Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Weather Outside is Delightful-- Big News for Chicago Gardeners

Sometimes I wonder if I can win the lottery, today, like yesterday here in Chicago, it feels possible. The weather yesterday, registered 60 degrees here.

I have short-term good news for gardeners here in Chicago. It’s short term as in probably good for at least 50 years or something like that. The USDA has revised the hardiness zones.

The hardiness zones provide information based on the weather and climate. Specifically, it provides the annual average extreme minimum temperatures. For gardeners, it tells us how long are growing season will probably be. It is the time when the tender plants, like tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers, can be set out without worry about overnight low temperatures harming them.

Drum roll please, Chicago is now in zone 6a. That means the last expected frost date is April 15th, instead of last year’s May 15th. Yippee for us in summer 2012 and probably bad news for the polar bears, and Gaia.

From the USDA:

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Department of Agriculture(USDA) today released the new version of its Plant Hardiness Zone Map (PHZM), updating a useful tool for gardeners and researchers for the first time since 1990 with greater accuracy and detail. The new map—jointly developed by USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Oregon State University's (OSU)PRISM Climate Group—is available online ARS is the chief intramural scientific research agency of USDA.

For the first time, the new map offers a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based interactive format and is specifically designed to be Internet-friendly. The map website also incorporates a "find your zone by ZIP code" function. Static images of national, regional and state maps also have been included to ensure the map is readily accessible to those who lack broadband Internet access.

So what tender varieties are you putting outside in April?

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