Sunday, January 29, 2012

New USDA Planting and Gardening Zones -- The Blog formerly known as Zone Five and a Half *

Change was clearly coming, but ever resistant, the news is still challenging.  The signs were all there, liriope looking green and hardy in March, snowcaps poking out in December, and those resilient weeds, poison ivy for example, just about everywhere.  One bottle of Calamine lotion used to last ten years, but no longer.

Global warming, heat islands created by urban concrete and steel, whatever the reason, the United States Department of Agriculture has made it official, our ZIP code now firmly lands in Zone 6a.  The higher the zone number, the warmer the climate.  This new zone extends even north of Eight Mile Road. 

Likely the true cause is the addition of more subzones, and the recognition that the former sweeping zones were a bit too broad.

The significance to the gardener?  Plants which are marginally hardy are more likely to survive.  This doesn't mean less snow in the winter or hotter temperatures in the summer, but merely that the average lower temperatures haven't plummetted consistently as expected.  The lower range in still rather chilly at -10 to -5 degrees Centigrade.  The absence of snow this winter is palpable to all, and a bit weird, but harken back to last year when the shoveling was endless.  Climate changes are gradual and imperceptible.  Next year we could be up to our knees in the white stuff. 

If pop stars* and athletes can change their names, I suppose this humble blog could do so also, but then the nice lady from Rockford street might not find it.  So, at least for now, the name will remain. 

Don't plant any palm trees or orange groves just yet, though.