Gardening in south dakota

Here are a few examples of gardening failures that I have personally had:

  • I planted a patch of gladiolus that didn’t come back the next year.
  • I had hydrangeas that would not bloom.
  • I tried to grow a windmill palm and it died.

I had these problems because I did not fully understand what planting & growing zone I lived in.

I created this guide to help you learn what planting zone you live in. It has helped me and I hope it helps you as well.

What is a Planting Zone?

A planting or growing zone is a geographic area that is defined by the area’s minimum and/or maximum temperatures. A map of these zones helps growers determine if the selected plants will have sufficient cold hardiness and/or heat tolerance to survive.

Types of Planting Zone Maps

Two of the most well-known zone maps are the:

  • United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Plant Hardiness Zone Map
  • American Horticultural Society (AHS) Plant Heat Zone Map

The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map helps gardeners determine which plants are likely to survive the cold of winter.

The AHS Plant Heat Zone Map is different in that it helps gardeners determine which plants are likely to survive the heat of summer.

About the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

The latest USDA zone map came out in 2012. The map divides the United States into 26 zones, each representing a 5-degree Fahrenheit temperature range for Average Annual Extreme Minimum Temperature. In simple terms, this map shows you “how cold it gets where you live.”

How to Read the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

There are two ways to use the map. You can either:

  • Look at the maps and find your zone using the color-coded legend.
  • Enter you zip code in the Zip Code tool on the USDA map page.

Latest USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map with sub-zones.

About the AHS Plant Heat Zone Map

The latest that I can find came out in 1997. This map divides the United States into 12 zones. These zones indicate the Average Number of Days Per Year Above 86 Degree Fahrenheit.
The map was created by analyzing National Weather Service (NWS) daily-high temperatures recorded between 1974 and 1995.

The AHS Plant Heat Zone Map is copyrighted and cannot be shown here. It can be purchased from the American Horticultural Society.

Growing & Planting Zone Information by State

In this section I have individual USDA state zone maps. You can click on these maps to open up larger versions.

I am working to add detailed zone-map information for each state.

Alabama – AL

Alabama is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7a–9a.

The state of Alabama contains 5 planting zones:

  • Northern parts of Jackson and Dekalb counties are zone 7a.
  • Most of North Alabama down to around Birmingham are in zone 7b. Cities in zone 7b include Birmingham, Huntsville, Decatur, Gadsden, and Talladega.
  • Most of South Alabama south of Birmingham is in zone 8a. Cities in zone 8a include Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, and Auburn.
  • Some southernmost areas of Alabama are zone 8b. Cities in 8b include Mobile and Dothan.
  • The Gulf Coast area around Gulf Shores is in zone 9a.

Alaska – AK

Alaska is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 1a–8b.

The state of Alaska has 16 planting zones! This is more than any other state in the United States.

  • Most of Far North Alaska above the Arctic Circle is in zones 1a–2b. Barrow is in this area.
  • Interior Alaska which is located centrally in Alaska is a little warmer than the Far North and is in zones 1a–3b. Fairbanks is in this area.
  • The Western Arctic area around Nome Alaska is in zones 2a–3b.

Southern Alaska is where it gets really interesting. The Pacific Ocean warms up many areas here. The zones range from 2a – 8b. The Aleutian Islands and islands within the Inside Passage can be in the same zone as South Alabama! That is amazing.

  • Anchorage is in zones 4a–5b.
  • Juneau is in zones 6a–6b

Arizona – AZ

Arizona is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4b–10b.

The state of Arizona contains 13 planting zones.

Arkansas – AR

Arkansas is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6b–8a.

The state of Arkansas has 4 planting zones.

California – CA

California is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5a–11a.

The state of California has 13 planting zones.

Northern California

Northern California is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5a–10b.

Southern California

Southern California is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5a–11a.

Colorado – CO

Colorado is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3a–7a.

Connecticut – CT

Connecticut is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5b–7a.

Delaware – DE

Delaware is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7a & 7b.

Florida – FL

Florida is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8a–11a.

Georgia – GA

Georgia is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6a–9a.

Hawaii – HI

Hawaii is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 9a–13a.

Idaho – ID

Idaho is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3b–7b.

Illinois – IL

Illinois is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5a–7a.

Indiana – IN

Indiana is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5b–6b.

Iowa – IA

Iowa is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4b–6a.

