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given that this is a USDA resource I really thought that it would be available online somewhere, but for the life of me I cannot find a shape file for the USDA plant hardiness zones anywhere. anyone know where there might be one?

This link is the closest I found but it doesn't seem to offer any sort of shape file download:

http://www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/ushzmap.html

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5 Answers 5

Here is a link to a same question as yours in Google+, and with an explanation from "The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture", with reasons why data can't be freely available.

Follow the posts of a woman named "Jeanne Holm". In her third post (Jan 12th, first paragraph) she says:

The issue in releasing that data is that USDA does not actually own the rights to release the data in its machine readable format beyond the government.

her post contain the extended answer directly from USDA

In the third paragraph she presents a solution of short-term to the guy who made the question ("Michael Bernstein"). See if it helps you.

The short-term solution is that I could extract the individual tables from the paper referenced below and load those into Data.gov. And I can do that if it will be helpful. The long-term solution is to liberate data that is gathered or created by the government under the emerging policy changes you can see at the White House Open Data Initiatives that Data.gov is part of: http://www.whitehouse.gov/innovationfellows/opendata and http://project-open-data.github.com/ We are working aggressively to make this happen. Stay tuned.

New discussions started (October, 22th, 2013) on the same Google+ thread and maybe some changes can come in the future.

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

With some diligent work from several people, an open sourced version of the hardiness zones have been created. I found this link -

https://github.com/wboykinm/ophz/tree/master

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The USDA just issued brand new hardiness zone maps, an interactive web site, and ... shapefiles. I haven't actually looked at the shapefiles, but terms and conditions and download are all here

The news story about the new zones from AP on Yahoo can be found here

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that's great! except... they still want $150 for the shapefile, whatever, I think I'll buy it- –  chrismarx Jan 30 '12 at 13:54
    
oh, how wrong i was, they want $150 for each region in the US! there are about 10 of them, now that's just too pricey- –  chrismarx Jan 31 '12 at 15:43

Have you looked here http://www.hardiness-zone-map.com/? The map is implemented with overlays on Google maps. If you read the script that implements the map, you can find where the .png files are located. Not a pretty solution, but it might work.

[edit] I've searched a bit more and found shapefiles for annual mean minimum temperature . It's only a short hop from there to hardiness zone.

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yes I did find this site, but I thought that as a USDA resource that this would really would be available online somewhere, and being able to work with the shape file would certainly be easier than scraping the URLs off this site- –  chrismarx Jan 5 '12 at 2:45
    
I looked into using the annual mean minimum temperature a bit more, and it's not clear to me what is the official way to calculate the hardiness zones. According to wikipedia (perhaps not the best reference...) the mim summer month temps are not used (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardiness_zone), while the metadata link in the other answer indicates that perhaps it is based on all the months. Unfortunately, I really need some official file here, because I don't want to accidentally tell people they're in the wrong zone, because the process I followed is different from the USDA's –  chrismarx Jan 5 '12 at 15:26
    
The National Arboretum site you listed in the question describes the zones as average annual minimum temperature in the legend. I think that's the same as the contents of the climate data link. –  Llaves Jan 5 '12 at 15:43
    
If you compare the map on the national arboretum site to the one at the noaa site, you'll notice vast differences. I'm hoping someone will email me from one of the several places I contacted, and I will definitely try put this resource on a public host- –  chrismarx Jan 5 '12 at 16:03
    
I think this is probably the best direction to be taking... I know this question is old, so has anyone had luck finding a good shapefile for the average minimum temperature? –  thegreyspot Mar 14 '13 at 18:39

I don't believe there is an official one available. There appears to be a commercially available digitized version for purchase (I've linked the metadata below):

http://www.climatesource.com/us/fact_sheets/phm_ak_shapefile_metadata.htm

If you search around for a bit, you'll find some online hardiness maps but all the ones I've seen look like they're just raster overlays. I've also seen some states that have digitized their hardiness maps (I've seen Idaho's and Montana's), so if you happen to need a limited dataset and are fortunate about which state you need it from, you might be in luck.

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Hi, Even a decent raster would be ok, I could use that or convert it to a vector file. I do however need it for the whole US. The link you posted does seem to point to the resource I'm looking for, but I don't see any place to download that resource on the climatesource site. Did you see it available for download? –  chrismarx Jan 5 '12 at 1:57
    
I didn't see it available for download, but the metadata did have contact information so you could try that route. Good luck! –  Jason Baker Jan 5 '12 at 3:00
    
yup, email sent- –  chrismarx Jan 5 '12 at 3:36
    
ars.usda.gov/research/publications/… refers to this. –  Howard Butler Jan 5 '12 at 17:20
    
fpds.gov/dbsight/… ESRI has a federal contract award to host this –  Howard Butler Jan 5 '12 at 18:00

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