Because of Climate Changes, the Arbor day Organization has an updated map since 2006.My location has changed from zone 6 to zone 7. Western Kansas was in zone 5 when I was a kid. Now it is updated to zone 6. Global warming? Periodical Climate Change, End of a mini ice-age. Who knows why, but these real changes in climate can effect your gardening drastically.
If you are not sure where the division lines are in your state, just go to arborday.org and plug in your Zip Code. If your are new to gardening, you should be aware of "Micro-Climates". On a cold clear day when the sun is shining, walk around with a thermometer and make notes of the temperature and air-flow at different locations of your property. You may actually see changes of several degrees. For example, the North side of your house may register 35 degrees. The south side - out of the North wind and full sunshine may register much higher. In the spring, if you start your tomatoes in an open field, they may be exposed to wind chills that will easily kill them . If you plant them next to a tall closed fence that blocks the the North wind and gets lots of Southern sunshine, you might be able to plant tomatoes in this spot 2 weeks earlier! The only way to know for sure is to study the different areas and take notes for this spring and then test these areas out by planting in those areas.
A simple, inexpensive, and fast way to test an area (or soil etc.), is to sneak into your wife's supply of pinto beans in the kitchen. Plant them and see what happens. To the seeds that is... We know what will happen if your wife catches you in the larder sneaking her beans.
Remember the intrepid Austrian Monk - Gregor Johann Mendel who developed the theory of heredity and give us the first scientific study of Genetics. By planting beans and observing them? Taking notes on their colors, growing habits, dominance and recessiveness and other genetic factors? Yes, the scientific method in action even way back then. Contrary to popular opinion, and much misleading "ax to grind" historical propaganda, a la' the "Divinci Code".
Beans are a great way to Test your micro-climates in your garden and also a good way to test your soil nutritional properties. They sprout fast and they grow fast - and their cheap!
Testing Your Soil's Nutrition Value - With Beans
I recently tested 3 areas in my small garden plot (I designated 3 areas and took samples from each area planting 10 pots from each area. Within a week, all the beans in area A and area B were sprouting. Out of 10 pots, Area C had only one plant sprout! All got the same lighting, temperature and water. In the end, a few weeks later; Area A and Area B plants were a foot tall and every pot had a nice plant growing. The C pots had only 2 sickly plants (an 80% failure rate). Obviously, Area C soil was lacking something or had to much of something else!
Simple Test For Soil Composition
I later done a soil make-up test with a quart jar filled with 2/3 soil and filled to the top with water. I shook it up thoroughly then left it to settle out undisturbed for a few days. What did it look like. The soil sample was made up of 1/3 clay, clearly visible in the top layers of the sample. And the water smelled exceedingly Sour! Here was a possible clue why the beans (and other plants) grew so poorly in Area C in my garden. Tons of clay and sour soil! Very alkaline. Most garden plants like soil on the Acid side.
Using this simple test, you can even figure out the percentages of clay, etc. is in your soil. At the very top will be a thin layer of the lightest particles in the soil. bits of leaves, sticks, etc. Next will be fine clay then heavier clay. Just below that you will see a little courser material, this is the nutritional area of the soil usually, hopefully abundant. The last layer, the heaviest in the water mix is fine sand, course sand and lastly small rocks. You can actually put a ruler up against the jar and measure - then figure the percentages of each layer of material. Ask your neighbor for a sample of soil from the most productive parts of his garden. Do the fruit jar test on these and Compare his soil with yours. You might be amazed - and discover an eye-opener.
For the soils nutritional value, you can buy your own simple PH kits just about any plant store.
If your new to gardening, don't be afraid to test, test, test. That's how you learn and become an expert in your garden. And it needn't cost a dime.
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And for you oldsters. Gardening is the best exercise in the world. You'll get lots of fresh air. Lots of bending and usually light lifting which keeps you limber, keeps your limbs strong and the mental challenges keep your brain from rotting - unlike your TV and easy chair. It also gives you plenty of walking. (Who needs a mall?). It will also get you off your behind and maybe even take some weight off your sore feet and extended middle! And obviously, Gardening is also a very productive endeavor economicly. When you first bring in those fresh vegetables and taste and smell fresh onions and tomatoes from your Garden, as opposed to the plastic vegetables found in the "crisper" shelf of your frig; you'll know what I mean. Not only that, your tomatoes will be vine ripe and Round, not anemic pink, golf ball size and square like the ones bred for stacking in the vegetable aisle of your Super Grocer, Tire and Electronic Toy store!
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