Kansas – KS

Kansas is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5b–7a.

Kentucky – KY

Kentucky is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6a–7a.

Louisiana – LA

Lousiana is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8a–10a.

Maine – ME

Maine is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3b–6a.

Maryland – MD

Maryland is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5b–8a.

Massachusetts – MA

Massachusetts is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5a–7b.

Michigan – MI

Michigan is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4a–6b.

Minnesota – MN

Minnesota is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3a–5a.

Mississippi – MS

Mississippi is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7b–9a.

Missouri – MO

Missouri is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5b–7b.

Montana – MT

Montana is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3a–6a.

Nebraska – NE

Nebraska is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4a–5b.

Nevada – NV

Nevada is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4a–10a.

New Hampshire – NH

New Hampshire is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones is 3b–6a.

New Jersey – NJ

New Jersey is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6a–7b.

New Mexico – NM

New Mexico is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4b–9a.

New York – NY

New York is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3b–7b.

North Carolina – NC

North Carolina is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5b–8b.

North Dakota – ND

North Dakota is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3a–4b.

Ohio – OH

Ohio is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5b–6b.

Oklahoma – OK

Oklahoma is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6a–8a.

Oregon – OR

Oregon is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4b–9b.

Pennsylvania – PA

Pennsylvania is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5a–7b.

Rhode Island – RI

Rhode Island is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6a–7a.

South Carolina – SC

South Carolina is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7a–9a.

South Dakota – SD

South Dakota is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3b–5b.

Tennessee – TN

Tennessee is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5b–8a.

Texas – TX

Texas is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6b–10a.

East Texas

East Texas is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7b–10a.

West Texas

West Texas is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6b–9a.

Utah – UT

Utah is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4a–9a.

Vermont – VT

Vermont is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3b–5b.

Virginia – VA

Virginia is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5a–8a.

Washington – WA

Washington is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4a–9a.

West Virginia – WV

West Virginia is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5a–7a.

Wisconsin – WI

Wisconsin is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3b–5b.

Wyoming – WY

Wyoming is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3a–6a.

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High Mountain Gardening

Story and photos by Debra Opland McLane

Crocus in late snow.

To escape stress-filled days of work in Rapid City, my husband and I endure a daily 50-mile round-trip commute to our home on a mile-high mountaintop near Seth Bullock Peak in the central Black Hills. We value our peace and privacy. Neighbors include chipmunks, deer, elk, coyotes, Ponderosa pines and sky. We call our acreage “Southern Exposure.” The sun shines here when it shines nowhere else. And the wind blows, sometimes as a gentle Chinook, sometimes as a blizzard whirlwind.

My mother once sent me a postcard with a greeting that read, “The roots run deep when the winds are strong.” That phrase from Charles Swindall has many meanings, but it could have been written for Black Hills gardeners.

With wind in my thoughts, my high country garden has become a haven for solitude — and a lifelong challenge. As a self-taught botanist, I am educated by books, seed catalogs and garden magazines. I know no fellow mountain gardeners with whom to network. Experience has taught me the most. Bad planting choices are usually fatal. Transplanting is a rare option. Darwin’s survival-of-the-fittest rule applies to gardeners, as well as to their plantings. Yet, for those who survive the greatest challenges offer the richest rewards.

An early snow in the garden of Debra Opland McLane’s Southern Exposure acreage in the Black Hills.

Our home rests on a vertical talus slope. If not at the surface, bedrock is reached within 2 inches. Although we reside in the USDA-classified Zone Four, with chaotic weather patterns and little shelter, my plants must meet the minimum requirements of Zone Three. I made several unsuccessful attempts at vegetable gardening, but the early frosts and short growing season limited my choices and time for care. Now, only perennials receive my undivided attention.

Plant selection is best dictated by xeriscaping — using environmental protection, water conservation and native plants, and building wildlife habitats for dry climates. Xeriscaping acknowledges the restraints of a 5,922-foot altitude, northern latitude, minus 33-degree January lows, annual rainfall of 15 inches and a 150-day growing season. We battle the bone-chilling gusts of winterkill, acidic soils, hungry deer, instantaneous drainage and late-spring and early-fall frosts. To all these demands, I have added another personal qualification.

Whether planning in winter or sowing in spring, my garden serves as my exercise gym, psychologist’s couch and meditative church pew. I want each plant to grow with deep roots and deep meaning.

