Vegetable Gardening in Cold Climates – Zones 4 thru 6


Today I am going to talk about cold climate zones. Since I already did post for zones 1 thru 3 and zones 7 thru 10, it was only fitting to do zones 4 thru 6. My hardiness zone at the Simongetti North is zone 5. I will talk about each grow zone 4 thru 6, give the detail of the temperatures, when to start growing seed indoors and when to plant the plants outdoors. Some tips on other edible plants to incorporate in your gardens.  Again, it’s important to know your growing zone to know when you can start gardening outside.

Vegetable Flower Garden

Growing Zone 4

Growing in zone 4 has a shorter growing season, with June 1st for the last frost date and October 1st with first frost date, which these dates can vary 2 to 3 weeks one way or the other depending on the weather conditions that year. Michigan has zone 4 in the west upper peninsula. Zone 4 is also found in Alaska, Arizona, Iowa, northern Wisconsin, most of Minnesota, Oregon, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Washington, Utah, Nebraska, Nevada and a little bit in Idaho and Colorado.

It’s also found in the northeast, Maine, northern New Hampshire, Vermont and up state New York. The lowest average temperature for zone 4 is -30 to -20 degrees, zone 4 has a subset, 4a and 4b, which means zone 4a minimum average is, -25 to -30 degrees and zone 4b minimum average is -20 to -25 degrees. For growing zone 4, it’s recommended to start seeds indoors to be ready to plant the vegetables outdoors after the last frost date.

Planting Guide Zone 4

Other plants that do well are some fruit bushes and fruit tree’s that grow vary well in zone 4. Blackberries, Blueberries, Cranberries, Grapes, Strawberries, The blackberries and grapes start with zone 4 thru 9 and the blueberries, cranberries, and strawberries can be grown starting in zone 3 thru 9.

Growing Zone 5

Grow zone 5 has more of a medium length growing season. The last frost date is May 15 and first frost date is October 15, give or take a week or two, depending on weather conditions that year. I think for zone 5a, which is where I am located, I think the last frost is May 30th and first frost is October 1st, respectively.

Most vegetable will have no problem reaching maturity date before the first frost in zone 5. It’s always advised to watch the weather before planting. Zone 5 is also divided into two subsets; 5a and 5b, 5a minimum average is -15 to -20 degrees and 5b minimum average is -10 to -15 degrees.

Planting Guide Zone 5

There are 32 states that have zone 5; Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, South Dakota, Washington, California, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Utah, West Virginia, Colorado, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wyoming. That is more then half of the United States that has Zone 5. Cherries

Growing season can be extended using raised bed gardens and/or cold frame gardens. There are a few fruit trees that do well in zone 5 which are pears, plum, apple, peach, cherry and Pawpaw trees. Most vegetables can be grown in zone 5. Nut trees love zone 5. Start seeds indoors approximately six weeks before the last frost or sooner. The optimum time to plant vegetables in zone 5 is the date of the last frost.

Planting any sooner than the last frost will probably kill the plants. Melons can grow in zone 5 too. Watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew are great additions to any garden. I grew cantaloupe and watermelon in our garden last year and they were very taste. My grand kids loved them and they also loved watching all the plants grow in the garden and liked that it was grown in Grandma’s garden and it all tasted great!Watermelon plant



Growing Zone 6

Grow zone 6 is one of the best climates for growing vegetables. The last frost date is May 1st and the first frost date is approximately November 1st. Which is, considered a medium long growing season. The hot weathered plants love this zone and is ideal for cold weather crops. Most of the vegetables and flowers will have no problems reaching maturity date in this zone.

If you want to extend the growing season by starting plants indoors you could potentially have 2 growing seasons in one year. Zone 6 has a subset of 6a and 6b; which zone 6a minimum average is -10 to -5 degrees and 6b minimum average is -5 to 0 degrees. The last frost date is April 1st and first frost date is October 17th to 31st.

Planting Guide Zone 6

There are 38 states with zone 6; Alaska, California, DC, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, West Virginia, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts. Montana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, Wyoming, Arkansas, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington.

Peach Tree

There are several fruit options as well, Apple, pear, peach and plum trees also cherries, blackberries and blueberries. Another tree that grows well in zone 6 is an olive tree. Olives like long warm summers with cool nights. Who doesn’t like the beautiful spring blossoms of the flowering trees in the spring? Flowering trees grow very well in zone 6. There is a hardy palm tree and ornamental grass that can grow in zone 6.


Happy Planting!

As you can see there are plenty of vegetables, flowers and trees to plant in each of the zones. Each zone is a little bit different. Some of the same vegetables, flowers and trees can all grow in the same zones, just plant at different times and some plants will not work. English Cucumber


Anyone starting to plan for their spring gardens?

Which zone do you live in?

Are you interested in greenhouse solutions?  Checkout my Review – Backyard Greenhouse Kits – By clicking this link!

