On planning for creeping USDA/planting zones

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Mon, Jan 7, 2013 - 11:39am

Frankly, I remember a different climate. In the 1960s I remember the Great South Bay--a large brackish area between Jones Beach and Long Island--freezing so solid you could drive cars on it. Snows happened every year in my childhood, despite our being on the Atlantic Ocean coast. By the time I left NY snow was rare on Long Island. As a gardener, this had consequences.

  • In 50 years, Long Island NY crept from USDA Zone 4.5 to Zone 5.5. I was thrilled in that certain foodstuffs we'd been unable to grow that far north were starting to work in my area. The negatives? Certain plant diseases and insects had crept further north, too.
  • Here, 600+ miles south of Long Island in the Carolina Midlands, the fact that things are hotter in the summer is a little more problematic. There is actually a "dead zone" in August where little grows.

In both regions the solution is the same: adapt or perish.

Think a zone or two south of you: When you plant new annuals, perennials, bushes, or trees they should be things that will grow south of you.Our jalapenos loved the month of 100-degree heat: they thought they were in Mexico. In case of severe weather aim not to plant things in the very northern part of a plant's range, but near the top. Example: We added an Alberquina olive tree that will grow up to 200 miles north us us, and up to 600 miles south of us. All of our seeds are also "drought and heat toleant."

Solution: variety. We also have multiple varieties of things like tomatoes, peas, lettuces, carrots, cabbage or string beans which is a very inexpensive kind of "food insurance." Multiple varieties will give you a chance to find something that will live through north-creeping insect problems and plant diseases.

Mulch & Shade: Last year we experimented with shade cloth and mulch. In our very non-scientific small sample, we discovered that shade cloth should only be used during the fiercest part of the day's heat.  Mulch is one of the smartest things you can do, though. Once you water your garden the mulch keeps the water in the soil from evaporating.

Misting: During our sweltering August we had limited success in misting the tomatoes at night to keep some of our tomatoes from dropping thier flower buds and refusing to fruit (most tomaotoes stop fruiting when nighttime temps stay above 70 F). It depened on the variety to tomato.

Siting: Our apple trees and strawberries were planted on the north side of the house, where things are cooler. Per our Cooperative Extension's advice our blueberries are sited six feet from the trunk of a long-needled pine tree that provides them with with acidic soil and dappled shade. But things that are sun and heat loving are cited on the south and southwest sides of the property: crops like jalapenos, olives, oranges, Texas everbearing figs, peanuts and okra that can take the heat.

Has your gardening been affected by climate change? Please share your strategies, sucesses and "lessons learned"


kevinoman0221's picture
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 25 2008
Posts: 144
Very interesting. Thanks!

Very interesting. Thanks!

bmega's picture
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 4 2009
Posts: 12
nice review article

Thanks for such a good review article of practicle considerations with plants in warmer climates.

... I grew up in PA, and have  live in Raleigh, NC for some 30 years..   

Harrisburg PA NOW has the same USdA climate zone that Raleigh, NC did when i first moved here!



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