Spring is here and gardeners everywhere are itching to get their vegetables planted and ensure their existing perennials bloom. There is a sense of pride for growing the first tomato in the neighborhood. Before you get ahead of yourself, make sure you are aware of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones and frost dates.

USDA plant hardiness zones

It’s essential to understand what plants are able to thrive in your zone. The Plant Hardiness Zone Map was developed by Arnold Arboretum and the USDA.

There are 13 zones throughout the United States indicated on the map. The lower the zone number, the lower the average winter temperature for a given area and vise versa for higher zone numbers.

When you purchase your next plant read the plant tag and it will list what USDA Hardiness Zones that particular plant will survive in.

Frost dates

Now that you understand what plants can grow in your area, you must consider frost dates. Early spring brings about unpredictable weather conditions. Night time temperatures still drop low enough to create a layer of frost in the evenings and early mornings.

It’s important to know when the last frost date is so you know when to protect your garden. Reference the Farmer’s Almanac to find out the last time spring frost is likely to be a problem in your area.

Protect plants from frost

Protecting your plants from the cold can be accomplished in many different ways. The key is to cover your plants during the time frame when frost develops. A good rule of thumb is to cover your plants between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. the night before a forecasted frost.

Don’t make the mistake of leaving your plants covered past 8 a.m. as this will deprive the plants of much needed oxygen and sunlight.

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