The Gardening Woes of Zones 4 & 5

graphic of green vines with wording

“So, when the snow is completely melted off the butte, then you can start planting,” my mother-in-law informed me.

As a transplant from the South, such a statement, initially, baffled me. The Southeastern growing season is pretty much year-round. But in my adopted home of Wyoming, Zone 4 and 5 is the norm and can be described in one word –unforgiving. Thank goodness for the trucking industry. Otherwise, we’d starve!

As an enthusiastic gardener, I had to re-evaluate my green thumb abilities. My Southern world of magnolias, azaleas, and other dainty plants and flowers had come to an end. If the adjective hardy isn’t in the plant description, it will not survive here. So, how does a Southerner adapt to the harsh Rocky Mountain growing season? There are three things I have had to adjust myself to, the cold, the wind and ideal planting seasons.

The Green House Effect

The best solution to all three is a greenhouse. There are various creative ways to build them, and the internet is host to many affordable solutions. But when this is not an option you can try the following:

1. Before you even plant your garden, watch how the sun touches your yard for a day. Where does the sun hit first and stay the longest? This is the spot where you will want to plant your garden.

2. Use clear plastic tarps or burlap to cover your plants to protect them from frost. Just remember to use something heavy to pin the tarps or burlap too, so that it does not fly away.

3. Saran Wrap + Sturdy Stakes = Instant Green House. Wrap the stakes with the wrap, including the top to help trap the heat. This works best on multiple mini gardens. I have also seen bubble wrap used with the same effect.

Choose the Right Plants to Grow and Know When to Grow Them

Don’t fight this one. Without a heated and protected greenhouse, finicky plants will not grow here, so it is vital to follow individual growing seasons for each type of florae. Both Zones 4 and 5 can grow the following plants but have different growing seasons: Beans, Beets, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Corn Cucumber, Kale, Lettuce, Onions, Peas, Peppers, Spinach, Squash, and Tomatoes.

Growth Schedules


 Infographic on Zone 4 growing seasons


Infographic on Zone 5 growing season
Contributed by Angelica Mecham