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If you’re not sure what zone you’re in, visit the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map page and enter your zip code in the search bar.
Once you know your zone, you can determine which plants will thrive in your area and calculate the optimal time to get them in the ground. As a rule, you should plant after the last frost of the season. This frost-freeze calculator tells you about the average frost-free dates for your zip code. For example, in the Twin Cities area (zone 4b), there’s little chance of frost occurring after May 14. Up along the Canadian border (zone 3a), however, the last frost can come well into late May and even early June. Whether you’re starting vegetables from seed, or shopping for perennials at the local nursey, most seeds and plants come with information about the hardiness zones where they will thrive. They also tell you about the optimal temperature ranges for healthy growth. For instance, kale and broccoli are very hardy and can go in the ground right after the last frost. But tomatoes require long, warm days, so planting might have to wait a couple weeks more until the conditions are just right.For an exhaustive list of deciduous trees, fruit, vegetables, perennials, roses, shrubs, and other plants that can grow in each of Minnesota’s hardiness zones, visit the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Cold Hardiness List.
Of course, knowing your zone and which plants are best adapted to it is only the beginning. Each plant has unique needs for sunlight, water, soil type and fertilization. You also need to know about the various pests, blights, and diseases that can afflict your garden. Fortunately, a world of resources is only a click away. The University of Minnesota Extension has an exhaustive website covering every aspect of your Yard and Garden, from primers on trees, shrubs, vegetables, and native plants to guides on soil and nutrients, landscaping, and creating pollinator gardens. There is also an excellent resource that connects you with Master Gardeners who can answer all your questions about garden issues. The service is free, and most questions are answered within 48 hours.
Whether you have a few potted tomatoes on the veranda, or a yard filled with carefully cultivated flowers, your garden can be a zone of peace, fun, and fulfillment. As the English poet Alfred Austin said, “the glory of gardening is hands in dirt, head in the sun, and heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul.”
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