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Growing a Wildlife Orchard in Hardiness Zones 1-3

Hardiness zones have been devised to help gardeners, growers, and farmers adjust to the specific climate of their region and its particularities.

There are 13 hardiness zones in the United States, 1 being the coldest one and 13 the warmest one. These zones cover the whole of the United States, from Alaska to Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

Each zone is calculated to be 10 degrees warmer than the previous one.

Zone 1 experiences harsh winters of -60 degrees Fahrenheit. Zone 2 is 10 degrees warmer, with winters reaching -50F. As for zone 3, it is another 10 degrees warmer than zone 2 so winters there reach -40F. The last zone, number 13, is between 60F and 70F and is found in Puerto Rico.

Where Do I Find Hardiness Zones 1-3 in the United States?

Hardiness zone 1 is mainly found in Alaska. Very little grows there and the biome is characterized as tundra; a type of biome where tree growth is hindered by low temperatures and short growing seasons.

Zone 2 is also found in Alaska. Zone 3 can be found in Alaska and in the coldest parts of Maine, Idaho, North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, Vermont, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Minnesota, Montana, and high-altitude areas of Colorado.

Research has shown that zone 3 areas experience the first frost around mid-September and the last one around mid-May.

Such cold and hardy areas experience low moisture and high winds, which makes growing trees and shrubs challenging.

How Do Trees and Shrubs Prepare for Winter?

Trees in hardiness zones 1-3 have short warm periods, usually lasting for the three summer months. Come September, the cold settles in.

Trees, shrubs, and plants are very attuned to the weather and the climate. Once days start getting shorter and nights cooler, trees know that winter is coming.

Most of the year leaves rely on water from the tree roots. To prepare for the cold, trees pull moisture into their roots and slow down their growth, thus saving as much water as possible. Deciduous trees drop their leaves to reduce water loss. Most conifers, however, retain needles year-round and only lose their older, damaged needles.

As temperatures drop, sugars, proteins, fats, and various nutrients build up inside the tree’s cells. That’s not all, though. While “sleeping,” trees need to protect their cells from freezing. As the temperature drops, they move water from the inside of their cells to the space that lies in between cells. That way, the cells won’t freeze up. Even better, once it’s cold enough, the stored water that is now outside the cells freezes. This process creates heat that protects the cells.

You can help your trees handle the cold by watering them thoroughly before the ground freezes. To lock in moisture, top your watered tree off with a 2-to-4-inch deep layer of mulch.

Also, the period after the tree is leafless and dormant but before the snow and ice arrive is one of the best times to prune your tree. This minimizes the shock to the tree and ensures a plentiful harvest in spring and summer.

Can I Plant Wildlife-Preferred Trees in Zones 1-3?

Wildlife orchards can struggle with hardiness zones 1 and 2. However, zone 3, despite its harsh and long winters, is better for trees and shrubs.

Here at Wildtree, we have a wide selection of handpicked trees and shrubs that will survive zone 3 climate conditions. These include the Arrowwood Viburnum, which is preferred by deer, beavers, and rabbits. Another favorite of white-tailed deer is the fast-growing Northern Red Oak, which grows well in zone 3.

The Swamp White Oak is a resilient, well-adapted deciduous tree that is highly appreciated by wildlife such as white-tailed deer, ducks, turkeys, and squirrels. The Swamp White Oak can be planted throughout the United States and can even survive drought.

The White Oak is another deciduous tree that grows in zone 3. It is sturdy and robust and has great wildlife value.

As for the Bur Oak, it drops large acorns that survive well into fall. This makes it extremely valuable to deer when other food sources are scarce. Like the Swamp White Oak, the Bur Oak thrives in almost all areas of the United States, including zone 3.

Why Should I Care about Hardiness Zones?

 If you want to spend your money wisely, you will invest in wildlife preferred trees and shrubs that will attract wildlife and thrive for years to come.

Choosing a tree that is not adapted to your area means you will plant something that has a high probability of dying during the first winter. Also, trees that can’t adapt to your hardiness zone will not grow, mature, or fruit, leaving you with limp, lifeless branches without any wildlife interest.

Hardiness zones have been devised to help growers and landowners make the right choices for their land.

If you are planning on establishing a wildlife orchard, Wildtree can help you make the most out of your budget instead of wasting money on the wrong types of plants. 

Once you have established the general climate around your land, contact Wildtree online, call 346-707-6023, or email us at [email protected] and we will help you choose the best trees for your land. It will be our pleasure to help you understand the particularities of your land and find the best plants for your garden or landscaping project. We offer free shipping on all our orders and a 10% discount on orders over $1000!