Please leave a comment below and let me know if you started to plan for your spring vegetable or flower gardens yet. If so, what are you planning to grow this year?

If you have any other gardening information you would feel helpful, please let me know and I will research it and blog it!



Chris - Founder of Gardening Tips for Beginners


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26 thoughts on “Vegetable Gardening in Cold Climates – Zones 4 thru 6”

  1. Yeah provided a tremendous amount of detail on this. Right now it is winter here where I live Kansas. And I am trying to grow some veggies. Me and my roommates are all trying to go a little bit more inexpensive and we are trying to look for ways to actually grow our own vegetables. This article has been very helpful and I really appreciate the information you provided

    • What is your hardiness zone in Kansas?  I am in Zone 5 in Michigan.  I plan to start some veggies indoors around April.  I am going to start some perennial flowers indoors soon.  I can’t wait until spring to get started on all my projects!

  2. Hi Chris. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on gardening and wanting to help others do the same. Unfortunately i am not in the U.S and could not really relate to all the zones that you were talking about. I did pick up that some of the images possibly needed re-aligning but loved the use of different ones. Also your social media icons block the about me tab on the top of the site.

    • Thank you for your comments.  Where are you from?  All countries have hardiness zones.  Not knowing the country I am not sure what to recommend.  You can do a search for your country then narrow it to your region and it will tell you then you could relate to the zones I am talking about.  I am revamping the webpage a bit, putting back to 2 columns instead of 3.  Thanks for your input.

  3. This is a wonderful article I live in Florida in zone 9 now and have a green house so it is easy for me to start my plants early and just transplant them in March I lived in kentucky before and had to start them in the house and move them out doors in April. I try to grow Bell peppers and tomatoes. But am trying to grow Dragon fruit now I am having great luck in the green house now but will plant them out side soon

    • Thank you for your comment.  I have to say I am a bit jealous.  I live in Michigan and we have probably 4 feet of snow and spring doesn’t look like its coming anytime soon.  I wish I could grow dragon fruit or even pomegranate.  Some day I might get a greenhouse we will see.  What I would really like is a sunroom attached to our house and grow some stuff there and heat it when necessary.  I have a lemon tree I grow indoors and bring outside in the summer.  I have 1 lemon growing on it.

  4. Thanks for this article, I never had a clue there were growing zones, I thought growing planets were just dependent on seasons such as summer spring winter or autumn. Guess you learn something new everyday!

    It seems like most the berries grow in similar circumstances as other small fruits. I love the melon family including watermelon and cantaloupe and always wanted to grow one but wasn’t sure the correct season to grow them so thanks for this informative post!

    • Thank you for your comment.  Vegetables and Berries can be grown in most hardiness zones.  Just depends on how long your growing season is.  I planted blackberries, raspberries, elderberries and blueberries between the last couple years.  Apple tree’s like the colder climates, as they need continuous cold temperatures for a few months to produce well the following spring.  Come back for more gardening tips!


  5. It’s a wonderful subject you’ve chosen, relieved. Being in the garden relaxes me very much in this physical work I find psychological reliance and numerous creative ideas. Thank you for all the helpful information you’ve shared with us, I wish you a lot of success in further work. I’ll take a look at your greenhouse proposals.

    • Hi Jas,

      Thank you for your comments.  Some people look at gardening as a lot of work but I actually find it mentally therapeutic.  My job I sit most of the day so I get into some of the hard work to relieve stress.  I love the greenhouses.  Definitely check out my Review – Backyard Greenhouse Kits.  I am hoping to get one in the future or add a sunroom to my home for greenhouse growing. 

  6. I live in Wisconsin Zone 5 and know our growing season is shorter than others. We usually will purchase plants that have been started in greenhouses such as tomatoes.  It is important to know what to plant when because if you plant too early or too late your garden will not do well. Thanks for sharing this information.

    • Hi Sharon

      Thank you for your comment.  I also live in Zone 5, actually Zone 5a.  I planted a garden last minute in 2020 and ran into the issue of some plants were just getting ready to harvest at frost or some still weren’t ready.  I ended up with an awesome garden but you are correct making sure you plant at the right time key.

  7. I have been trying to discover which is the temperature line that we need to be careful with. The line that once it’s crossed would cause damage to our vegetables. Even in the window frame of these months, we could have harmful temperatures. I have discovered that a temperature below 32 degrees Fahrenheit is too cold for a vegetable garden. This temperature will cause frost to grow in the garden that can harm the roots, leaves, and fruits in your vegetable garden. We can shield our vegetable garden if the temperature drop is temporary.

    • Hi Paolo,

      Thank you for your comment. Yes 32 degree and lower is the magic number.  However, there are cold climate vegetables that will do fine, if they get covered up.  The frost can’t get to them if they are covered.  Cabbage, brussels sprouts and carrots, just to name a few do better in the colder climates.  Carrots are actually sweeter growing in the colder soil.  Using a cold frame or a plastic tent cover will protect them.  Now I wouldn’t do it if you have snow like me.  I will probably start planting cold hardy plants in early May and watch the weather for frost, keep covering until the frost threat is gone.  I am in Zone 5.

