Last year was difficult for many people due to COVID-19, and our normal activities and rituals were disrupted.  We all had to give up many of our daily routines. Some of us picked up new hobbies in order to continue to thrive mentally and physically.  One fantastic outcome of Covid was how many more people ventured into their back yards and started to garden.

How has gardening changed this year compared to last year?With all the self-isolation, the garden was a safe place to go. No masks required!  Gardening can be done individually or as a family and tends to bring peace and tranquility to people that work the ground.

It has been a long winter for most parts of Canada and the United States as well with many record setting days of cold and snow.  As April quickly approaches many of us gardeners are dreaming of the day we can get back outside and start our flower and vegetable gardens.

If you are new to gardening, you probably have many questions. In the coming weeks I will cover some of the most frequently asked questions in gardening that beginners have.  Please feel free if you are an avid gardener to give your feedback and knowledge as well. Together as a gardening community we are stronger.

 Questionsof the Week

What is a HARDINESSZONE, and why is it important to know?

Before you start to garden you should know what gardening zone you are in.  There are 13 zones in the United States, and 9 in Canada.  Other countries have adopted systems close to the Hardiness zones used in the USA. Canada also uses rainfall, frost free days and other considerations to the growing year. The results are similar to the USDA system.

The reason these zones are important is it will tell you what types of plants grow better in your back yard and withstand the cold winter temperatures. The zone will also give you an indication on when you want to start cleaning up your garden and when you start to plant.

Below are the Hardiness zones for Canada and the USA



Some gardeners are lucky and can garden all year long. As for me, I am in zone 4a, which means we have more cold months than warm. A good example of why you need to know these zones is because they indicate growing temperatures and times to plant. 

If I planted tomatoes outside with seeds, I would not get any tomatoes at all because by the time they ripen it’s fall and the freezing temperatures are already back. I always purchase big plants from a greenhouse that have tomatoes on them already. I will then have beautiful tomatoes that I can enjoy all summer. Check your local green houses and make sure you plan ahead.

This subject of zones is huge, and we could write pages and pages on it. What I would like to do is just give a quick introduction on the subject. Once you discover which zone you are in, I will direct you to some links where you can get more information.

How do I know what to plant?

The Plant Zone hardiness maps determine which plants grow better in different areas. The zones are based on lowest temperature recorded over a certain period. Over the years the original zones have changed somewhat. There were new zones added, and as the data has improved some sections were extended into different zones.

You will find however that if a zone states the plants are best grown in certain areas, it doesn’t mean you can’t try them in your own back yard.

Certain areas also have their own microclimates. How exposed your plants are to the elements are big factors for most plants surviving over the winter. Hardiness scales do not consider how snow acts as an insulator to the roots of plants. However, one never knows how much snow will come during the winter months. Sometimes roots are exposed to extreme cold for longer periods of time with no snow to protect them. In colder regions some plants survive the winter one year, and then the same plant will not make it the next year.

As you garden more you will also find that there are similar plants out there that have been bred for hardier areas.  For example if you look at roses like the Wild Rose, shrub roses, and Explorer Roses, they are naturally occurring plants for colder areas. Check your local experts and find out what plants work in your area.

In conclusion, start planning your vegetable and flower gardens now. Check out your hardiness zone and determine what type of plants you can grow. All of us gardeners are looking forward to a new growing season and getting our hands into the soil and creating our own little world of beauty .

Additional Links to what plants to use in each zone:

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