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Green Thumbs Get Green Light for Earlier Planting

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued its first new hardiness zone map since 1990 - and many of us are now officially a half-zone warmer.

While local nurseries sell plants that thrive in neighborhood gardens, gardeners who buy plants from catalogs over the Internet rely on hardiness zones to determine what will grow best in their garden.

According to the USDA website, a hardiness zone is based on the average annual extreme minimum temperature during a 30-year period in the past. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is just a guide for plant selection.

Master Gardener Nick Mancini who runs organic vegetable-growning workshops in lower Fairfield County says, "I think they’re right but it’s not a novelty, we’ve been starting to garden earlier and finishing later in the season for years."

The new plant zone hardiness map was created using computerized data from 1976 to 2005. It is not, according to the USDA, a confirmation of a trend toward global warming but a more accurate picture of growing conditions across the country. For more detailed information on your zone click here .

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