Gardening Guide by Climate and Location


Cool-weather/warm-weather veggies

Gardening by zip code/color zone

Soil fertility

Considering climate change

Gardening by state, at a glance


If you’re hesitant about starting a garden, always remember that the USA is founded on agriculture. Many states produce crops not only for the entire country, but also for import all over the world. Chances are, there’s always something to grow anywhere on the US map, even in places you won’t think are plant-friendly.

Serious gardeners rely a lot on climate zone maps and hardiness zone charts for reference. These may be tedious to interpret at first, especially among those who aren’t well-versed in temperature degrees. But when broken down into other factors like frost, climate, and soil fertility, they can prove to be quite handy.

Below is a map from the US Department of Agriculture indicating the hardiness of vegetables, herbs, and flowers to cold.

In many gardening maps online, you can simply enter your zip code in order to have a guide on how cold it gets where you live. There are websites and apps, like The National Gardening Association’s, that offer garden calendar planting guides according to your city, state, or zip code. These sites offer downloadable and printable calendar guides which include your location’s average frost-free seasons, along with suggestions on which plants are best to grow during those times.

Remember that many perennial plants (including herbs and flowers) are considered hardy enough to withstand most cold winters in certain places, like the pink to purple zones in the USDA map above. However, it helps to narrow down the frost zones according to your exact location to really ensure a good harvest or a thriving garden.

Here’s a surprising gardening zip code trivia: While interior Alaska may be considered chilly and unfriendly to plants by most gardening standards, the state’s passage going to Anchorage has been known to produce some brightly colored, healthy flowers (thanks to its abundance of rain and sunshine - but no scorching summers!). Many gardeners believe the same formula will likely yield good produce in the area, as well.

Plenty of vegetables, plants, and flowers can tolerate (or even thrive in) a bit of frost. They usually grow better in the fall, and can be found in yellow-green zone up to the yellow through to the ochre zones southward.

For spring, you can start seeding veggies like cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, and broccoli as early as February - as long as you do so indoors. Chances are, the frost will make the soil hard to work with during this time. As soon as March rolls around, you can start transplanting your seeds outdoors. Refer to your gardening calendar app for specific vegetables and plants whose hardiness you aren’t entirely sure about.

When autumn approaches, it’s a good idea to count a hundred days from your harvest date so you’ll know when to seed and transplant vegetables. Seed packets usually indicate harvest dates, so let those guide you. Garlic can be planted in the second week of September, but it’s best to use a soil thermometer to be sure. Soil temperature at 60° is ideal for planting garlic, at a depth of around 4 inches.

Fertile soil trumps many other gardening issues, with some gardeners swearing by the “toss a seed, expect a fruit” method of casual gardening when they are blessed with rich soil.

Unfortunately, not all places have this. If you aren’t sure about your soil fertility, get a soil test done to determine its sulfur rate and nutrient level.

As previously mentioned, frost can render garden soil unworkable. The same holds true for drier regions. If you live in a part of the country where soil is alkaline, you will need to acidify it. You can add organic compost to your soil to neutralize its pH and make it more nutritious for plants. Pine needles have good acidity, so save some from your discarded Christmas tree in time for spring gardening. As a rule of (green) thumb, mulching in general can keep soil healthy, weed-free, and protected from extreme weather changes.

When Frost Dates Matter More Than Zones

Because of climate upheavals, there are longer periods of drought and frost which could render a climate zone map unreliable (or at the very least, unpredictable). The map above estimates the first date of frost in the fall and the last date of frost in spring in every region. While many gardening almanacs give an estimate on when the ground for every region would be soft enough to work with, the best recourse is still to test it on your own using a soil thermometer.

Of course, observing your plants for any sign of drought stress or frost means you have to customize your watering schedule specifically around it. Knowing the types of plants and their developmental stages can also help you reduce watering in increments. For instance, squash, melons, cucumbers, and other vine crops only need ample watering during their flowering and fruiting stages. Peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants do not need a lot of watering as they love the heat, and tend to bear more fruit in warmer weather.

With droughts come concerns of water shortage and how not to waste it. Garden soil needs mulch so water doesn’t evaporate as quickly in very hot weather. Two to three inches of mulch can act as a protective layer from weeds and pests, while allowing water and fertilizer to seep through and stay in the soil and roots where they’re needed. It also prevents the sun from baking the soil underneath.


