Changes To The USDA Plant Hardiness Map
My DBIL just mentioned that a new USDA Hardiness Map was published yesterday. You can see it below.
The map on the USDA’s site is interactive. If you click on your state, then your state map will come up. That’s what I did for Kansas (map below).
Kansas Is Getting Warmer
As you can see in the map above, Kansas City is in zone 6a. This is interesting because we used to be in zone 5b. The weather we are having now reminds me of the weather when I was attending graduate school, in Nashville, TN about 15-20 years ago. We had occasional ice storms, but mostly the winters were pretty mild, with rain and occasional snow. The old USDA hardiness zone map puts Nashville in zone 6. Now Nashville is in zone 7.
Nashville Is Getting Warmer Too
Nashville must have been in an even colder zone about 45-years ago. I lived there back then, and I remember plenty of snow that stuck. There was enough snow for sledding, building snowmen and forts, and snowball fights. Nashville wasn’t like that when I lived there as an adult.
North Dakota And Minnesota Are Also Warmer
This warming reminds me of the weather changes up in North Dakota and Minnesota (I lived there too as a teen and young adult). When my family first moved to North Dakota, we had very cold winters (usually in the -20s, but it regularly got down to -60), with tons of snow. It just doesn’t do that any more. My relatives still living in Minnesota have complained of various summer-time bug plaques due the lack of freezing during Winter. Clearly it has been getting warmer there too.
Global Warming And Local Adaptation
To me, these experiences are just further proof of global warming. While I will enjoy growing plants that I couldn’t grow well previously, I am very distressed about this trend. Taken with the increased drought we are experiencing (see map below), I wonder what kind of weather will Kansas be having in the next 10, 20 or 30 years? What kind of world will DD be living in? Will it even be possible to feed the world population when the planet is that hot?
While I can’t answer those questions or on a global scale, it seems clear that I must adapt my gardening methods by switching to plants that can survive (an hopefully thrive) in a hotter, drier environment. Accordingly, I have been searching seed catalogs for drought and disease-resistant varieties. Last year, I started some bean breeding experiments, to develop a new bean variety that is drought tolerant, disease resistant, and grows well in Kansas City. I will continue with the second round of planting this year. Hopefully, in another year or two the plants will be ready for some local seed trials.
I wonder if there are other things I can do to improve my garden’s heat and drought tolerance. What would you do? If you have any suggestions, please share them!