Central Plains

These zone descriptions will guide you in choosing the right plants for your garden

ZONE 1. Coldest Winters in the West and Western Prairie States
Zones 1, 2, and 3 are the snowy parts of the West — the regions where snow falls and stays on the ground (for a day, a week, or all winter) every year. Of the three snowy-winter climates, Zone 1 is by far the coldest.

The extreme winter cold of regions in Zone 1 can be caused by any or all of the three factors that create cold winters: latitude, influence of teh contenintal air mass, and elevations (the higher you go, the colder it gets).

In this zone, gardeners plant with a 75- to 150-day growing season in mind, though frosts can occur any night of the year. The zone's longer, more reliable growing seasons usually occur wehere large bodies of water, like Flathead Lake in Montana, moderate the winter cold.

ZONE 2. Second-coldest Western Climate
Growing season: early May through Sept. Winters are cold (lows run from -3 degrees to -34 degrees F/-19 degrees to -37 degrees C), but less so than in Zone 1. In northern and interior areas, lower elevations fall into Zone 2, higher areas into Zone 1.

ZONE 10. High Desert Areas of Arizona, New Mexico, West Texas, Oklahoma Panhandle, and Southwest Kansas
Growing season: April to early Nov. Chilly (even snow-dusted) weather rules from late Nov. through Feb., with lows from 31 degrees to 24 degrees F/-1 degree to -4 degrees C. Rain comes in summer as well as in the cooler seasons.

ZONE 33. North Texas and Southern Oklahoma to Northern Alabama and Central Tennessee

Gardeners and farmers in Zone 33, one of the four climate zones entirely contained between the arid West and the Appalachians, will always have to reckon with two prime forces: warm, moist air that moves northward from the Gulf of Mexico and extremely cold air that (in some winters) moves south from the arctic.

Winters here are not consistent in their degree of chill. Several years may go by with lows in the high teens to low 20s. Then comes a year when frigid air from the Far North sweeps through, dropping lows to somewhere between 0º to 15ºF/–18º to –9C. Cold fronts like these typically produce very rapid temperature shifts—from shirt-sleeve temperatures to near zero in just a few hours.

Gardeners take these big freezes in stride. Perhaps a new fig tree grows for four winters, untouched by freezes, bearing big crops each summer. Then somes an arctic blast that kills the whole thing to the ground. Alas, says the gardener; but the next year he or she may again plant a fig or something else that likes the local climate most of the time.

Rainfall, like winter chill, is inconsistent. In a normal year, annual averages range from 22 to 52 inches. In drought years, though, some parts of Zone 33 may record only half to two-thirds the normal rainfall.

ZONE 35. Ouachita Mountains, Northern Oklahoma and Arkansas, Southern Kansas to North-Central Kentucky and Southern Ohio
Growing season: late April to late Oct. Rain comes in all seasons.

Throughout the central region of the United States and Canada, the climate in each area is determined by its latitude; by how much air from the Gulf of Mexico it gets midyear; and by how much arctic air it gets in winter. In Zone 35, these factors combine to produce a climate with hot, jumid summers (with highs from 103º to 114ºF/39º to 46ºC) and winters with typical lows of 19º to 24ºF/–7º to –4º C. When arctic air masses come through every few years, however, temperatures may drop as low as –20º F/–29º C.

Gardeners here enjoy success with a huge number of perennials; top-notch dependables include columbine, coreopsis, sunflower, hellebore, daylily, hosta, bee balm, peony, pholx, and Stokes' aster.

Many rhododendrons and azaleas do well in shady gardens, except in very windy areas and in those with alkaline soil. Roses to nicely, too; if adequately fertilized, they'll produce four or five flushes of bloom per year, though the fifth one is likely to be a bit weak.

Zone 35's normal annual rainfall is 36 to 42 inches. The growing season ranges from 150 to 240 days.

ZONE 41. Northeast Kansas and Southeast Nebraska to Northern Illinois and Indiana, Southeast Wisconsin, Michigan, Northern Ohio
Growing season: early May to early Oct. Winter brings average lows of -11 degrees to -20 degrees F/-23 degrees to -29 degrees C. Summers in this zone are hotter and longer west of the Mississippi, cooler and shorter nearer the Great Lakes; summer rainfall increases in the same west-to-east direction.

ZONE 41. Northeast Kansas and Southeast Nebraska to Northern Illinois and Indiana, Southeast Wisconsin, Michigan, Northern Ohio
Growing season: early May to early Oct. Winter brings average lows of -11 degrees to -20 degrees F/-23 degrees to -29 degrees C. Summers in this zone are hotter and longer west of the Mississippi, cooler and shorter nearer the Great Lakes; summer rainfall increases in the same west-to-east direction.

ZONE 41. Northeast Kansas and Southeast Nebraska to Northern Illinois and Indiana, Southeast Wisconsin, Michigan, Northern Ohio
Growing season: early May to early Oct. Winter brings average lows of -11 degrees to -20 degrees F/-23 degrees to -29 degrees C. Summers in this zone are hotter and longer west of the Mississippi, cooler and shorter nearer the Great Lakes; summer rainfall increases in the same west-to-east direction.

ZONE 43. Upper Mississippi Valley, Upper Michigan, Southern Ontario and Quebec
Growing season: late May to mid-Sept. The climate is humid from spring through early fall; summer rains are usually dependable. Arctic air dominates in winter, with lows typically from -20 degrees to -30 degrees F/-29 degrees to -34 degrees C.

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