Planting Zones, Frost Date and Planting Calendar

Posted · 22 Comments

Happy Wednesday Garden Soldiers!!  As promised above is a badge that you can proudly display on your blogs or wherever!  Grab the code on my right sidebar!  I’m thinking as soon as we start to grow our own seeds or plant our own starts I will begin a series of picture roundups on my blog.  That way we can all see what we’ve been accomplishing and we can share in our strengths and struggles.  For all of you city dwellers with limited space, I also have some fun posts just for you!  So stay with me as we ALL grow our own food!  Also, for all of you displaying the badge above, I have some fun giveaways coming soon!!

Today, we will learn about zones, frost date and planting calendars.


The Plant Hardiness Zones divide the United States and Canada into 11 areas based on a 10 degree Fahrenheit difference in the average annual minimum temperature.  The United States ranges between zone 2 and zone 10.

As you can tell in the map above, Iowa is zone 5.  This means our extreme lowest temperature will range between -10 and -20.  (Sad, isn’t it, lol!)  So when I’m planting any sort of plant or vegetable, I need to make sure that the plant’s hardiness can withstand the lowest extreme temperature.

Every packet of seed will indicate which zones it can grow in.  For example, I’ve always wanted to grow a fig tree.  However, it’s hardiness zones are 7 – 11.  Clearly not meant for extreme cold weather.  Until I have a greenhouse, no fig trees for me 😉

From the map above, find what zone you live in and memorize it.  It will help you out when your at the nurseries.

Find Your Average Last Spring Frost Date

Some vegetables can withstand frost while others cannot.  Before planting any seed or start you will need to know when your average last spring frost date is for your area.

In Iowa, the last frost that can happen in the Spring is May 15th.  After this date, it’s safe to start planting all spring and summer vegetables.  However, before this, a frost can happen and as some plants are not frost tolerant they will die overnight.

To find your average last spring frost date, visit the National Climatic Data Center, find your state and download the pdf.  This is also an important date to memorize.

Here’s a summary of which crops to plant early, and which ones not to plant until after your last spring frost date:

Very early spring (as soon as the ground can be worked)

  • Onions
  • peas
  • spinach

Early spring

  • lettuce
  • beets
  • carrots
  • radishes
  • dill
  • cilantro
  • cabbage
  • broccoli
  • celery
  • kale
  • potatoes

After last frost date

  • beans
  • corn
  • melons
  • cucumbers
  • squash
  • tomatoes
  • peppers
  • pumpkins
  • eggplant
  • basil

Planting Calendar

So now that you know your zones, your average last frost date, you will need to know when to start seedlings inside if you will be starting from seeds.

For example, In Iowa, our growing season is from May – October.  If I were to directly plant tomato seeds in the garden after my last spring frost date, they wouldn’t have ample time to grow and produce fruit.  Therefore, I need to start them 8 weeks before May 15th.  Obviously, there is still a danger of frost, so I need to start them inside.

Every packet of seed will tell you how many weeks in advance they need to be started before planting them after your average last frost date or if they can be directly sown into the soil.

A great way to start planning what needs to be started indoors and when is to use a Spring Planting Calendar.  An amazing gardening blog that I love to follow is called Skippy’s Vegetable Garden.  She provides us with an amazing online planting calendar where all we need to do is enter our last average spring frost date and the calendar will tell us how many weeks in advance we need to start each vegetable.

To get started click here.

Make sure and print the planting calendar.  You will now have a good estimate on what needs to be started soon.

Remember your seed packets will also tell you how many weeks in advance to start your seeds indoors.

It’s now time to decide what you want to grow this Spring and order those seeds.

Next week we’ll get into spring, summer, and fall plantings.  It’s through gardening and growing our own food that we truly start to understand what it means to eat in season.

Until next week garden soldiers!!

