USDA Zone Based Veggie Planting Schedule

Knowing when to plant vegetables is one of the big keys to edible gardening success. Unfortunately, many gardening books, websites and the back of seed packages assume you’re in a place with easily delineated seasons. What about those of us in Alaska, Southern California, Texas, Florida or Arizona? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a web-based vegetable planting calendar based on zip codes?

While it’s not down to the zip code level, there’s a USDA zone based web tool on a site called the Vegetable Garden. Now I have to say that this website, with all those contextual ads, looks like a scraper site at first glance. But the info on our zone 10, here in SoCal, was accurate.

I’d be interested in hearing what those of you in other USDA zones think of this tool. Give the Vegetable Garden planting schedule a spin and leave a comment. I’m hoping to post tools like this on a resource page that will appear on this blog later this year and would appreciate your input.

Thanks to Root Simple reader Kristen of the Urban Farm Blog for this tip. You can also scroll to the bottom of a post we did on the 6th for planting schedules for Texas, Montreal and Southern Nevada.

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21 Comments

  1. Well, this says that my planting zone is 6A. I’m about a half hour west of Boston. Right now, the temperature here is 5 degrees (hey, it’s above zero!) No wonder a few years back, a nursery shipped raspberry bushes a day before a blizzard. They must have used this chart. I can plant cool weather crops beginning in April, and take a chance they’ll survive. Tomatoes don’t go in before June 1. I go by the zone 5 planting chart.

  2. The schedule is so-so. It’s a rough starting point, which to be honest is all it claims to be.

    It’s not just the southwest where the zones are inadequate. Here in northern Alabama, we may have Zone 7 winters but our springs and falls are severely truncated, you aren’t sure when they will arrive and for how long they will stay, and summers can be brutally hot and humid.

    I hear that the USDA has been working for many years on a dramatically revised zone map, but no sign yet on when it will come out.

  3. Actually my big task for yesterday was sitting on the couch with a battered copy of 100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden, seed packet scattered on the carpet in front of me, notepad & pen along with my lap top. The vegetable planting schedule for reference.
    The is the year I start indoor seeds on TIME.

    So far the dates match up with my notes on scraps of paper (old seed packets) tossed in my seed bin. Only time will tell if Mother Natures adheres to the schedule.

  4. I just started using the Garden Planner on http://www.growveg.com. I’ve put in my location and it appears to show a correct planting calendar, and I live in Phoenix. This seems like a great program and it costs $25/year. I don’t mind paying this unless anyone else knows of a better program (or free one).

    • If you have a local seed and feed store they usually have the Grier’s almanac.I live in Ga. This is is what i use seems to work well, and its a free copy.

  5. Unfortunately this is not accurate for the Pacific Northwest, zones 7-8 west of the Cascades. If look at the map you can see the problem: vast swaths of zone 8 are across the south, where temps warm up much, much earlier in the year than they do up north. A map indicating last frost dates (or some measure of soil temps) would be much more useful for planting annuals than USDA zones, which indicate lowest winter temps and are mainly helpful for telling you which perennials and cold-tolerant annuals will survive the winter.

  6. The dates are pretty good general guidelines for my Zone 5B world here on the WA/ID border. The weird thing is that the USDA map above shows us to be Zone 6 (with a finger of Zone 7 about 30 miles south in the Snake River Valley), but when I plugged in our zip code it gave the more accurate number. We are so far north, though, that we can get hit with all sorts of bizarre weather, and so guidelines give a kind of general idea, but we have to be ready with walls o’ water and row covers for a wider range of weather than the number would indicate.

  7. Here in Zone 7, the acid test is okra, which will pout if it goes into the ground too early. The chart suggests an April 1 earliest planting date, which would cause okra to behave like a hungry toddler in my garden: “I won’t grow, I WON’T!” Best wishes.

    • Yeah, it’s the same program, “powered by growveg.com”. I think it’s pretty cool, and if you are in a different micro-climate, you can enter in first and last frost dates to adjust your planting schedule. I thought it was pretty funny that I only have a 2 week frost window.

  8. I wonder if soil temperature is a more accurate predictor of seed germination success than a planting chart? John Jeavons has a very detailed soil temperature planting chart in his book “How to Grow More Vegetables”. Erik, do you have any experience with this?

  9. After plugging in my zip code and thinking about it, I decided that the north Alabama information is just about right. My 90-year-old neighbor always planted seeds in the ground too early hoping to have beans taller and sooner than the elderly men. She never lost anything because she covered tender-planted-too-early plants with milk jugs.

    Right now, lilies are springing up because we are having weather in the high 60s and up to 70 in the next few days. We have had a foot of snow in April. I live on a plateau so that may account for some of the craziness.

    Very long summers, humid even when we are having a three-year drought problem, lend themselves to a growing season that suits most fruits and vegetables sooner or later. Mostly, we can discard the suggestions of charts, according to farmers I know. But, as a general guideline, the chart seems correct.

  10. Hey Max–yes, germination temperature can be helpful but in many places with short seasons you have to start stuff indoors ahead of time so it’s not the only thing that needs to be considered. But here in zone 10 germination temp works as a planting guide.

  11. I live in zone 9 and our area can’t make up its mind if it’s winter or spring. My cabbages and broccoli are still doing great. I still use the old farmers almanac as my guide. I find it’s more accurate then most

  12. This has changed since I last purchased a gardening book. the wide swath of zone 6 in the midwest used to be zone 5, with a little bit of zone 6 creeping up into it right in my area. I am really startled. No way is that area zone 6!

  13. This tool doesn’t seem to work at all for me – I enter my zip code and it gives me my city/state, but no zone. I checked the info for my zone (7) and the dates are off by a pretty wild margin. Take tomatoes, for example: we’re on the edge of high desert/Great Basin, and if you planted ‘em from mid-March to May 1st, as suggested, you’d pretty much be guaranteed a bunch of dead plants. With our late and erratic freezes and high spring winds, it’s not really safe to put any summer stuff out (without protection) until mid-to-late May, and even then you might get skunked! That said, our weather here is so atypical I have yet to find any planting schedule, other than my own and friends who live here, that is at all accurate, so this site might work just fine for those who live where weather is more predictable.

  14. Forty years ago this area (central NY) was considered Zone 4A. Now according to this map, I’m in zone 5A. I tend to consider myself somewhere between 4B and 5A depending on weather variables in any given year. But it’s definitely changed from when I had a garden as a kid. Climate change anyone?

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