Climate change has a huge impact on our seasons. This has never been more apparent than in the last few years, when drought and flooding have been wreaking havoc on crops and gardens in quick succession. Other variables come into play with huge environmental changes. Seasonal vegetables, plants, and flowers can refuse to grow within their expected “seasons”, while pests, weeds, fungi, and other gardening nemesis can pop up without warning during prolonged summers.

Some practical suggestions in anticipation of wildly-changing weather and fluctuating temperatures would be to consider rooftop gardening, and seeking out drought-resistant produce. To start with, you can go for okra, peppers, collard greens, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, legumes like chickpea, lima beans and cow beans, mature rhubarb, chiles, cantaloupe, and herbs such as rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme, and lavender.

In a drought, it’s no longer practical to plant in rows. It makes better sense to do block and grouped planting. The logic behind this is that the plants provide much-needed shade and nutrients for each other without competing for moisture and nourishment. A water-efficient garden layout can have blocks of similar-needs produce like cucumbers, squash, and zucchini - these vegetables require the same amount of watering. It may be tempting to add some cauliflower or broccoli into the mix, but as they need more room and are thirsty plants, they will create a problem with watering and nourishment.

If you really want to conserve water by not using sprinklers or a garden hose, harvest rainwater or collect water left over from boiling vegetables instead. Not only are you recycling a much-needed resource, you’re also introducing added nutrients to nourish your growing plants.

If you want a really rough guide on how to grow plants in your area, here’s a quick-reference chart listing all the states with their growing seasons, average number of frost-free days, and plants that are ideal for gardening at specific times.


Growing season (on average)

Ideal plants (and when to plant them)


Frost-free growing season starts Mar 19 and ends Nov 8, totalling 234 days

Start planting lettuce and spinach indoors around Jan 9 and then transplant them into the garden around Feb 28


*Northern climate requires special gardening needs

Incorporate local materials like peat moss and seaweed for composting


Frost-free growing season starts May 27 and ends Oct 11, totalling 137 days

Start summer plants like beans, cowpeas, corn, squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers, watermelons, gourds and sunflowers indoors around May 7. Transplant seedlings out after the danger of frost is past


Frost-free growing season starts Apr 11 and ends Oct 21, totalling 193 days

Plant beans, cowpeas, corn, squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers, watermelons, gourds and sunflowers seeds directly into the ground around Apr 11


Frost-free growing season starts Feb 4 and ends Dec 3, totalling 303 days

Start lettuce and spinach indoors around Nov 26 and then transplant them into the garden around Jan 15


Frost-free growing season starts July 8 and ends Aug 28, totalling 51 days

Due to the very short growing season, most warm weather crops like tomatoes and peppers require at least 2 months of frost-free weather in order to grow and produce fruit


Frost-free growing season starts May 14 and ends Sep 27, totalling 136 days

Broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage can be direct-seeded into your garden around Apr 2, assuming the ground isn't frozen


Frost-free growing season starts Apr 19 and ends Oct 15, totalling 179 days

Around Apr 15 you should start watching the weather forecast and, as soon as no frost is forecast, go ahead and transplant tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants outdoors


Frost-free growing season starts Feb 22 and ends Dec 17, totalling 299 days

Plant onion starts and potatoes around Dec 24


Frost-free growing season starts Mar 23 and ends Nov 8, totalling 230 days

Tomatoes, peppers and eggplants require around 100 days to harvest, so transplant them into the ground around Jul 31


Frost-free growing season starts May 21 and ends Oct 28, totalling 160 days

Beans, cowpeas, corn, squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers, watermelons, gourds and sunflowers seeds should be planted directly into the ground around Jul 15


On average has approximately 145 days between the last and first frost

Plant lettuce and spinach in the ground early Mar, and as soon as the 3rd week rolls around, add potatoes, leeks, and onions


Frost-free growing season starts Apr 19 and ends Oct 14, totalling 178 days

Get your crops mature and harvested before the winter frosts begin, around Oct 14


Frost-free growing season starts Apr 28 and ends Oct 8, totalling 163 days

Sow peas directly into the ground around Jul 25


Frost-free growing season starts Apr 28 and ends Oct 1, totalling 156 days

Plant the seeds of corn, squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers, watermelons, gourds and sunflowers directly into the ground around Jun 18


