Often referred to as the bread basket of America, the Midwest region enjoys some of the most fertile soil in the United States. Weather varies dramatically from state to state and season to season. However, generally speaking, the Midwest region enjoys cold winters with snow, short springs, cool falls, and hot, humid summers.

The Midwest lies in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 through 6, one of the widest ranges in the U.S. In the central to southern portions of the region, gardeners can expect a growing season from April to October. Gardeners in Michigan, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, however, have a much shorter growing season.

How to extend the growing season and life of your plants in Northern & Central Midwest

You may want to slightly modify the growing conditions in your garden to help your plants thrive year after year and enjoy them longer. Here are a few basic gardening tips:

Block damaging winter winds with fences, burlap or windbreaks.

Plant your heat-loving perennials and shrubs near hard structures of stone or concrete (such as buildings) as they emit heat and raise the air temperature

Apply mulch around the plant roots (woodchips, evergreen needles or any other organic mulch) to keep them cooler and moist in summer and warmer in winter

Apply winter mulch to keep your soil temperature stable throughout the winter and protect your plants (straw, evergreen boughs, marsh hay). This will help reduce variations in soil temperatures that could stress your plants, prevent early sprouting after a temporary rise in temperatures, reduce moisture loss from winter wind or sun. Did you know that snow is a reliable winter mulch which protects your plants?

Provide frost protection to enjoy your plants longer. Use cold frames to get a jump on the growing season and to extend it by several weeks. Alternatively, you may use season-extending fabrics. Simply plant your frost-sensitive plants outside a few weeks before your last spring frost date and cover them with this season-extending fabric. They will be protected from spring frost and kept warm. Remove the season-extending fabric once the danger of frost has passed. Similarly, you may want to use these covers in the fall to protect your plants from the first fall frost and enjoy them longer.

Select drought and heat tolerant plants

Provide some shade relief with trees or trellises decoratively covered with climbing vines.

Underplant your trees and shrubs with a ground cover