USDA Climate Zones and Other Gardening Tips

This installment of a regular feature devotes most of its space to summer gardening recommendations for each of the USDA climate zones.

| July/August 1981

  • 070 usda climate zones3
    USDA climate zones stretch in bands across the country, each encompassing distinct seasonal growing conditions.

  • 070 usda climate zones3

The shimmering heat of summer lies heavy upon the land. As parading thunderheads pile high in the sky, wait for the first fat drops of precious rain to release the earth's rich fragrance. Later—after the soil's thirst is slaked and the storm rumbles away—feast on fresh corn, beans, cabbage, and tomatoes, and give thanks for the season and for the goodness of the garden.  

Summer Gardening

We try on occasion to bring you detailed gardening suggestions, tailored to the USDA climate zones. Of course, regional variations exist just about everywhere, and advice that's suitable for a general location may have to be modified to suit any particular site. Still, you should find our suggestions pretty close to the mark for your region. Just add your knowledge of local conditions, and get gardening!    


Even in always chilly Zone 3 (where frost can come in early September and the winter temperatures sometimes drop below -30°F), you can plant a second crop of heading lettuce or endive as late as mid-July. Turnips, peas, and kohlrabi can also be seeded up to the 15th of the month. Other greens—such as leaf lettuce, spinach, and mustard—can be sown all month long. Radishes will crop if planted in July or the first half of August, and early turnips (such as Tokyo Cross) should mature if they're sown before August 10th.


You folks up in cool Zone 4, where frosts often occur around the first of October, can plant bush beans, Chinese cabbage, beets, carrots, and Swiss chard through the first week of July. Transplant your all cauliflower seedlings before mid-month, and sow kale and kohlrabi seeds by then, too.You can start endive, lettuce (both heading and leaf varieties), mustard, peas, radishes, spinach, and turnips almost anytime during July. August, however, offers less opportunity: Spinach can be sown until the 15th, and some of the minor greens (corn salad and cress) will beat the frost even if planted later still.

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