Whether you’re a new or experienced gardener, there’s only one thing you should be concerned about: the health of your plants. Now, many of the factors to a plant’s health are within your control – but not all of them. There are some factors that you’ll have to work with, and not all of them are pleasant. The main factors you have to deal with are the following:
- Climate and weather,
- Growing seasons,
- and native plants.
A good balance between the above factors will help ensure that you are able to grow plants successfully and get the best yield possible. Let’s discuss them one by one.
Climate and Weather
The climate in your region is crucial to the survival of the plants in your garden. Plants that normally grow in a sunny and dry climate cannot survive in areas that constantly covered with frost – and vice versa. You need to determine what your local climate is in order to figure out what plants you can grow in your garden. For this, you can refer to Hardiness Zone maps.
Hardiness zones, also called gardening zones, are geographically defined areas that show where a specific category of plant life can grow. These zones are identified depending on the overall climatic condition of the region as well as the minimum temperature recorded in that area.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) was the first to develop hardiness zones, but they have since been adapted elsewhere. The viability of plants in a gardening zone depends on the lowest temperature that they can stand.
To find out the plant hardiness zone that your area belongs to, know the average annual minimum temperature of your area and use the guide on the right to find the corresponding hardiness zone number.
If you’d like to look at the actual zone map for your location, you can find them via the links below (click on the links to open them):
- The Interactive USDA Hardiness Zone Map
- Europe’s Hardiness Zone Map
- Plant Hardiness Zones for Australia
Should you need a printed copy of your hardiness zone map, check your local bookstores and gardening supply stores.
The zones may give you a broad idea of the overall climate in your area, but it’s not specific. It doesn’t take into consideration other conditions that can affect your gardening area. The location of your garden, and any nearby fixtures such as lakes and tall buildings, can greatly affect your garden. Because of this, the temperature, the amount of sunshine, and the amount of rainfall tend to deviate from what the hardiness maps indicate.
Nearby bodies of water such as a lake or a river can affect the temperature in your garden. If the body of water is big enough, it can also affect wind patterns. Determine how much the temperature in your garden differs from other areas in your locale. If the change is dramatic, plant varieties that can handle the temperature better. To protect your garden from strong winds, you can put up screens that can break the force of the wind keeping it from damaging your plants.
Given the factors that can affect the climate in your garden, it may be safer to judge a vegetable’s hardiness by considering how tolerant it is to certain conditions as opposed to following any set rules as determined by a map. The hardiness zone maps may be worth considering, but they shouldn’t completely dictate your choice of plants.
Now that you know where certain plants grow best, it’s time to address the “when”.
The amount of space you have for a garden will determine how big it is going to be. If you have enough space to lay out beds, do so. When you have a small garden, you know that every inch of space is important. If you do not have much space or if you have no vacant ground, you should use pots and planting boxes instead.
To maximize space, you can place smaller vegetables like radishes in between rows of fruit bearing plants such as peppers and tomatoes. This will help you get the most out of your garden, especially if you are working with a small plot of land.
Another great way to save maximize space in a garden is by utilizing vertical space. Don’t let creeping vegetables such as cucumbers, squash, or gourds grow on the ground. Train them to crawl on trellises. Cucumbers and similar vegetables may also be grown from hanging pots. By growing these vegetables on a trellis or hanging baskets, you are saving space while also protecting your crop from any diseases they may get from the soil.
The ‘growing season’ is the length of time that your area can provide the necessary growing conditions for your vegetables to reach maturity and produce crop. In temperate climates, this season typically stretches from the last frost experienced in spring to the first frost of fall. For these areas, the first few weeks after the last frost of spring is an ideal time to start planting, as it will give them enough time to grow and produce crop before winter sets in.
Growing seasons vary from state to state. It may be shorter for some and longer in others. In states that experience tropical or subtropical climates like Hawaii and California, the growing season can span the entire year.
Australia and New Zealand, on the other hand, are on the southern hemisphere. This means that their growing seasons are reversed compared to countries in the northern hemisphere, such as the US, Canada, and Britain. So for those who live south of the equator, spring starts in September while winter starts in June.
So that it won’t be confusing to readers, throughout the rest of this site I’m usually going to refer to gardening time lines based on the seasons rather than months.
Native plants can play a big role in the success of your garden. In some cases, they can hamper your garden’s growth and take over foreign plants because they are more adapted to the climate and planting conditions of the area. On the other hand, you can use native plants to your advantage and choose to plant them instead of foreign varieties in order to get a fuller yield.
Many gardeners advocate the use of native plants as opposed to foreign varieties. This is because native plant varieties are usually easier to grow – they’re more adapted to the local environment! Native plant varieties are also more beneficial to the local insect community than foreign plants are. They are usually more resistant to weather patterns and to local diseases and pests. So if you’ve never tried gardening before, a native plant would be the best way to start.
How do you know which types of fruits and vegetables are native to your area? First, you can inquire from your local nurseries regarding which plants are native to your area. Local nurseries are also great resources for purchasing seeds or seedlings of native plants. Other resources for information on native plants include the local library, plant catalogs, and the internet.
Since native plants are better adapted to their surroundings, they can easily dominate foreign varieties. When using both native and foreign plants in your garden. It may best if you plant them in separate areas. This way, you can give your foreign varieties a better chance at survival because the will not be competing for nutrients with more adapted native varieties.