Episode 12: Know Your Gardening Zone


About This Episode

In this episode of Ask Grumpy, Steve Bender, also known as the Grumpy Gardener, schools us on knowing your zone. Plus, he shares a brilliant tip for picking daffodils.

Question: We live in Zone 8 and have a vegetable garden. My greens, lettuce, and Swiss chard always taste bitter. What am I doing wrong?

Grumpy Gardener Answer: The USDA (the United States Department of Agriculture), separates the country into growing zones. It basically goes in the United States from Zone 3, which is right up in the Canadian border, and it goes all the way down to 10, which is like the tip of Florida. If you look, these bands that go across the United States tell you about what is the lowest temperature you're going to experience during the winter. If you know which zone you're in, you know how soon you can plant things and how long they're going to last before winter comes along and kills them. So if you are in Zone 8, that means you are in the mid to lower South, and that's what we are here in Alabama.
If you are planting things that are cool weather vegetables, like the ones that you mention– lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard – and they're getting bitter, what that tells you is you probably planted them too late in the spring, because they like cool weather. Once the temperature gets up in 75-78 degrees, these cool weather greens, they get bitter. But if you're planting in the spring, just make sure you plant them early enough so that they can mature before it gets warm.

Tip Of The Week

This is a tip that I learned a long time ago when I was doing a story on daffodils, and I was visiting probably one of the premier daffodil growers in the United States. His name is Brent Heath, and he lives in Gloucester, Virginia. He has a daffodil farm, and he and his wife, Becky, have a really great bulb catalog for spring bulbs, and one for fall bulbs too. When we were doing the story he asked, "Do you know, the right way to pick a daffodil?" I thought to myself, I didn't know that there was a wrong way. "Everyone does it the wrong way," he said. "They just take their pruning sheers out there, and just clip it off, so on the bottom, you just see this hollow tube." Turns out, that's not the way you should do it.

Heath advises: "What you want to do is reach down onto the base of the stem where it's coming out from the leaves, and give it a little twist. It will snap off, and the bottom will be solid." I replied, "Well, what the heck do you wanna do that for? What's the difference?" He said, "The way you cut the daffodil affects how long it's going to last in the vase. And if you reach down and snap it off versus cutting it off with the pruning sheers, it'll last twice as long."

About Ask Grumpy

Introducing Ask Grumpy, a new podcast featuring Steve Bender, also known as Southern Living’s Grumpy Gardener. For more than 20 years, Grumpy has been sharing advice on what to grow, when to plant, and how to manage just about anything in your garden. Tune in for short episodes every Wednesday and Saturday as Grumpy answers reader questions, solves seasonal conundrums, and provides need-to-know advice for gardeners with his very Grumpy sense of humor. Be sure to follow Ask Grumpy on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen so you don't miss an episode.

Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript does not go through our standard editorial process and may contain inaccuracies and grammatical errors.

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