We're Still In Zone 4

In a protected location, the thermometer flirts with zero.
In a protected location, the thermometer flirts with zero.

Over the past several years, many Minnesota gardeners have started to plant as if we live in a Zone 5 state. I’m among those hopeful souls — and have had mixed results with less hardy plants. But today’s rippingly cold weather is a reminder that we still live in Zone 4.

For those not familiar with zones, these are climate designations that are used to determine which plants are hardy enough for which areas.  There are many plants that work beautifully in Zone 5 or 6, but not well at all in Zone 4. Hence the concept of Zone Envy. According to the USDA Zone map, the lowest air temperature of the year in zone 4  is between -20 and -30 degrees F.  According to Weather Underground, my go-to weather site, Northfield, 40 miles south of St. Paul, which is where I live, bottomed out at -23 F this morning.  (The bank clock read -21 when I was downtown at 9 a.m.) Areas north of the Twin Cities are seeing temps below -30 degrees F, which puts them in Zone 3.

There are two good things about this cold spell. First, it is not expected to be long-lived. We should be above zero by Friday and having positively tropical temps in the 20s by Sunday. Second, we have a decent — not great, but decent — snow cover. Last night, when I was shoveling the 4-plus inches of snow we got yesterday, I threw some extra white stuff on my front-door perennial bed.  I hope your plants are snug under snow as well.  Stay warm!

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