  8. This is exceptionally helpful advice with specific tips for vegetable gardeners in the cold climate zones 4 – 6. We are in zone 6 and in a new location so we have been trying to figure out how much light we’ll get in our garden areas. Starting seeds indoors is a challenge for us, as our pets are a little too curious about them to just leave them alone, but hopefully, we can find a way around this challenge this year. Thank you for the smart chart / cheat sheet to help guide us towards gardening success!

  9. I haven’t thought much about Hardiness zones until I read your post here about gardening in cold climates. I just looked up my state’s ardiness zone for the first time. We are in Zone 8a, even though lately it feels that we have been in zone 3 or 4. It makes sense to pay attention to the zones before planting to get the most from your garden. We have been researching plants and trees for our yard. We really want a Lemon Tree.

    • Hi Rich,

      Thank you for your comment.  In addition to knowing your hardiness zone you need to pay attention to the weather as well.  If you plant early and a frost is expected, just cover them up at night then take off when the sun comes up.  The cold hardy vegetables like the cold.

  10. Although I do not live in the States so these zones do not apply to Italy where I live, the tips and advise that you give can be used in other parts of the world as well. We plant several vegetables for the winter months and the best ones we have are broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. 

    We have very hot summers, but winter can get very cold, with frost. We do have to wait for the last frost before we can plant our summer crops. Great post you have here. 

    • Hi,

      Thank you for your comment.  I did a quick google search on hardiness zones for Italy and they have zone 5 thru 10, so in a sense they do apply, depending on where you live and the zone.  I also have a post for Zones 7 thru 10 which would be more appropriate for your area.  Italy has a wide range of hardiness zones.  I added the link for the other post.  Hope this helps!  Stop back for more Gardening tips and please share with others…  

  11. For the past 5 years I’ve called myself testing out my green thumb skills. I planted some plants outdoors before I moved and sadly had to leave them all. Not a great feeling at all. I even had a compost that I learned to make.

    I never knew that there was a such thing as Zones but, it all makes sense. I’ve planted green onions from the scrapes that I cut and save. They were growing beautifully until the cold winter storm just came and destroyed them. The entire time I was wondering why my neighbors placed a sheet over their plants…haha 

    Now I know that plants have seasons. And if green onions belong with the onion season according to your planting guide zone 6 image, I was way out of season. Well, we all have to start somewhere.

    I think you’ve done an awesome job here. 

    Right now, I have sort of started a spring garden. As you can probably tell I’m still learning but, with my spring garden. I have to plant them inside the house, I’ve moved to a new location and it’s a rental home. So, I want to take all my plants with me when I buy my new home. 

    Either way, my indoor home garden so far has a mint plant, rosemary bush, lemon thyme plant, and I am trying to sprout several avocado plants but no luck yet. Do you know how to grow avocado plants and what about ginger plants? I’ve been trying to grow them both with no luck. I look forward to reading more articles from your blog. Thanks for sharing this very informative article. I learned a lot. 

    Have a great day!

    • Hi Lakisha,

      Thank you for your comments.  I am glad my sit helped you.  I started some perennial seeds to add to my flower garden in the spring.  I plan on starting ,my vegetable seeds about mid April.  I am in zone 5a and can’t plant the warm weather vegetables until about Memorial weekend.  I can do the cold hardy and cover them if a frost   Feel free to share my website and stop back for more gardening tips.

  12. Just in time for spring! I’m in Connecticut in zone 6a. I made the mistake last year of planting a bit too early. I was stir crazy because of the pandemic and wanted to get started with the family garden. I think I mixed up the planting times with the end of tax season lol.  

    This time I’ll wait until May as you indicated in the article. I didn’t realize I lived in such a great zone for growing vegetables! I’ll be growing lots of herbs like parsley and basil this year that I’ll be starting indoors soon. My chives have already started regrowing from last year which is exciting! I also want to grow tomatoes, arugula, zucchini, delicata squash, spinach, and kale. I should probably start them now, right? 

    • Thank you for your comments.  I am in zone 5a and need to wait to plant in the ground until after memorial weekend.  That is when our last frost threat is gone.  If you do plant them early, put a tent over them with plastic for a greenhouse effect.

  13. Thank you so much for this awesome article.  I don’t know much about zones when gardening vegetables, especially when dealing with cold climates, as I currently live in a desert type area.  I’m glad I have read this now, though, as this gives me an idea of how to garden better when I am stationed in a colder climate. 

    • Hi Jessie,

      Thank you for your comments!  Living in the desert you have the opposite problem we have in the north.  You are trying to keep your plants from frying and I am trying to keep them from freezing.  I live in hardiness zone 5a.  We have cold winters but not as cold as someone in zone 1-4, now that is cold.


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