What Gardening Zone Am I In | USWGA

Determining your gardening zone is important when it comes to choosing the right plants to incorporate within the garden. Some plants are accustomed to a specific climate and light schedule, while other plants are bred to be much more forgiving.  

What Plants Need To Survive

Plants need water, airflow and energy from light to survive. Different growing zones offer different amounts of light, humidity and wind levels. This means that some plants cannot survive in conditions such as high winds, extreme temperatures or large amounts of rainfall.

Planting a vegetable garden.

What Is A Gardening Zone

Gardening Zones, also known as hardiness zones, are used for gardeners and landscapers to determine what plants will grow in a specific area. This is useful as certain plants will do better in one location as opposed to another.

Florist holding tablet and shaking hands with happy customer. Greenhouse interior.

Most gardening centers and local plant nurseries will carry plants that will thrive in your location. Lots of times there are specific plants that are bred for your local area. These plants will show healthier plant growth along with resistance to local pests or growing conditions. 

What Gardening Zone Do I Live In?

Have you ever asked “which gardening zone am I in?

Find out what gardening zone you live in by checking the plant hardiness zone map to find specific gardening climate zones in your area. 

Plant hardiness zones in the USA consist of 13 zones and show the average extreme minimum temperatures for each location. This allows gardeners to gauge how effective specific areas will be when it comes to producing healthy and happy plants.  

Be Aware When Looking At The Gardening Zone Map 

Gardening zone maps are great but there are some things you should be aware of when using them. Hardiness zone maps do not show the length of the area’s growing season nor do they address high temperatures.

USDA plant hardiness zones are based around low temperatures, so even if a specific plant can handle the cold it may not be able to survive the heat.

Gardening zones don’t inform you of when you should plant your vegetables either. Because most plants are sensitive to frost, it is usually a good rule of thumb to plant after your last expected frost date and to make sure to harvest before your first expected frost date in the fall.

What Is Living Soil | USWGA

You’ve probably heard the term living soil by now at one point or another. It’s quickly becoming a great way for gardeners to save money while producing the healthiest high quality organic plants possible.

  • What is living soil? 
  • What are the benefits of living soil? 
  • Why should you switch to living soil? 

These are popular questions that gardeners have when the topic of living soil is brought up. Hopefully by the end of this article, readers will have all the answers that they need to start experimenting with living soil within their own gardens. Get ready to love your soil!

A Hand Popping Out Of The Soil

What Is Living Soil? 

In short, living soil is a biodiverse growing medium that microbiology thrives in. Utilizing compost, worms and beneficial funguses, beneficial bacterias and amoebas and certain extracts (kelp meal etc..) & cover crops, growers can create an optimal living environment for their plants. 

Living soil loosens compacted soils which improves root growth and root mass and pretty much the overall health of your plant. 

There are a variety of benefits of living soil. It will save gardeners money on expensive bottled nutrients, harmful pesticides and the purchase of soil itself. This is because living soil can be reused over and over again. And most times, the more that soil is reused, the better that soil will get.

Let us be clear, when we say “re-use”, there is some work that goes into getting your soil ready to be “reused”. It is not as simple as removing a harvested plant and then replanting one in the same soil.   

Is Soil Living Or Non Living?

Soil is a living thing, it’s alive. While some soils, in lack of other words, are complete garbage for your plants. These soils usually contain synthetic fertilizers, slow release nutrients or need to be completely overhauled to meet your plants needs. 

True living soil on the other hand is (or should be in our opinion) completely organic. This can be tricky if you don’t start with an organic base mix, which is a mistake new gardeners tend to make. 

When living soil is created, cultivators don’t need to rely solely on fertilizers. This is because the microbes in the soil will eat and completely digest a variety of compounds within the soil and in turn, they naturally create bioavailable fertilizers for your plant.

How To Feed Living Soil

Watering Can In Use

When you hear someone say that they garden using only water, they usually will be using either a super soil or a true living soil. 

When the PH’d water enters the soil, it imparts nutrient laden water throughout as it travels through the soil and distributes to the roots. This is because the process naturally creates organic matter and bioavailable fertilizers that are then available for the plants and microbes within the soil to consume. 

We recommend adding microbial teas with myco (mycorrhizae) to your soils to boost their efficiency. This creates a sort of symbiotic relationship between your plant and the mycorrhizal fungi which stimulates soil microbial life. The fungi eats away at the decomposing organic material which in turn creates usable nutrient rich plant food for your plants to uptake. 

Super Soil Vs Living Soil 

As we said before, all soils are living in the sense that they contain microorganisms and other living organisms. But you will often hear the term super soil when people are talking about “water only” regimens. 

The difference between living soil and super soil is that living soil is essentially natures natural recipe for amazing soil. It is natural and offers plants a natural way to thrive. 

Super Soil on the other hand is a heavily amended soil that provides the plants with everything they need off the bat. But when it comes to Super Soil, it is VERY hot soil. It is full of fresh additives that will need to be “cooked” to get it to a place where your plants will be able to actually grow in it without burning your plants.

