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Mailbag: Accounting for zones; annual vs. tender perennial

In the mailbag this morning: What zone is New York? We are around 5 here in Boise. Question: Can you transplant annuals in the fall, treat them like a house plant during winter and replant them outside in the late spring the following year? Thanks, Rance Peterson

Hi, Rance. Here on Long Island, we're in zone 7. If you're looking at my monthly calendar of chores, the general rule of thumb is to add or subtract a month for each zone, but that often doesn't translate well beyond 2 zones. In other words, since zone 5 is 2 zones cooler than Long Island, your garden is roughly 2 months behind. Again, though, this doesn't apply to everything, just things like when to sow seeds, transplant vegetables, renovate a lawn, etc. So, for instance, when I recommend starting seeds indoors in March, you might wait until early May.

Concerning annuals, by definition, they are plants that complete their entire life cycle -- from seed to natural death -- in one year, so bringing them indoors won't extend their lives. One example of a true annual is impatiens. However, many plants you might think are annuals (Pelargonium, aka, geraniums for instance) actually are tender perennials that will not survive winters in cooler zones but live long lives farther south in zones 10 and 11. Those can be overwintered indoors. However, because of low light levels during winter, they don't usually fare very well.   Hope this helps! -- Jessica

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