At first examination, my virgin rock pile seemed formidable. How should I begin? That year, my parents celebrated their 50th anniversary. What should I give them? The two problems melded into one solution.

Married beside a lilac hedgerow on a prairie homestead near Ipswich, my parents weathered as many storms as those shrubs. To honor their golden years, I planted lilacs the length of my driveway. These old-fashioned shrubs have proven their pioneer hardiness. Spring frosts act as welcome moisture on buds, and deer assist with pruning. The Ipswich lilacs gave me hope that my botanical efforts might not only survive, but also thrive, beyond my lifetime. They also gave me a theme for my garden.

Wild lamb’s ear with frost.

I choose foundation trees and shrubs, and all perennials, for durability, but also for relevance to an important person or event in my life. Buried in love, each planting expresses joy or copes with loss. If tender seedlings take deep root against the ravages of their first growing season, they are doubly blessed.

My fittest survivor, the Hawthorn tree, Crataegus toba, was named after the Greek word kratos, meaning strength. A formidable and impenetrable windbreak hedge, the trees surround our home, protecting my family. They symbolize the binding trust of a marriage that’s endured life’s normal tribulations, not to mention a business partnership. The first season, my original Crataegus bloomed with fragrant, pink-tipped, double-white flowers. Fall fruits attract birds, and warped trunks provide winter texture. We plant more Hawthorns every spring.

Surrounding each Hawthorn rests a bed of peonies. When my ancestors homesteaded in eastern South Dakota, the first plantings included peonies. As they graced every doorway and kitchen table of my childhood, I have memories of their intoxicating fragrance. First cultivated in Tibet, individual plants may live 100 years or longer. Preferring fall sowing, they relieve my spring chores, and the deer hate them. A deer once spit one out. It lay bare-rooted on the ground, happily sprouting new growth.

My father-in-law always gave me rock-solid advice. So his plant needed a foundation spot. At 87, his stubborn Scottish spirit never seemed to fail, though his body weakened. He walked with a diamond willow cane. I chose the Coryills avellana contorta — Harry Lauder’s walking stick. A perfect winter interest, its twisted branches imitate the cane carried by the old-time Scottish comedian. Slow growing and carefree, this Zone Four plant needs extra mulch, sunshine and TLC. I fertilize with a dose of Grandpa Mac’s indomitable spirit.

Tiger lily.

A graceful, beautiful woman, my mother-in-law favored the wild, pink rose that blooms in the Black Hills each summer. Like most wild varieties, they do not transplant well. Instead, I’ve discovered the wonders of Rosa rugosas. From bare-root plants, these rugged roses bloomed in their first season. Although such gems grow in many beds, I specially tend the ones near the Corylus, entwining “her” stems through “his” crooked branches.

Hardy only to Zone Four, I killed many chrysanthemums, my daughter’s birth flower. Reflecting her independent spirit and youthful simplicity, wildflowers and native grasses became a successful alternative. My most difficult dry ditches bloom not only with native dame’s rockets, gold yarrow, lamb’s ears, goldenrod, and black-eyed Susans, but also with imported Mexican hat, coreopsis, catchfly, wallflowers, blue flax, Maximilian sunflowers, ox-eyed daisies and monarda.

My stepchildren moved to Phoenix several years ago. That summer I avenged our sorrow by beating dirt into beds shaped like teardrops falling down terraced slopes. Here, I discovered that dianthus, or sweet William, and bleeding hearts can tolerate sunshine. By fall, I transplanted purple iris from the garden at my husband’s boyhood home. Forty years before, his mother had brought them from her hometown. As guardian angels, at the center I planted colchicum, meadow saffron. Greek mythology says the flower sprang from the spilled elixir Medea administered to dying Jason. Adding flowers each spring, the blossoms bring me closer to my adopted children.

True friendship has graced me but a few times. My best woman friend now lives far too many miles away. With her architect’s attention to detail, it was she who first taught me the beauty of perennial gardening. Her beds always included forsythia. Tested at experimental stations in North and South Dakota, the meadowlark variety has proven bud-hardy to -35 degrees. Meadowlark hedgerows brighten both entryways.

