Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Word Wednesday: Hardiness

Spring is fast approaching, and it is time to get your planting underway. One of the first things a gardener, balcony gardener, or patio farmer needs to know is what plants to plant. In order to choose what plants will do well where you live, you need to know some basic facts about the hardiness of the plants you wish to grow.

From the Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening:
Hardiness is the quality which enables plants to survive the climatic conditions of the particular area where they are to be placed. When gardeners speak of a "hardy" plant, they usually mean one which will survive the winter. But the term can also be applied to plants native to a cold climate which will survive the heat of a more temperate climate. Gardeners quickly learn from experience that the degree of hardiness of a given plant can vary greatly according to local conditions. There are many variables...

So, you must know the hardiness of the plant, but that only gives you half the story. Next, you must know in what "hardiness zone" you live. And, even when you know that, you still must "keep in mind that local variations such as moisture, soil, winds, and other conditions might affect the viability of individual plants." (Arbor Day Foundation Hardiness Zone lookup by zip code) If you live outside North America in a European country, you can check the Europe Hardiness Zone Map and select your country. The European map is offered by Garden Web.com.

I live in Zone 7b to almost 8, so I need plants that will do well in zones 7 and 8. Some information breaks it down even further, and I often choose to find plants that will grow in zone 7b and 8a. (The Garden Helper.com) Now I can look in many places, including the National Gardening Association, to find out what plants grow in zones 7 and 8. Once you know your zone and some basic information about plant hardiness, you will need to know how to read a seed packet. If you know this, you will find great ease and enjoyment in selecting your seeds and perusing the seed packets on the shelf.

My personal opinion is that one should always look for heirloom seeds and keep them stocked! I explained this preference last year in a post offering information about types of seed. Now, I am off to plan my garden, inventory my seeds, and make a list of seeds to acquire. Indoor seed sowing is just around the corner!

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