In which zone? What to plant when

An analogue map shows how Australia's different climate zones compare to those of cities around the world 


I am on a mission to pin down which climate zone I live in. The devil is in the detail (as always).

The simple climate zone on most seed packets will say we are subtropical. Gardening Australia has a lovely interactive map  which is fun to play with. Click on the region you live in and the month and it will tell you what to plant. According to this system, there are five zones: TropicalSubtropical, AridTemperate, Cool (like Fonzie).

But, this seems too simple. While it can be humid at our place, the heat is drier than an hour away in Brisbane. Also, I have driven home in the rain enough times, only to discover a mere dozen spots in the dust when I got home, to question the equation with subtropical. 

I regularly use Organic Vegetable Gardening by Annette McFarlane. In her book she has 5 zones: tropical, subtropical and warm temperate, semi arid and arid, dry temperate (Mediterranean), temperate and cool climates. She uses descriptions for each climate – so, for instance, subtropical and warm temperate has distinct seasonal changes, rainfall or up to 1200mm, mostly in summer, average winter temperatures between 10-20c, and average summer temperatures between 20-30c and a mid winter day length of 9.5 hours. That sounds like me.  And I like the description. On the maps, we sit on a border that seems to hover right over us. It is uncomfortable. Which side of the line are we?

So far I have two votes for subtropical. Not only that, but the two sources generally agree on what I should grow when. Something still does not sit right.

Then I look at the Diggers Club climate maps. They suggest choosing your plants based on the which hot and cold zone you are in – based on the hottest and coldest temperatures you experience. They then propose four zones: Cool, Warm, Subtropical and Hot. Oh my, I zoom in and there I am – not subtropical – but a little slither of hot zone nestled between subtropical and warm.  It is the first time I have seen this thing I have felt.  We are not quite like Brisbane to the east, nor are we quite like temperate Toowoomba to the west. Could we really be in the same climate zone at Mt Isa?

I don’t know if I have solved my problem. Perhaps I am a swinging voter, going from climate to climate depending on the year and its vagaries. I can only build a knowledge base of my own based on what works for me when.

Meanwhile, those heirloom seeds at the Diggers Club look enticing!

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