The Q&A Archives: What Does "Zone" Mean?

Question: I am just starting out with my gardening. I have so far found it exciting as well as frustrating. I am getting lots of advice from all over. One of the biggest problems I have is everyone talks about what "ZONE" they are in and how it dictates so many things in the planting process. Could you please tell me the "ZONE" I live in. I live in the Salt Lake City Valley in Utah.

Answer: Usually, when people talk about zones, they are referring to the US Dept of Agriculture (USDA) zone map. This map divides the country into zones, based on the average lowest winter temperature. Your USDA zone is one way to help determine which perennial plants will survive in your region. Since climates vary widely--even within the same USDA zone (for example, one zone 8 region might be in a rainforest, while another is in a desert)--the zone information is just one tool in choosing plants.

The USDA zone map works best in the eastern half of the country. In the west, the variables--elevation, rainfall, etc.-- that affect a plant's ability to thrive are more extreme. Therefore, many western gardeners use the Sunset Western Garden Book's zone system. You might find this book a very valuable resource as you pursue your gardening hobby. Also, neighbors who garden are a great source of information--they have first-hand experience about what grows well in your region.

You are in USDA zone 7, and Sunset zone 2.

Good Luck!

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