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Understanding Your Growing Zone for A Better Harvest

Jan 17, 2019
Understanding Your Growing Zone for A Better Harvest
By: Cat Murphy
Whether you’ve got a small garden or a large farming operation, knowing the unique qualities of your growing zone will ultimately help create a better harvest. The ability to understand the nuances of your climate and microclimate is a lifelong skill that eludes many young farmers. 
Know Your Zone
Most farmers know the growing zone their region is in but maybe not the specific microclimate.  The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map will help identify your zone and allow you to zoom in and learn more about your farm’s unique conditions. 
Many farmers have land that is scattered around the region, so knowing the exact conditions of each piece of land is essential to planning a harvest. These conditions rely heavily on the surrounding natural landforms like mountains, hills, valleys, and water accessibility. By understanding these conditions in your appropriate zone, you’ll be able to pinpoint what local vegetables and plants thrive and can be the most fruitful. It’s also best to understand that the conditions on one plot could be drastically different from other pieces of land just a few miles away.
Know Your Weather
Farmers with crops in the field tend to keep a close eye on the sky. The weather is an intricate part of growing a bountiful harvest after a year of hard work. Depending on your farm’s specific location, weather conditions can change within the instant. Having an understanding of weather patterns, as well as a good recollection of past years, is important when understanding your growing zone. Unusual hot or cold snaps will have a major impact on the outcome of the harvest and should be checked daily in order to make adjustments in the field.
Know the Conditions
Soil conditions can sometimes vary within feet on one piece of land. Understanding how different parts of your land react to the climate is important when planning for a successful harvest. Farmers who have soggy soil conditions, and lose a lot of drowned seed, will need to make adjustments to their land by adding tile in order to help better drain the topsoil.  Likewise, certain parts of the country also need extensive irrigation in order to grow a healthy crop. Knowing how the soil will react is vital when it comes to understanding your growing zone.
Know Your Seed
Your seed distributor will most likely be someone local who understands the climate that your farm faces each year. But you also need to become an expert on which seeds will yield the most. Talk with your seed distributor about last year’s yield and any adjustments that need to be made this year in order to reap the same or even better results this year.  
Cat Murphy is a gardening and landscaping writer, and outdoor extraordinaire. She enjoys cooking for family and friends and going on long hikes anywhere and everywhere in nature.