Landscaping for Your Climate

Consider local temperature, moisture, soil and insects when revamping the yard.

Posted by Steve Graham | Jan 10, 2010
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Landscaping is not a one-size-fits-all project. The local climate has a huge impact on a successful landscaping project. Homeowners need to consider the temperature, moisture, soil and insects in their area when renovating the yard.

Taking Temperatures

The first and most important climate consideration is temperature; each plant species thrives in a specific temperature range. A pair of maps can help you choose the right plants for your area. The US Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zone map divides North America into 11 zones, according to the average minimum winter temperature. The sub-arctic Zone 1 dips down below -50° Fahrenheit, and the tropical zone 11 tops 40°F throughout the winter.

The American Horticultural Society created a slightly different heat zone map with 12 zones based on the average number of days with temperatures above 86°F. Plants are often marked with their temperature tolerance, and they may even have the hardiness zone listed on the seed packet or plant stake.

Measuring Moisture

The next consideration in climate is humidity and moisture in the soil. Thirsty plants in arid climates will require frequent watering, which is expensive and labor-intensive. Plus, frequent watering is bad for the environment because it wastes water, which is becoming increasingly scarce. In the same vein, a homesick Arizona native will drown and kill cacti in water-drenched Louisiana.

In dry climates, mulch and other ground covers are important for preventing rapid evaporation of water. On the other hand, too much water in the soil can push out oxygen and suffocate plants. Wet-climate landscaping may require raising or lowering parts of the garden to improve drainage.

Wind is a related consideration. Heavy, constant wind in Wyoming can dry out and stress plants. Landscapers need to consider windbreaks.

Rating the Soil

Landscaping projects also must account for the local soil conditions. Preparing a new landscape in the sandy deserts of Nevada is a different process than landscaping in rich, fertile Midwest soil. Poor soils must be improved each year with compost and other organic materials. Landscape designs in weaker soils must factor in annual tilling.

Also, determine the average pH rating for your region before beginning a landscaping project. You may need to add more organic materials, as well as lime or sulfur, to reach the neutral or slightly acid soil conditions that are optimal for most home landscaping.

The Birds and the Bugs

Finally, insect species and populations vary between regions. However, only 10 percent of insects are destructive to plants, and gardeners should focus on plant species that attract the beneficial insects and bug-chomping birds that are native to their climate.

Fungal diseases are another garden scourge. Gardeners in wetter, more fungus-prone regions will need to take care to spread out plants to improve air circulation, and be vigilant about picking off rotting plant parts.

For more detailed information, consult your local Cooperative Extension Service. The experts at the extension office can help you landscape for your local climate, and they know how to account for temperature, moisture, soil quality and insects while revamping your landscape.

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