Zone-by-Zone Gardening Guide

Use our regional gardening guide to choose the best varieties and most prolific plants for every garden zone in the U.S.


| March/April 2017



United States Map

Knowing what crops grow best in your climate is a sure-fire way to plan a successful vegetable garden.

Photo by iStock

One of the surest ways to grow a successful vegetable garden is to emphasize crops and varieties that are proven performers in your climate. Using well-adapted varieties gives your garden a strong backbone, which frees you up to try some fun crops on the side — a guaranteed formula for a satisfying season. It also gives you a leg up when it comes to your garden’s health and productivity, meaning you’ll be able to harvest more food with less work.

Begin by finding your gardening zone. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map divides North America into zones based on minimum winter temperatures, which we will use as a starting point. Long-lived trees, shrubs and perennials are given a range of zones in which they grow best, and because a zone number also reflects the length of the growing season and intensity of summer heat, knowing your zone helps vegetable gardeners, too. 

 In addition to using the map here, the Zone Map website includes a pull-down menu where you can see your state’s Zone Map. Once you know your zone, commit it to memory, and read on to learn about the most unstoppable crops for where you live. The growing seasons listed here are averages typical of the various zones. You can find the specific length of your growing season, plus your specific first and last frost date here.

Zones 3 and 4 

GROWING SEASON: Less than 140 frost-free days
AVERAGE MINIMUM WINTER TEMPERATURES: -20 to -40 degrees
SUREFIRE FRUITS: Juneberries, raspberries

The upper Midwest, northern mountains and New England have short, cool summers and long, cold winters, which make them the ideal climates for peas, potatoes and other cool-season crops. An asparagus patch is valuable because the plants are ready to start growing as soon as the ground thaws, but some varieties emerge so early they can be damaged by cold. The Canada-bred ‘Guelph Millennium’ variety emerges a week later than other all-male asparagus varieties, making it a top choice.

Peas of all types are prime picks, but make sure to grow an elegant ‘Green Arrow’-type shell pea because they are so beautiful and delicious. Use snow peas with colorful yellow or purple pods as edible ornamentals, and fill your freezer with long-vined ‘Sugar Snaps’.





elderberry, echinacea, bee hive

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