Apr 21 - Oct 15 (177 days)

Kale (sow indoors May 21 - Jul 5, transplant outdoors Jul 1 - Aug 16)


Apr 23 - Oct 12 (172 days)

Gourds, Squash, Pumpkins (direct-sow seeds May 30 - Jun 29)


Mar 6 - Nov 19 (258 days)

Lettuce, Spinach (start indoors Dec 27)


May 26 - Sep 15 (112 days)

Broccoli, Cabbage (sow indoors Apr 21 - Jun 5)


Apr 11 - Oct 29 (201 days)

Collard greens (transplant seedlings Jul 31 - Sep 14)


May 8 - Sep 29 (144 days)

Okra (direct-sow seeds May 17 - Jun 15)


Jun 13 - Sep 1 (80 days)

Lettuce (sow seeds indoors Jun 3 - Jul 3)


May 18 - Sep 19 (124 days)

Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplants (transplant into ground around Jun 11)


Apr 10 - Oct 23 (196 days)

Cabbage (transplant outdoors Jul 10 - Aug 24)


Apr 8 - Oct 27 (202 days)

Spinach (transplant into garden Aug 13 - Sep 27)


May 31 - Sep 16 (108 days)

Garlic (plant toes about 3-4 inches deep around Aug 2)


May 19 - Sep 17 (121 days)

Brussel sprouts (sow seeds indoors Apr 23 - Jun 7)


Jun 30 - Aug 31 (62 days)

Broccoli (transplant outdoors May 18 - Jul 2)

New Hampshire

May 20 - Sep 21 (124 days)

Okra, Corn, Beans, Cucumber (direct-sow seeds by Jun 8)

New Jersey

May 3 - Oct 9 (159 days)

Peppers (sow seeds indoors May 5 - 20)

New Mexico

May 13 - Sep 30 (140 days)

Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage (direct seed into garden around Jul 22)

New York

Apr 1 - Nov 15 (228 days)

Brussel Sprouts (transplant seedlings outdoors Aug 2 - Sep 16)

North Carolina

Apr 20 - Oct 31 (194 days)

Gourd, Squash, Pumpkin (direct-sow seeds Jun 18 - Jul 18)

North Dakota

May 23 - Sep 13 (113 days)

Onion, Potatoes (plant starts and potatoes around Mar 24)


May 6 - Oct 1 (148 days)

Beans (direct-sow seeds outdoors Jun 18 - Jul 18)


Apr 14 - Oct 17 (186 days)

Watermelon (direct sow seeds between Jun 4 - Jul 4)


May 20 - Sep 21 (157 days)

Cole crops (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts)


Apr 30 - Oct 15 (168 days)

Lettuce (start transplanting seedlings outdoors by Aug 16 - Sep 15)

Rhode Island

May 17 - Sep 25 (131 days)

Lettuce and spinach (start indoors around May 28, transplant around Jul 7)

South Carolina

Apr 1 - Nov 1 (214 days)

Potatoes (transplant outside from Aug 3 - Sep 2)

South Dakota

May 17 - Sep 17 (123 days)

Summer vegetables (beans, cowpeas, corn, squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers, watermelons, gourds, and sunflowers)


Apr 13 - Oct 21 (191 days)

Peppers (transplant seedlings into outdoor garden between Apr 13 - Apr 27)


Mar 26 - Nov 11 (230 days)

Garlic (plant cloves apart around Sep 27, toes 3-4 inches deep)


Jun 3 - Sep 14 (103 days)

Radishes (direct sow seeds outside from Jul 16 - Aug 15)


May 20 - Sep 23 (126 days)

Onions and potatoes (plant around Mar 21)


Apr 25 - Oct 12 (170 days)

Lettuce (direct sow seeds between Aug 13 - Sep 12)


Mar 29 - Nov 15 (231 days)

Corn and cucumbers (direct sow between Aug 2 - Aug 17)

West Virginia

May 4 - Oct 12 (161 days)

Garlic (plant towards end of Aug or when soil temp is 60°F, 4 inches deep)


May 1 - Oct 8 (160 days)

Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants (start indoors around Feb 21, transplant outside around Apr 27)


May 30 - Sep 13 (106 days)

Summer vegetable seeds (beans, cowpeas, corn, squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers, watermelons, gourds, and sunflowers) (plant directly into ground around May 30 or when soil is near 60°F)