Burning is referring to a plant coming into contact with a nutrient that is too strong for it to take up. It would be like a human walking barefoot through hot coals. The HOT coals will definitely burn your feet but the ones that have cooled down will be alright to walk on.

This works the same way with plants. As the roots stretch out looking for nutrients within the soil, the nutrients that have not had time to “cool down” will burn the roots of the plant causing stresses and growth issues.

Similar to composting, what happens to these harsh amendments when the soil is “cooked” is that the beneficial bacteria in the soil will start to break them down in the soil. This makes them bioavailable for your plants to uptake without hurting themselves.

Living soil does not need this type of buffer time and is very gentle, bending to your plants liking in a much more natural and efficient way (in our opinion).

How To Make Living Soil 

Healthy biologically active soil is a great way to stimulate plant growth and root development across the board. There are many ways to make a lying soil. 

The first thing that should be done is a test of the soil you are currently using or going to use. This lets the gardener understand the structure, PH level, organic matter present and the nutrient analysis of the dirt.

From this gardeners can determine if the PH of the soil is in the correct spot and if the soil is fertile and healthy. There are lots of different DIY ways to test your soil that you can find online if you don’t know how to test your soil currently.

After you test your soil you will be able to see what your soil is lacking. Whether it’s been nutrient depleted or is not in the range PH that you;d like. Gardeners can grow cover crops, feed their soil and compost certain leaves to create the perfect soil for their needs.

Every soil can be different depending on the specific plants that are going to be planted in the soil. This means that there is a different living soil recipe for every situation. While the process of creating it can be fairly similar. The additives that are included or the sought after PH can be completely different, so make sure to do your homework!


Living soil is a cost efficient and safe way to produce beautiful organic plants that develop the way that nature intended. It doesn’t get more organic and natural than this!

The Challenges of Landscaping on a Hill

The charming features of a house on a hill are unmatched.

What makes the property even more attractive is adding new construction and landscaping designs.

From flowing hardscapes to versatile shade structures, waterfalls, firepits, stunning gardens, and everything in between, there’s a lot you can do to tame a slope and take advantage of the view. 

Landscaping On A Hill

How to Landscape on a Hill

Before you invest in your hilltop’s landscape, there’s a few components the experts from Ground Zero Landscape told us to consider:

Erosion & Run-Off

Watering on a slope can be difficult because there are many things to consider. The first challenge of landscaping on a hill is water run-off and erosion. Water run-off creates erosion, so the less water run-off, the smaller the chance of landscape erosion.

You’ll have to set up your irrigation in the right location, typically above the watering target, to decrease your erosion and water run-off.

If you’re looking for an erosion-control method, netting ground covers help contain the extra water from your land. While it isn’t the most attractive feature, it’s a biodegradable, all-natural product that is effective, and doesn’t harm the environment.

Adding a retaining wall could also help soil erosion, but you would risk overwatering the plants at the bottom of your sloped yard.

Adequate Watering Cycles

Once you set up your irrigation system above the planting area, you should start with shorter, more frequent watering times.

This prevents your landscaping from potential erosion issues due to overwatering. 

Timer Control & Irrigation Placement

Ensuring that you have the right type of irrigation timer and installation is a vital component to successfully landscaping on a hill.

There are different types of irrigation systems for slopes. 

From pop-up spray heads to micro-drip technology, underlying drip systems, plus many more. 

The irrigation system should depend on the type of vegetation or plant material that you are planning to plant and/or water. 

Plant Material & Stabilization

Selecting the proper plant(s) for your property is important because only a few plants can survive a hilltop. 

When you water your plants on a hill, the water trickles down the hill quicker, leaving the soil drier at the top.

Drought-tolerant trees and plants are best for hillside landscaping. Perennials and/or native plants work well too, as they have adapted to the local conditions of the area.

Trees & Root Systems

Properly setting up your irrigation not only lessens the chance of erosion/water run-off, but it also ensures a good, strong root system. 

A vigorous root system creates stability for the native soil on your landscape. 

Trees have many roots, so adding one, two, or even a few, to your landscape would help hold your landscape’s soil in place.

Hilltop Landscaping

There are many ways to control the challenges of landscaping on a hill. 

#1. Maintaining your erosion and water run-off is key to a vigorous landscape.

#2. After considering the erosion and water run-off, choose the right irrigation system for your property based on your plant life. 

#3. Set up short and frequent watering times on your irrigation system to avoid overwatering and reduce the chances of erosion.

#4. Keep in mind that drought-tolerant plants work better for hills, since they lose water at the top of the hill quicker than plants on flat ground do.

#5. Consider planting some trees to create a flat, strong root system and ultimately help your landscape’s soil hold in place.

Adding stone walls, a rock garden, stepping stones, or other landscaping ideas can also add to the focal point of the property.

No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together each the happier for the other.

Frank Lloyd Wright