USDA Hardiness Zones

The record warm temperatures that we are currently having in Moultonborough and the Lakes Region in general, may have you thinking about your garden instead of more traditional winter activities that should be happening now. Have you spent some time browsing through plant catalogs or garden design websites? Well, before you type in your credit card number and hit the “purchase” button on your keyboard hoping that the gorgeous blooms in those pictures will pop up in your garden this year, be sure you have read all of the fine print associated with the plant of your dreams. Most important of all of the information is the hardiness zone for each plant. What is our “zone” here in Moultonborough, NH and why does it matter when it comes to your garden?

The US Department of Agriculture produces a map for gardeners based on the average of low temperature readings taken from weather stations throughout the United States. The idea is to give the garden industry a way to communicate the cold hardiness of landscape plants. On the tags found on most plants, trees and shrubs, you will often see “hardy to zone ___”.

This is a great clue as to whether or not the plant is likely to survive in our area. In Moultonborough and most of the Lakes Region of New Hampshire we are somewhere between a zone 4 and 5. Your zone will have the USDA number and either an ‘a’ or a ‘b’ attached, with ‘a’ meaning that you are on the colder end of the zone and ‘b’ indicating that you are in slightly milder territory. The more protected and sunny a spot is, the more likely it is that a zone 5 plant will survive. And conversely, in a more exposed area it would be a safer bet to stick to zone 4 materials.

Winter is always slow to let go here in the Northeast. It may even still be snowing in April in some corners of the Lakes Region, but a good start to the gardening season involves getting your flowers early and acclimating them to spring’s uncertain temperatures so they are ready to explode into color as soon as possible. The last frost date varies from April 15 to May 15, but the number of nights below freezing will become fewer and fewer as April proceeds. Gardeners are often notorious for “pushing the zone” and trying a plant that isn’t necessarily hardy for their zone. Sometimes you get lucky and find the perfect spot where an unlikely plant just thrives! When our green thumbs start to itch early in the season we often start with container plants so that if Mother Nature sends a late season frost, we can easily move our plantings under cover. If you just can’t control yourself and dare to put them in the ground, just be aware that you may need to cover them if very cold temperatures are predicted.

Here is a list of some of the annuals we often start with that will generally tolerate spring’s cold and still flower all summer!

 Plant List

  1. Supertunia® Picasso in Pink® Petunia
  2. Superbena® Sparkling Ruby Verbena
  3. Superbells® Frostfire Calibrachoa
  4. Snow Princess® Lobularia
  5. Butterfly and Vanilla Butterfly® Argyranthemum
  6. Surefire® Red & Rose Begonia
  7. Diamond Frost® Euphorbia
  8. Señorita Blanca® Cleome
  9. Flirtation® Pink Diascia
  10. Illusion® series Ipomoea

http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/InteractiveMap.aspx