Most people are aware of the climate zones we use to define the usual weather patterns in an area. They can tell a humid subtropical zone from a temperate one and can pack accordingly for the weather. However, these zones are not all the information you need to decide what kind of plants will grow outside, as they do not take into account the soil condition. What grows in one humid subtropical town may not thrive in another. If you want to make sure you choose plants that match your climate zone, you'll need to look up what plant hardiness zone you're in.

Plant hardiness zones are much smaller and harder to classify than the climate zones we are familiar with. While a climate zone can be guessed at simply by observing the typical weather around your neighborhood, to determine your plant hardiness zone you will also have to study and sample the local plant life as well as testing the soil for its' composition and hardness. Other factors that will have to be considered include frost depth, wind speed, snow coverage, and the minimum winter temperatures in your area.

If you want to find out which plat hardiness zone you belong to, there are certain indicator shrubs and trees that can give you a clue. For example, if there are a lot of sycamore trees around your building, that can indicate it's in the 5b hardiness zone, while a lot of white spruce indicates that you're in zone 1. However, you don't need to go to all that trouble - you can simply look at the maps compiled by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada or the United States Department of Agriculture to see which zone your home is located in. Their maps are posted online.

It is important to know what climate zone and plant hardiness zone you live in because it will affect not only the type of clothes you will want to buy to handle the weather but also the types of plants that will survive in the garden outside around everyone's decks. A person may have a particular fondness for Douglas Fir trees, but the area around his home will be too warm and dry for such a tree to survive. A list of plants that are likely to survive in each climate zone can be found on the same websites as the plant hardiness maps.

The most recent plant hardiness map for Canada dates to the year 2000. A North York resident for example, can use this to find out that her is 4a. The hardiness zones in Canada range from 0a (in the Arctic) to 8a, which appears in the Pacific Southwest. The American map begins with 5a near the border and progresses all the way to 11 down near the border with Mexico.

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