USDA Announces New Hardiness Zone Map
Visit the newUSDA Hardiness Map
Gardeners rely on the USDA Hardiness zones to know which plants will survive the winter in their garden. These zones are based on the average minimum temperature of an area, which, in layman’s terms, is the lowest temperature of the year averaged out over about 30 years. The USDA released the first revised map since its last version in 1990 on January 25. Not only are the zones updated, but new online resources allow you to zoom into your neighborhood on an interactive map and allows for GIS (Graphic Information Systems) use for computer modeling and more.
If you zoom in on Kanawha County and the rest of southern West Virginia, you will discover something interesting there are now pockets of zone 7a sprinkled around the area. In the previous map, southern West Virginia was solidly zone 6b, meaning that in 1990 the average minimum temperature was between 0F and -5F and the only 7a zone in the state was a tiny little spot at the very tip end of the eastern panhandle. The zone shift to 7a means that the average minimum temperature for those areas over the last 30 years has increased to between 0F and 5F and means that gardeners in those areas may start experimenting with growing a wider range of plants that survive in zone 7a. The zones in the map have also shifted, meaning that your zone could have increased if you were in one of the border areas. Many of these areas have seen an upward shift of about half a zone (from 6b to 6a, or 5b to 6a). This is not to say that our gardening methods will change dramatically or that plants will be undamaged in the winter, but it might be fun to try.
So, where is the new 7a zone located in Kanawha County? The largest “blob” appears between the fork of I-77 and I-79, roughly in the area between Sissonville and Elkview. The other major section begins around the state Capitol area and extends down the Kanawha River and Rt. 60 to the Montgomery/Smithers area and also stretches up Paint, Cabin and Kelley’s creeks for a few miles from their confluence with the Kanawha. The area includes the river bottom areas of Charleston’s East End, Kanawha City, Malden, Bell, Marmet, Chesapeake, Glasgow, Pratt, East Bank, Cedar Grove, and Montgomery. If you live in these areas, you may want to add something new to the landscape this year to test out the new map. Happy Gardening!