HomeTop StoriesHow do USDA hardiness growing zones impact Michigan gardeners and greenhouses?

How do USDA hardiness growing zones impact Michigan gardeners and greenhouses?

(CBS DETROIT) – George Papadelis, owner of Telly’s Greenhouse in Troy and Shelby Township, knows a thing or two about plants.

He and his brother didn’t run lemonade stands to make money when they were kids. They learned about plants firsthand as they grew them and sold them on the side of the road to make some extra money.

“We saw that if we grew the plants that people wanted, because we were both the grower and the seller, and we gave people exactly what they knew they wanted, and it just fueled us to keep growing what they wanted, want and more of what they want and I think that’s part of the reason why we’re successful,” Papadelis said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s plant hardiness zone maps are used to determine which perennials will grow best in a given location, taking into account the average extreme minimum winter temperature. These maps are updated every ten years.

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The USDA changed garden zones in late 2023 and Michigan warmed up a bit. But that could be a good thing for gardeners and the greenhouses.

“Here in Michigan we’ve become accustomed to a certain set of plants, whether they’re annuals or perennials or trees and shrubs that we can grow, and as the winters get milder that palette of plants expands. And Maybe we’re going to start doing things here in Michigan a little bit more like they would do in Ohio or Tennessee,” Papadelis said.

What does the warmer climate mean for the growing season?

“A lot of crops are growing a little faster because it’s been warmer. Maybe we can grow some plants that are somewhat marginal to Michigan,” Papadelis said.

Greenhouses must consider the hardiness zones of the plants they grow and sell. These zones have changed and affected parts of the US. This can have consequences for both the greenhouses and their customers.

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“We normally draw the hardiest plants available to our customers here in the north,” Papadelis said. “If the pallet is expanded to include more varieties, more cultivars, more species or whatever, then we can offer more plants and maybe some people might be a little more excited about growing something that they couldn’t grow before. So that’s it . the good news.”

But Papadelis sees no disadvantage in the warmer temperatures.

“As summers get warmer, people may buy more heat-loving plants than regular bedding plants,” he said. “If we grow certain peppers or certain eggplants that produce fruit in a shorter time and we pick those varieties because they yield faster, we can now pick four more varieties that might take an extra week or two to grow to maturity, because we have an extra week or two to let it ripen.”

Essentially, the growing season just got a little longer. Papadelis explains that he already has people planting their gardens.

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“I mean, people are coming in asking for tomatoes. That’s a month earlier than they should be asking for tomatoes,” he said.

Regardless of the climate, people still keep a close eye on the weather.

“You know, gardeners and farmers, after a while, they figure out, ‘I have to pay attention to the weather forecast,’” Papadelis said. “So right now everyone is keeping an eye on the weather forecast. We can see the next ten days quite clearly. If we don’t see frost in the forecast we think we might be able to get away with gardening with some frost resistant plants sooner than we would normally do, people think that maybe I can get a flying start to the season for a whole month.”

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