Climate Zones.
Thu, 27 Oct 2005 12:28:48 PDT
I can only speak for zone 5, that being the one I've looked at most
closely, and my sense is that it's relatively useless when applied to
herbaceous plants.  For example, Oswego, New York, Peoria, Illinois, Omaha,
Nebraska and Denver, Colorado are all in zone 5.  Oswego's average high
temperature in July (the hottest month) is 78F; Omaha's is either 85 or 87F
(I used these numbers in a recent talk, and I'm working from memory here). 
Omaha's average precipitation from October through March is a bit over 8
inches; Oswego's is around 21 inches, and a lot of that comes down as snow
(for an average annual snowfall of around 120 inches).  In short, patterns
of precipitation and temperature can differ widely within one zone (and
that doesn't start to address variations in soil, ecosystems, etc).  I can
grow lots of South Africans in the ground here, because the ground either
doesn't freeze or, at worst, doesn't freeze very deeply, and summers are
moderate and not terribly dry. A Great Plains "zone 5" (Omaha) would, I
think, be terrible for my high-altitude Drakensberg summer-rainfall plants.
This does not make my zone 5 somehow less valid; it simply illustrates what
information "zone 5" doesn't convey!

As a nurseryperson, I would LOVE to be able to chuck zones altogether, and
encourage people to substitute intelligent thought and experimentation; but
it will not work.  It's a sorry state of affairs...

Ellen Hornig
Seneca Hill Perennials
Oswego, NY USA
Zone 5

Original Message:
From: John Bryan
Date: Thu, 27 Oct 2005 10:41:19 -0700
Subject: [pbs] Climate Zones.

Dear All:

I wonder what your opinions are about the USDA Climate Zones. I also
wonder why such zones cannot be linked with our zip codes, or postal
zones. Would they not then be better defined? Cheers, John E. Bryan
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