How to Grow in Your Grow Zone

By Stephen Francis | Urban Agriculture

There are many different factors that come into play when growing plants. The main factors include temperature, pH levels, soil moisture content and aeration, microbial activity, and nutrients in soil. All of these factors are dependent on one another in order to supply the plants with sufficient levels of each. In order to obtain the highest yields and growth rates these factors must be maintained at levels which support the type of plants being grown. When selecting the type of plants to grow, it’s important to do research to obtain the proper information about the best growing conditions for the specific plants and how to grow in your zone whether you’re located in Canada or the United States.


North American hardiness zone map indicates the climate of each region.

1. Climate

The first factor to consider when beginning a garden is the average climate for the growing season in your area. The figure shows the average minimum extreme temperatures for the entire United States. This is important to consider since plants are most vulnerable to disease or death at extreme temperatures. Before deciding on the type of plants or crops you want to grow, determine the recommended temperatures for optimal growth. Most plants produce the highest yield and growth rate at moderate temperatures, but some may vary. In order to raise the soil temperature in colder climates, mulch application over soil can help to trap heat in the soil and raise the soil temperature. In warmer climates, adding cover crops can shade plants from sunlight reducing the soil temperature.

2. pH Levels

Along with temperature, plants will thrive at a certain soil pH level. Most plants will thrive at a moderate pH level of around 7, but this may vary as well. Determine the appropriate pH level of the soil for optimal growth. Once this is determined it’s recommended to purchase a soil pH tester to determine the acidity of the soil being grown in. These are very inexpensive and can be the determining factor of whether or not your garden is successful. In order to alter the pH level of your soil in the event of it being to acidic or alkaline, fertilizers can be used to raise or lower pH levels. To raise the pH level of the soil a liming solution usually works best.

3. Soil Moisture Content and Aeration

Soil moisture level is another important factor when determining the best growing conditions for your garden. Determine the annual mean precipitation for your area by checking the National Weather Service. Aim for the soil to contain 50% moisture and 50% aeration as an optimal growing condition of your garden. Dryer soil should we watered the appropriate amount in order to maintain moisture. The best way to do this is using a sprinkler system, however smaller gardens may be watered by hand and still be efficient. On the other hand if moisture levels are too high in a soil, tillage methods may be used in order to add aeration. This practice should be avoided if possible or done to a minimum level. Soil tillage can cause the leaching of nutrients leading to a nutrient deficiency for plants and can cause groundwater pollution. For a larger garden that must be tilled, the use of is a good way to keep  your garden environmentally friendly by reducing nutrient runoff.

4. Microbial Activity and Nutrient Content

Microbial activity and nutrient content go hand in hand with one another. Microbes live in the soil in order to obtain nutrients from the soil as well as recycling and regulating nutrients for plant use. There are six macronutrients that all plants require:

  1. Nitrogen
  2. Potassium
  3. Phosphorus
  4. Calcium
  5. Magnesium
  6. Sulfur

Soil sample tests are a good way to determine the amount of nutrients in your garden soil, as well as what must be done for optimal plant growth. A soil testing kit will help you determine the concentration of nutrients in your soil. This will ensure appropriate nutrient levels along with proper microbial activity in order to optimize plant growth for your garden.

These are the four most important factors to consider when growing a garden. If all of these are properly managed, it’s possible to cultivate a successful garden in any area of the world from the driest, warmest areas to the colder, wettest areas. If you constantly keep track of each of these factors within your soil, your garden is sure to thrive.

About The Author

I am 22 years old, from Sanford, North Carolina. I'm currently entering my senior year at North Carolina State University, majoring in Biological and Agricultural Engineering with a minor in Soil Science. I'm looking to pursue a career in agriculture dealing with environmental protection.