CLIMATE AND SOILS
PLANT HARDINESS ZONES
The USDA has updated their Plant Hardiness Map that divides the nation into regions based on average minimum temperatures. These are not absolute minimums, but average annual temperatures. These Zones are used to describe the range in which plants are adapted to and can be grown. We list these Zones for each of our products. From North to South - Dark Purple is Zone 4, Blue Zone 5, Dark Green Zone 6, Pale Green Zone 7, Yellow Zone 8, and Tan Zone 9.
Inside these Zones, variation in elevation, site location, directional orientation and proximity to bodies of water such as lakes can create variation in temperature than can raise or lower the temperatures experienced at the site. These micro- climates can allow or prohibit the planting of particular plants. Fruit trees that break dormancy early may likewise be damaged by late season frosts that settle in frost pockets at the bottom of valleys or even swales, whereas higher on hillsides the cold air drains off down to the bottom and does not damage the trees. The south side of a hill or mountain can be much warmer with winter sun and protection from cold north winter winds. Consideration of micro-climate is very important in choosing where to plant.
Try to pick a location that avoids low lying frost pockets or areas that stay wet in the spring for long periods during snow melt.
Soils vary widely across the Eastern U.S., from the red clay of the Appalachians, to the alluvial soils of Mississippi riverbottoms, to the hardpan of poorly drained pine flatwoods in the coastal plains of the South. Soils may vary substantially even within one property, depending on location and prior use, whether hillside, bottomland, or top of a hill.
The best soils for growing trees are well-drained, sand to clay loams, which are relatively common in much of the farm lands across the eastern U.S. A clue to the productivity of the soil are the types of native trees growing on the site – if it supports large oaks and other hardwoods, it is probably suitable to plant. If the only trees on your land are pines, then you may have to add organic matter and nutrients to the soil.
Local Agricultural Extension offices will perform soil analysis as a free service and they will recommend what treatments will be necessary to create an optimum soil conditions to grow trees.
Soil’s acidity or alkalinity is determined by pH. The best pH for growing most nut and fruit trees is between 5.0 and 7.0. It is in this range that most nutrients are available. Soils in much of the East fall within this range. Soils in pine flatwoods are often lower (4.5-5.0), and need to be raised by the application of lime or dolomite. Other areas (such as Texas) have soils with pH > 8, which will need to be acidified or lowered by the application of nitrogen sulfate or other sulfur-based fertilizers.