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How to Determine Your Climate Zone

Guess what? Certain plants won't survive in your climate zone. Here's how to figure out what that means and find the plants that will.

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Yes, there’s such a thing as an official climate zone. And yes, you live in one. And most importantly…yes, it’s actually important to know which one you’re in. But relax, it’s easy.

The “USDA hardiness zones” divide North America into horizontal regions based on the lowest temperature at which plants will remain…hardy. Makes sense, doesn’t it? The numbers generally go from low (way up in Canada) to high as you move down south, but things like altitude and rural versus city can also affect your zone. Climate change means the zones are always changing, so make sure you’re looking at an updated map -- the National Gardening Association has one we like (Garden.org/ZipZone). While the number of your zone probably won’t mean much to you, whatever gardening professionals you work with will be able to let you know how it affects what plants you’re best off growing.

There are a few exceptions to the USDA zones -- you might live in a microclimate if your yard is very protected from the harsh winds or scorching sun by fences, trees, or buildings. Or, alternately, if you live on a busy, open street with lots of pollution and traffic. Either one of these extremes will let you grow more or less sensitive plants, respectively.

Nestpert: Thomas McClain is a Minnesota landscape designer and owner of GrowWithDesign.com.

-- The Nest Editors

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