Every garden should have something borrowed. Through the windows of my childhood home, we watched our neighbor’s garden grow. Along with pounds of rich loam, I’ve transplanted her cuttings of bishop’s weed, snow-on-the-mountain, lady ferns and patriot hostas. The transplants are now in need of transplanting. Mrs. Christianson passed away and, to my horror, the renter piled garbage on her garden. I was so grateful I had rescued part of it.

The view from Southern Exposure.

Chosen for myself, each year I sow special plants for every season. Spring bloomers include snowdrops, winter aconite, and johnny jump-ups. I cherish one early blossom above the others. During a Mother’s Day walk, I stepped on a tiny purple bud. Hidden by pine needles, pasqueflowers, our state flower, filled the woodland slopes. Whether budding among natural kinnikinnick vines or sown red sedum, this anemone highlights my rock gardens.

Summer choices are limitless — from oriental poppies to winter-hardy Gladiolus nanus, from lupines to Gaillardia grandiflora. Among these, lilies became my favorites. As natural-blooming secrets, day lilies are rare mountain surprises, but Asiatic hybrids are my true delights. Flowering longer, each bloom expresses the depth of Eastern philosophy. Fragrant or not, their names reflect their beauty: expression, con amore, dreamland, stargazer and grand paradiso. With perfect timing, all varieties bud just as spring fades.

Uncommon but exceptional, fall bloomers survive when all else has died. Sedum autumn joy flowers in early snowfalls. Budding from the top down, the unique Lialris spicata impresses me, as well as the butterflies. Outside, it lasts into early September. Inside, it is preserved in dried arrangements.

White glad.

Perfect choices in good drainage, bulbs are the interlocking threads throughout my beds. In honor of Wales, daffodils naturalize every hillside. Quite by accident, I discovered that deer despise “daffs” as much as they adore tulips. In her garden, my daughter designed a bed shaped like Simba’s face. King Alfred daffodils symbolized the fur. For cheeks, we used Princess Irene tulips, my mother’s namesake variety. The deer could not endure the putrid smell of the daffs to chow down on their favorite food group. Throughout the garden, Grandma’s tulips were the only survivors.

Although my successes are thrilling, my failures are equally disappointing. I’ve lost hydrangea, a golden hinoki cypress, purple fringe smoke trees, thuja, shamrock hollies, skyrocket junipers and hyacinths. Planted for my father, a Norway spruce needed much more moisture than I could provide. I am still looking for a Scandinavian replacement.

Whether reasons for failure are deer or drought, winterkill or illiterate mistakes, I learn as much from errors as from accomplishments. I am continually behind in designing, landscaping and planting; life proceeds faster than time, or budgeting. This year, our family witnessed two births and a wedding. Last August, a dear friend died of cancer. Grandpa Mac passed away in March, as did his Corylus.

Like anything worthwhile, deep roots and deep feelings do not come easy. I’m training myself to take one day at a time — one trench for irrigation and one load of compost, one shovel of dirt and one teardrop of moisture.

During a winter-sunshine day, my daughter and I plodded along on yet another rock wall. She stopped and said, “Hey mommy, me and you — we’re making a view!” When I reach my rocking chair years, I can only hope she has inherited the strong heart necessary to face the winds of change. I promise to give her deep roots.

Editor’s Note: This story is revised from the March/April 2000 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order a copy or to subscribe, call (800) 456-5117.

Vegetables to Grow in South Dakota

gants et sécateur image by Richard villalon from Fotolia.com

Long winters drive many South Dakota gardeners to pore over seed catalogs in anticipation of the warm-season garden. The weather will quickly turn from an intensely cold spring to a very hot, but short, summer. When choosing vegetables, the South Dakota Cooperative Extension recommends looking for varieties described as “heat-tolerant” or “widely adapted.”

Asparagus

asparagus image by cherie from Fotolia.com

Asparagus is the first vegetable to be harvested in South Dakota in the spring, according to Joseph R. Thomasson, author of “Growing Vegetables in the Great Plains.” Choose hardy varieties such as Jersey King, Viking or Martha Washington. Add more color to your garden with Purple Passion, which produces purple-tinted spears (they will turn green when they are cooked).

Asparagus releases from California such as UC 157 are not hardy enough for South Dakota. Asparagus will not do well will not do well if the soil pH is less than 6.0.

