Do You Know Your Zone?

I’m looking through seed catalogs.  I have been dreaming and glossy photo shopping for a month now, but today I am sitting with my garden journal–where I keep track of what and where I grew vegetables and flowers last year, as well as a rough map for this year’s garden. I have a pad of paper and a pencil and I’m going back to the turned down and book marked pages and making the final cut.  It’s time to order.

Some seeds I start in the house—not so many these days, but a few.  Others are planted according to directions on the back of seed packets, knowledge I’ve gained from previous years, and all loosely based on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.


USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, 2012. Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed from

If you’ve not gardened much, the references to zones in seed catalogs, in nurseries and on packaging can be confusing.  Basically, the Hardiness Zone Map gives garden climate information.  Gardeners can use the map to check where plants have grown well, and particularly in northern climates, which plants can withstand cold temperatures.

 The first such map was published in 1960, and divided North America into 11 zones. Each zone is approximately 10 degrees warmer than the previous zone.  The USDA reissued a map in 1990, and then again in 2012.  Each map shows the mean extreme temperatures in each zone over a 30-year period. The 1990 map added Mexico and Canada; the most recent map added zones 12 and 13. “A” and “B” have also been added to some zones.

To find your own zone, CLICK HERE, and just put in your zip code.

For a little more information, as well as another zone finder, look over the National Gardening Association’s Website.

Knowing your “zone” helps a bit when you’re ordering seeds, planting your garden, or even just talking to other gardeners.


This post was shared with The Backyard Farming Connection and The HomeAcre Hop.

A Review — Vertical Vegetable Gardening

Vertical Vegetable Gardening: A Living Free Guide by Chris McLaughlin

Paperback: 288 pages

Publisher: ALPHA (December 31, 2012)

ISBN: 978-1615641833


This is the time of year that I curl up with my garden journal, my pencil and the pile of seed catalogs that have been packing my mailbox for the past few weeks.  This year, I have one more item on my desk as I begin the wonderful task of planning my garden

 I was given the privilege of previewing Master Gardener Chris McLaughlin’s newest book Vertical Vegetable Gardening. This well researched, smartly written offering has earned a place of honor on my shelf of gardening books.

Vertical Vegetable Gardening is divided into four distinct parts: the first section explaining exactly what, and how, “growing up” instead of the usual “growing out” entails.  I’m not a beginning gardener, but I’ve never tackled trellises, hanging gardens or arbors.  Tackle? Chris McLaughlin’s do-it-yourself directions and diagrams appear as easy to follow, as they are to read.  I think my favorite section in Part 1 may be the long list of possibilities for creating garden containers. I have been peering into the rafters of my garage and behind outbuildings, and I think I’ve discovered a gold mine—springs from an old crib and leftover wire panels in two sizes!

Section Two in McLaughlin’s book is a wonderful explanation of gardening basics. Soil is discussed, pH is defined, and compost is described in depth. This part takes those gardening terms that one may have heard: heirloom seeds, open-pollinated, hybrid, and makes them easy to understand. In addition, in Part 2 of Vertical Vegetable Gardening, McLaughlin talks about starting seeds and getting them ready for the garden. I can hardly wait to make willow water to use as a natural rooting product!

McLaughlin uses Part 3 in Vertical Vegetable Gardening to discuss growing and tending a healthy garden; she covers pruning, crop rotation, soil amendments and irrigation in a casual, yet knowledgeable way. Beginning gardeners will easily learn ways to nurture their soil and plants, while more seasoned gardeners will benefit from tips and advice sprinkled lavishly throughout.  Beneficial and predator insects are discussed in this third section, as are suggestions for pest control.  I have plans to look closely at insects I find in my garden this year—if there are predator insects, I’ll look for the “cavalry”, too!

The fourth section in Chris McLaughlin’s Vertical Vegetable Gardening is all about—gardening vertically! Vegetables like beans, cucumbers and peas that naturally grow up are discussed. Ideas for containers and placement according to sunlight needs are given, and suggested varieties as “best bets” are described.  Vegetables that don’t naturally grow up, the “vertically challenged” ones, are easily grown in containers, according to McLaughlin, or in the spaces vacated by climbing vegetables. The final chapters of this educational and entertaining book are about all the possibilities of vertically growing fruits and herbs.  I learned espalier is a noun as well as a verb, strawberries can be grown in an old kitchen colander (and don’t think for a minute that I’m not going to try this), and that herbs can be grown nearly anywhere, but prefer to grow everywhere.

I recommend Vertical Vegetable Gardening to the beginning gardener—you’ll learn how to build a garden from the soil up. For the more advanced gardener—Chris McLaughlin offers suggestions, tips and new ideas, and for other Master Gardeners—there’s always something new to be learned. Chris McLaughlin’s casual style of writing, peppered (pun intended) with bursts of delightful humor gives her well-researched newest book a prime spot on my bookshelf. It should be on yours, as well.

Vertical Vegetable Gardening is available at Amazon and all other major booksellers.   You can follow author and Master Gardener Chris McLaughlin on Facebook and Twitter or visit her website




You might like Chris McLaughlin’s other books, too:

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting

Hobby Farms: Rabbits: Small-Scale Rabbit Keeping

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Heirloom Vegetables

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Small-Space Gardening

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