Edible Landscaping
Outside The Planting Zone Map Lines

Once you understand the various kinds of planting zone map and look at the list of edible plants you love, you might come to realize that a plant you really want to have in your edible landscape doesn't fit the climate that the map says you have. This page is about how to fix that.

For example, you might love bananas. You love the way they look, you love eating them, they are your favorite fruit. But the planting zone map and all your research says they won't grow where you live. It's too cold, it's too dry, it's too windy. What do you do?

Let's think about it:

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What does the planting zone map tell you?

If you remember, there are various kinds of planting zones:

  • hardiness zones, which tell you how much cold a plant can take
  • heat stress zones, which tell you how much heat a plant can take
  • climate zones, which tell you the plant's preferred climate, which takes into account a number of factors, such as heat, cold, rainfall, and humidity.

In our example, the banana is a tropical climate plant. It likes moist heat. That's how it best grows. Frost will kill the exposed leaves, and a hard freeze can kill the whole plant, if it's not established. Too much wind will knock it over. Not enough water and it dies. Poor drainage and it gets root rot. Too hot or too cold and it stops growing.

So if you live in zone 3 or in a wind tunnel or in the desert, does this mean you can't grow bananas? According to the planting zone map ... no, you can't.

But what these maps and numbers are telling you is what the plant needs, and what your general area has. The maps don't know your particular yard, and they don't know how badly you want to grow bananas.

So never fear! There are strategies we can use to help even the worst mismatch of plant lover and their climate.

Find your best plant variety

There are many varieties of a particular plant, and some are better suited to shorter or longer days, colder or hotter weather, or have a shorter or longer growing season. Tomatoes -- originally a tropical fruit -- have varieties that can be grown almost anywhere in the world.

When you're looking at a particular edible plant, investigate different varieties of the plant. Which one thrives in a climate closest to yours?

If you live in zone 6 on your planting zone map, and you want to grow a plant with a normal range of zones 8-11, and the best one you find is a variety (also called a cultivar) that grows in zone 7, get it. (you might actually want to get two, in case this one dies, so you'll still have one).

Examine your microclimatology

My what??

Relax, I'll explain.

Microclimatology is the study of microclimates -- the climates of limited areas, such as houses or communities.

Today, we're going to study your yard.

You know your hardiness zone. You know your heat zone. You know your general climate (or what it's supposed to be -- the way the weather has been going, you never can tell anymore). But what we want to look at is your particular piece of property and how it's situated.

  • What is the weather at your house like compared to the rest of your area? For example, my yard is typically about 3-5 degrees warmer than what the newscaster says. Good in the winter, not so great in the summer.
  • What parts of the yard get the most sun? Where is your yard hot and where is it cold? If you're not sure, use a thermometer to see for yourself. You'll be surprised at the differences in temperature you find in the same yard on the same afternoon.
  • Where are the fences, trees, hedges, buildings, and other windbreaks?
  • Are there machines, vents or other heat-producing equipment in or near your yard? These can be an important part of your yard's microclimate.
  • Are there areas where it's always damp? The location of your downspouts can help you here sometimes. Go outside a day or two after a good rainstorm and see where water is pooling or where the ground is still soggy.
  • Are there areas where it's always dry?

If you've already made a map of your property, add this information in. You'll begin to see a pattern as to where certain plants should go.

Would you like to talk with other edible landscape artists like yourself from around the world? Join the Tasteful Landscape community. Just fill out the form and follow the instructions on the next page:

What would you like to read next? Here are some related pages:

Protecting plants from frost - Drought resistant plants

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