Cabbage

cabbage image by Dozet from Fotolia.com

South Dakota gardeners can grow two crops of cabbage during the cool months. Choose an early-maturing variety to plant from March through May. An autumn-maturing variety can be planted from late May to early June. Look for varieties that are tolerant or resistant to head splitting, black rot, tip burn, and Fusarium wilt. Buy hot-water treated seed to avoid blackleg and black rot disease. Good varieties for the Dakotas include Danish Ballhead, Premium Late Dutch and Late Flat Head.

Onions

onion image by Henryk Olszewski from Fotolia.com

When you select onions to grow in South Dakota, choose day-neutral or long-day types that harvest in 80 to 100 days. If you’d like to grow onions from seed, start them in early March. Hybrid onions will produce more uniform and higher yields than standard varieties. Try growing the Sweet & Early Hybrid or the Kelsae.

Lettuce

leaf lettuce image by John Keith from Fotolia.com

The best types of lettuce to grow in South Dakota are leaf, butterhead (Bibb) and Romaine. Crisphead lettuce (like the Iceberg) is not recommended because it needs long, cool summers. Choose a slow-to-bolt or bolt-resistant variety that can stand mid-summer heat. Recommended varieties include Buttercrunch, Oak Leaf, Brown Mignonette and Red Romaine.

Watermelon

watermelon image by ewa kubicka from Fotolia.com

If you live in the cooler areas of South Dakota, look for shorter-season watermelon varieties. Most watermelons need 75 to 85 days after planting to reach maturity, but some will take as few as 65 days. Anthracnose-tolerant varieties will spare you trouble with leaf diseases. The Sweet Dakota Rose variety, which has few seeds, was developed by a North Dakota farmer specifically to withstand short seasons. Other good choices are Golden Crown, Sugar Baby and Yellow Doll.

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Welcome to February Groundhogs and Valentines. Black Hills gardeners now strain at times to peer through cold and sunny if not swirling white skies, knowing that their gardens, comfortably deep in snow, will rise again come spring. Thanks to Sara Teasdale for sharing a February twilight memory: “I stood beside a hill smooth with new-laid snow, a single star looked out from the cold evening glow. There was no other creature that saw what I could see–I stood and watched the evening star as long as it watched me.”

Like most of the world, I have watched in horror as Australia burns. I feel the anguish of those who watched their homes eaten by flames. The sight of the koala bears having their burned paws medicated and wrapped brings me to tears. The drone views of the charred wrecks of forests are heart-breaking. And I am also obsessing about the damage we can’t see on TV or the web. more

Spring Fever Saturday, March 7, 2020. Pennington County Master Gardeners. Ramkota Hotel (La Crosse at I-90). National speakers, gardening workshops. more, press release
January is the month when the mailboxes and the Internet fill with catalogs and inspire euphoria. By February trays of seedlings decorate many windows and each of us is certain this will be the best gardening year ever. more Congratulations, Cathie: (Wah-hoo!!!! 21 years of Digs!!!!)
Happy New Year! As we enter a new year and decade, Digs begins its 21st year focusing on Rapid City gardeners, garden events, new science and trends in growing food as well as small scale garden design. One of my favorite questions is: What have you learned that you didn’t know before? more . Dr. John Ball’s illustrated biweekly newsletters on the care and health of South Dakota trees and the “pests” that cause problems. This is a free service of the South Dakota Department of Agriculture.more, sample entries . Classified Ad Highlighted. Travis Ness is a fine wood worker and has a truly lovely plant stand/hanger. I think the plant stand/plant hanger would be perfect for a nice front entrance or patio. It is of cedar and quite lovely. And with Valentine Day and Mothers Day on the horizon…what could be better. more
February Garden Tips: “Branches of forsythia, pussy willow, quince, spirea, and dogwood can be forced for indoor bloom. Make long, slanted cuts when collecting the branches and place the stems in a vase of water. Change the water every four days. They should bloom in about 3 weeks.” more

Black Hills Frost Free Planting Dates Spring 2020

  • Rapid City, SD
  • Piedmont, SD
  • Pactola Dam, SD
  • Mt Rushmore Natl Mem, SD
  • Hill City, SD
  • Ft Meade, SD
  • Custer, SD
  • Black Hawk, SD
  • Wasta, SD
  • Oral, SD
  • Hot Springs, SD
  • Deadwood, SD
  • Provide food, and they will come . . .
    Winter walks refresh. Try the old military cemetery near Sturgis.
    P
    This is a good time to look back at last year’s journal entries

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