand, Zone 13 is very warm with an average winter temperature of around 60 to 70 degrees.

The map is the greatest asset to gardeners since they can plan and choose the right plants for their gardens by viewing the map. It is color-coded with blue, violet, and purple representing the cold zones while the color changes to orange, and darker shades of red at the warmest zones. Moderate climates are color-coded with shades of green and yellow.

2. Plant hardiness – So, you know about the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones. However, how do you use them? To understand and use the map effectively, you need to know about plant hardiness. It’s the plant’s ability to survive through harsh climates and soil conditions. That means a plant’s hardiness tells you how well it can tolerate different harsh growing conditions like flooding, drought, heat, and frost.  

The hardiness of a plant is usually decided by its genetics and adaptability. Moreover, the hardiness of plants varies throughout different components. For instance, your favorite plant may die out at the first sign of frost. However, its root network may still be strong enough to grow a new plant when the snow melts away. Fine gardeners can also take advantage of the microclimate of their garden to grow plants that don’t belong in their hardiness zone.

For instance, in Zone 6, a garden that’s protected from the cold and wind and enjoys well-drained soil with plenty of sunshine makes it mimic the conditions of Zone 7. On the other hand, a garden in the same zone located in an unprotected and low-lying area mimics the conditions of Zone 5. It’s important to know the micro-climate of your garden and choose plants accordingly.

3. US Heat Zones – Unlike the hardiness zone map, this map is developed by the American Horticultural society. It divides the US into 12 different regions depending on the number of extreme heat days in that region. Cold isn’t the only thing that can kill plants. Extreme heat can do the same and that’s where this map comes in.

When a plant doesn’t have cold hardiness, it will just die and wither away. On the other hand, when a plant suffers from heat stress, the symptoms are subtle and hard to notice if you aren’t an experienced gardener. If you plant a tree that can’t tolerate the extremely hot days in your zone, it may turn pale, stop blooming, and will become more susceptible to pest infestation. 

The map is defined by the total number of heat days across various regions. The American Horticultural Society defines a heat day as one in which temperatures can spike over 86 degrees. Many plants begin to shut down their functioning at this temperature since they undergo severe physiological damage. There are 12 heat zones with 1 representing no heat days and 12 representing 210 or more heat days in a year. Similar to the USDA hardiness map, this one is also color-coded.

4. Climate-friendly gardening – With rising global temperatures and the adverse effects of climate change being glaringly apparent every year, gardeners need to step up their game and move towards sustainability. It all starts with choosing the right plants for your garden. Suggest the Hardiness map along with the heat zone map and choose plants that are going to survive in your garden without a lot of effort. When you choose exotic plants that can’t adapt to the local conditions, they consume more resources and do more harm than good.

After choosing the right plants according to the climate and soil conditions of your local region, you can also adopt practices that are good for your and the environment. For instance, you can start with composting. Composting is extremely easy and anyone with a plastic drum can do it. You just throw in organic waste like sawdust, old leaves, food waste, and other such materials into the bin and rotate it periodically to get rich organic compost. This helps you grow plants without the need for chemical fertilizers and also improved the soil structure for better water retention.

You can also get rid of the water-hogging grass and plant native ground cover that’s suited to your local region. If your yard has the space, you can also plant more native trees. This improves the air quality, invites local wildlife, and the shade from the tree will also reduce energy consumption for cooling your home.   


A fine gardener does a lot of research before creating a garden bed. Apart from researching plants, they figure out the hardiness zones, heat zones, and other weather and climate factors. They also adopt climate-friendly gardening practices to make their gardens for a sustainable future. You can always take the shortcut by searching for “landscape companies near me” and hiring professionals to do the tough work for you.


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