A critical component to growing a lush, easy to care for garden is selecting the correct plants. The United States Department of Agriculture has divided the country into 11 hardiness zones to illustrate regional temperature differences. Hardiness defines a plant's ability to survive the coldest temperature for the region. For example, a plant that thrives in South Carolina's zone 7 or 8 in winter temperatures of 1 to 10 degrees would die in zone 6's minus-10 degrees. The hardiness zones are further broken down into 5-degree increments and labeled as 6a and 6b, with the regions in 6b being 5 degrees warmer than 6a. Plant selection based on regional compatibility will lead to success in your garden.
Familiarize yourself with the plant lists for zone 6. Take the lists with you and visit garden centers, nurseries and public gardens until you can identify them by name. Usee a zone 5 plant list, as recommended by garden.org, if you live in the northern edge of zone 6.
Take notes and pictures of plants in your area through the year. Watching plants change throughout the seasons, you can plan groupings for your garden.
Learn how to overwinter plants that cannot survive a zone 6 winter. Overwintering allows the zone 6 gardener to keep tropicals such as hibiscus and bougainvillea that will thrive in the hot, humid summers. Invest in large, lightweight fiberglass flower pots so that the tropicals remain in the same pot all year avoiding transplant shock each spring and fall.
Plant in zone 6 using a month-by-month checklist. Plant vegetables in April after the last frost, tender plants such as tropicals and annuals in May and plant spring flowering bulbs September to November.
Transplant perennials, trees and shrubs in the spring or fall. Zone 6 frequently has summer droughts which can kill plants that do not have a mature root system. Any plants transplanted within a year will need to be supplemented with extra watering throughout the summer months.
Clear all spent foliage in the fall. Cut back perennials after the first frost, mow the grass with a mulching mower to pick up fall leaves to place in the compost pile, take tropicals inside to be overwintered.