Minnesota Growing Zone

Posted on Category:Local

Minnesota’s growing zone ranges from 3a to 5a. It’s not for the faint of heart!

Minnesota Growing Zone
Minnesota Growing Zone map courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture


What is a Minnesota growing zone?

A Minnesota growing zone is based off of the USDA hardiness zone map. This ranges from 3B to 5B here in Minnesota. What do these numbers and letters mean? Looking at the map above, you’ll see the numbers correspond to the equivalent temperature in degrees Fahrenheit. In Minnesota, the low temperatures range between -15 F and -40 F. This represents the expected lowest temperatures for the region of the state corresponding to the zone on the map. This doesn’t necessarily mean that this is the absolute coldest temperature that region will see in a given year, but it’s a good benchmark. When you shop for plants, trees, or perennials, use this chart as a reference. You’ll also see that piece of information typically accompanying the plant, tree, or a shrub you’re looking to purchase.

Growing zone key points

The growing zone reference is just that—a reference. It’s an overall point to use as a basis when selecting a plant, tree, or shrub. Just because a particular vegetative plant says it is hardy down to a certain temperature (i.e. zone 4b -20F to -25F), it doesn’t mean the plants will be OK down to that temperature. This is because temperatures fluctuate during the cold seasons. If we have an unseasonably warm winter, the vegetative plant may come out of its dormancy before it is supposed to and may become vulnerable to colder temperatures if the temp drops again. As a rule of thumb, it takes longer for a plant to acclimate to winter than it does coming out of dormancy into spring.

Tips on growing in Minnesota

You’ve probably heard this before, but it bears repeating. Select the right plant for the right place. This means you probably don’t want to be attempting to grow a palm tree in Minnesota! There are strategies and techniques you can employ to grow plants that are typically acclimate to Minnesota weather though. For instance, you can overwinter tomatoes and pepper plants indoors and relocate them back outside during the spring time. These plants are typically tropical varieties. Since they’re overwintered indoors where it’s warmer though, they’ll break dormancy and will be ahead of plants that were started from seed. It may be something you want to experiment with at some point.

Spring and fall curve balls

Spring and fall in Minnesota are always exciting. Some years we get late frost past Mother’s Day, and some years we get 90° on the first week of June. For a traditional garden, this can wreak havoc. It’s difficult to move plants once they’re transplanted into the ground. There are ways around this however. We recommend using containers for common annual plants like peppers, tomatoes, and lettuce. If the temperature gets too low overnight, these plants can be moved relatively easily.

Introducing MEG

MEG’s Edible Landscapes is dedicated to helping you grow food no matter where you’re at. If you live in an urban area or a suburban area we can absolutely help you grow food. If you’re fortunate to have fantastic garden soil in a traditional garden, consider yourself blessed. MEG’s edible landscapes was founded out of necessity. There’s an old saying “invention is the mother of necessity”. Specifically, we had problems with topsoil being absent from the suburban property and were determined to find a way to work around it.

How MEG interacts with Minnesota

MEG’s Edible Landscapes strives to work in harmony with mother nature as much as possible. Sometimes this can be extremely difficult. We’re always developing and employing unique methods of growing food while working around mother nature’s timeline. Sometimes this means using non-traditional methods of growing food. What we can say though, is that MEG is always thinking about better ways of growing food that are best for the customer. If you grow with Meg, we know you will be ecstatic about the journey and your results.

Grow with bags

We use fabric grow bags as containers for all of our plants. Fabric grow bags outperform other types of containers. Also, with the ridiculous short growing window in Minnesota, we wanted to maximize the time to grow food outside. Fabric grow bags don’t have problems like other traditional containers. One of the biggest ones is weight. Terra-cotta containers look pretty, but when they’re loaded down with soil, water and plants, they’re difficult to move. This can be a problem when we have a late frost after Mother’s Day.

Other Equipment

We also like to use additional equipment to assist with lengthening the growing season in Minnesota like hoop houses. Hoop houses are a great way to extend the season. These are simple structures and could be constructive a different materials. The basic set up includes hoops and a poly tarp that is draped across the hoops. The sun’s solar radiation helps warm up the temperature on the inside of the structure and the poly cover helps keep potential problems at bay i.e. hail. In fact, there is one issue with the hoop house and that is the need to dissipate heat quickly. We found from our first year growing in the hoop house that we forgot to put it in a ventilation system. It was just above freezing on the outside, but on the inside, it passed 85°F! Always make sure the hoop house is vented.

Final thoughts

Know the Minnesota growing zone you’re in. Give yourself an extra buffer space too. If you transplant perennials in the ground, you might not want to put a plant rated for four be in a zone if you’re in 4b also. Otherwise, you might have an issue if the temperature dips below the normal temperature in an unseasonably cool winter.