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Know Your Climate Zones
January 27, 2014

A rare blue sky and sunny January day in southwest Michigan.

When the winds are directly out of the north, Lake Michigan influence (clouds) are negated.

Even on an 8 degrees Fahrenheit day, the sun felt oh so good.

Back to winter and reality.

Cold, wind, and snow made for some blizzard like conditions Friday into Saturday morning.

More cold, wind, and lake effect for Saturday and Sunday.

I think I'm ready for spring to come.

Feeding the birds is currently a full time job, or so it seems.

This past Wednesday, Yolanda's 'Real Life' class made bird feeders and hung them out around Hope Network.

With the help of the staff, the special needs people cut oranges in half and filled them with all sorts of goodies for the birds.

When I picked her up, everyone was watching the birds as they came to feed on the brightly decorated feeders.

Yolanda sees that everyday around here, but to watch everyone enjoy the birds was a treat.

Some staff even asked me a few questions.

I thank God daily for such a facility.

A side note:

Last week, our local news reported how Snowy owls are being shot and killed at the Ford International Airport.

Nine killed so far, as Snowy owls are being reported in record numbers this year.

and not just at airports.

After a public outcry, attempts to trap the owls are now being used.

Snowy owls aren't rare or endangered, but they are protected.

Airports allow for excellent hunting, as they offer wide, open fields for owls to watch for prey.

I read that Kennedy Airport in New York, has been shooting Owls too.

Owls can also be a hazard for planes taking off and landing.

If you haven't read about this near your airport, you may want to check into it, and voice your concerns.

It may seem a bit strange that I have been writing about Hardiness and heat zones (in the dead of winter), it is actually a good time.

Many of us are in a bit of a lull between holidays and the new growing season.

Yes, not only is earth resting, you may be too.

What better time to keep the mind sharp as you prepare your garden and wish lists.

Arm yourself with a bit of knowledge and understanding.

By doing so, you will save money, heartaches, and time.

Get ready for the upcoming garden season by knowing and understanding your surroundings and what will and will not grow for you.

Most of you know about the Zone Hardiness maps.

Last week I attempted to share with you a bit on Heat Zones and Heat Zone maps.

Today I will try to tackle Climates and the roll they play in gardening and plant health.


A plant's performance is governed by the climate as a whole:

Length of growing season, timing and amount of rainfall.

Winter lows and snow cover, summer highs, wind, and humidity.

Besides temperatures, other factors must be considered for your gardens and wildlife habitats.


Generally, the farther an area is from the equator, the longer and colder are its winters.

Closer to the poles, the number of daylight hours increases in summer and decreases in winter.

Length of day is key for some plants, but the lack of heat and strength of sun is detrimental for many plants, including annuals.


Gardens high above sea level get longer and colder winters, often with intense sunlight, and lower night temperatures all year.

Face it, you wont have the success with some plants as your friends that live in the valley, and visa versa.

Mountains, Hills, and Valleys:

During winter, Arctic outbreaks are most intense between the Rockies and the Appalachians.

From the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians, continental and arctic air dominate, with moist air from the Gulf pushing north during the warm season.

Both ranges act as barriers that limit the influence of the cold beyond them

In the West, the Coast Ranges take some marine influence out of the air that passes eastward over them.

The Sierra-Cascades and Southern California’s interior mountains further weaken marine influence.

Continental Air Influence:

The North American continent generates its own weather, which ― compared with coastal climates ― is colder in winter, hotter in summer, and more likely to get precipitation any time of year.

The farther inland you live, the stronger this continental influence.

Wind also becomes a major factor in open interior climates.

Winds quickly evaporate any moisture in the soil and increase transpiration in plants.

Ocean and Great Lakes Influence:

Weather that blows in off the oceans and the Great Lakes tends to be mild and laden with moisture in the cool season.

While the Great Lakes often protect us from Severe cold and storms (warm the winter air and beat down severe Thunderstorms), they also provide moisture laden air.


I can grow many plants native to the prairie, because our zones are very similar.

Some plants however struggle because of the high humidity and suffer with molds and mildews.

Plants that prefer a drier air can struggle and I must learn to deal with issues and plant to allow air circulation.

Unless you live where you experience this, or have lived in this climate at one time or another, it is difficult to explain.

In my part of Michigan our winters aren't just cold, but damp.

High humidity in the winter also from lake evaporation.

A cold, damp air that goes right to the bones.

When it gets real cold like today, the moisture seems to crystalize into tiny ice particles that look like pixie dust or glitter that sparkles in the sun and night lights.


They do exist, and possibly in your own gardens.

Local terrain can sharply modify the climate within any zone.

South-facing slopes get more heat from the sun than flat land and north-facing slopes.

Slopes also affect airflow: warm air rises, cold air sinks.

This is important to know when planting frost tender plants.

Because hillsides are never as cold in winter as the hilltops above them or the ground below them, they are called thermal belts.

Lowland areas into which cold air flows are called cold-air basins.

Microclimates also exist within every garden.

All else being equal, garden beds on the south side of an east-west wall, for example, will be much warmer than garden beds on the north side of the same wall.

You can even do this with man made berms and natural hills in your landscapes.

Trees and partial shade also create a microclimate within your gardens.

You create microclimates with sprinkling or not.

It is foolish to plant arid plants amongst your plants that require higher amounts of water.

Make every effort to plant like needs among other like need plants (sun, water, shade, etc.).

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

In happy moments, praise God.
In the difficult moments, seek God.
In the quiet moments, trust God.
In every moment, thank God.

Bryan Clay, Olympic decathlon champion

I enjoy hearing and reading about Christian athletes.
Too often they go unheard unless they are a champion, or do or say something bad.

Now, one of my favorite quotes from the bible.

“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:10

Shhhhh, be and listen.

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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