The Q&A Archives: Zone Numbering System

Question: I recently purchased several packets of seeds from a local retailer. The instructions on the packet refer to "Zones 5 and 6". I have no idea what zone number I am in, because the packets don't have a map on them, and I am assuming that they are OK to plant in my area. Also, the zone map on your web site is not numbered, so it was of no particular help to me. I live in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Can you please tell me what zone I am in?

Answer: You are near the edge of zones 5 and 6; the zones are based on average winter low temperature and so the microclimate in your garden can affect it. If your garden is very windy, for example, plan for zone 5. If it is sheltered and in town, plan for zone 6. There may also be individual locations within your yard that are significantly warmer or colder than others. You may also find that you are in a frost pocket and often have frost later in the spring and earlier in the fall than your neighbors. This can have an effect on seeds planted outdoors.

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