Part 1: Ordering Seed Catalogs
Part 2: Understanding the differences between Heirloom, Hybrid, GMO, and Organic Seeds
Part 3: Planting Zones, Frost Dates, and Planting Calendars
Part 4. Understanding Succession Planting
Part 5. Spring Time is Near! It’s Time to Start Those Seedlings!
Part 6. Growing Seeds Indoors Under Supplemental Lighting
Part 7. Tending your seedlings
Part 8. Methods of Urban Gardening

22 Responses to "Planting Zones, Frost Date and Planting Calendar"
  1. peter says:

    if you are looking for more information on USDA plant hardiness zones, there is a detailed and interactive USDA plant hardiness zone map at which allow you to locate your USDA zone based on zipcode or city.

  2. Paloma says:

    This is SUCH A GREAT IDEA! I love it!!! I was just talking with hubby last night about our garden and the projects we have in mind this year! And your blog will help me 😀

    Thanks for sharing!


  3. Diana Bauman says:

    Peter – Thank you so much for this interactive calendar! It's wonderful!
    I'm going to add it to my post!

    Paloma – So glad you can join us!!

  4. April says:

    I love your weekly series! I think I said before, this will be my first ever garden and I am so excited!

  5. Sweet and Savory says:

    What a great post. We moved into a new house late last summer, so I didn't get to do any gardening, but I want to try this summer. I'm nervous! I don't have much space, nor skill, in this area, but I still think I'm going to give it a try. Do you do any in big pots? Or do you just have one big garden?

  6. Esperanza says:

    Thank you for this post! I have a tiny patio, but I want to expand beyond growing summer tomatoes in containers and this really makes thing easier!

  7. cyndurella says:

    I recently found your blog and have to say you have totally inspired me to try to grow my own veggies! I have never tried to garden because I have always tended to kill my flowers =/ But after reading through your blog and finding all the great tips and advice (especially THIS one!) I think I am going to try this spring and see what happens! Thank you!

  8. A Joyful Chaos says:

    Thanks for sharing.

  9. Tasty Eats At Home says:

    You've reminded me that we need to get to it building our larger garden area! Too bad this weekend is booked, boo! I want to get out and plant onions and garlic!

  10. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction says:

    Great post! I'm always wondering if I put things in too early/too late, and now I will be sure!

  11. Foy Update - Garden Cook Write Repeat says:

    Other resources you might consider:

    ISU extension puts out a garden calendar every year with dates on it for planting and such. I've used it for years. Also the Seed Savers Catalog has a great chart of planting and transplanting times and they are an Iowa based organization.

    Can't wait to get in the garden.

  12. Dimitry says:

    Great ideas, I was just looking through my seed catalog and getting ready to sow some with in few days.

  13. Juls @ Juls' Kitchen says:

    Diana, another great post! Love it!
    Here in Italy it's way diferent as regards zones, frost date and planting calendars!

  14. ~Sara says:

    Great post Diana. I look forward to this series. I will add the badge to my blog with pride!

  15. Cristie says:

    Wonderful post! Thanks so much for all the valuable information. I just wish my garden was a littler bigger and that my location was in a different zone . . .

  16. Unplanned Cooking says:

    I am so excited by this series! Just loving it.

  17. Leslie says:

    Thanks for the great write up. I received a couple of seed catalogs yesterday and I've been dreaming about my "fabulous" garden to come. haha As long as I can dig around in the dirt, I'm happy. Sooo excited for spring :)

  18. Fuji Mama says:

    Amazing info as usual Diana! I LOVE LOVE LOVE that interactive calendar!

  19. Tien says:

    Great post, Diana! We are thinking and dreaming of what to plant in our garden this year. We are going to try a few new crops. -Tien :)

  20. Miranda says:

    Hey you!
    I need your help!!!We just moved into a new place. I love it. I can't wait to start my own garden. I know that I need to plant where it is shady half a day and in the sun half a day, but it is mostly sand. How do I even begin to start planting?
    I plan on starting this wk, but where do I start?

  21. nestmaking says:

    Don't feel too bad about zone 5. We're in Zone 5 right now, and the place where we're looking at land is Zone 4. My husband grew up in a Zone 4 area, and his father grew a "French Intensive" backyard garden every year. There are lots of things that grow in colder climates. And with a greenhouse, you can grow even more.

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