Vegetables For Zone 6 – Growing Vegetables In Zone 6 Gardens

By: Liz Baessler

USDA zone 6 is an excellent climate for growing vegetables. Keep reading to learn more about choosing the best vegetables for zone 6 and planting zone 6 vegetable gardens.

Vegetables for Zone 6

The average last frost date in zone 6 is May 1, and the average first frost date is November 1. These dates will probably vary somewhat for you depending upon where you live in the zone, but regardless, it makes for a pretty long growing season that will accommodate most hot weather plants.

That being said, some annuals need more time, and growing vegetables in zone 6 sometimes requires starting seeds indoors ahead of time. Even vegetables that could technically reach maturity if started outdoors will produce much better and longer if given a head start.

Many hot weather vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and melons will benefit greatly from being started indoors several weeks before the average last frost and then planted out when the temperature rises.

When growing vegetables in zone 6, you can use the long periods of cool weather in spring and fall to your advantage. Some frost hardy vegetables, like kale and parsnips, actually taste much better if they’ve been exposed to a frost or two. Planting them in late summer will get you tasty vegetables long into the autumn. They can also be started in the spring several weeks before the last frost, getting you an early start on the growing season.

Fast growing cool weather crops like radishes, spinach, and lettuce will likely be ready for harvest before you even get your warm weather transplants in the ground.

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Planning a Vegetable Garden

The most important factor in planning a vegetable garden is location. Choose a site with full sun, good drainage and no standing water, even after the heaviest rain. Keep the garden away from trees and shrubs, which may compete with vegetables for water, nutrients, and light.

If you cannot identify a location with full sun, leafy vegetables, such as lettuce and spinach, require the least direct sunlight, only 4 to 5 hours. Root vegetables require 5 to 6 hours, and fruiting vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini, require at least 8 hours. No vegetables can grow in total shade.

Some other location issues are ease of access to water for irrigation, tools to maintain your vegetable garden, and proximity to your kitchen to quickly prepare or store your harvest. If deer or other wildlife are in the area you might also need to consider fencing to keep them from damaging your crops.

Once you've decided where the garden will go, it's time to choose which vegetables to grow. First, make a list of those vegetables you like. Next, put a plan down on paper. This will help you make the best use of space and will save time when planting by showing you exactly where to place your seeds and transplants. The plan should include the following information: garden size, space between rows and within rows, crops and varieties, planting dates, seeded crops, and transplanted crops. Consider planning for spring planting of early crops and later plantings for late summer and autumn harvest. Use the table included in this fact sheet to help you plan.

If possible, rotate your crops so similar vegetables are not planted in the same location consecutively. Remember to place your tallest growing crops on the north side of the garden so as not to shade lower growing plants. Also allow for good air movement through the garden. This ensures that moisture on plant leaves dries quickly and may lessen disease problems.

When choosing varieties, always look for ones with disease resistance. Although these varieties may cost more than some of the old standards, they more than make up for the cost with improved yields and less reliance on chemical controls. For more information contact your county Rutgers Cooperative Extension office (listed in the phone book under county government) or visit our website at

A good garden design will save you time and make the best use of limited garden space. Most importantly, vegetables grown under optimal conditions, along with the use of disease-resistant varieties, will result in healthy, high-yielding crops.

Vegetable Planting Guide
Vegetable Spacing (in.) Transplant or Seeds Planting Dates* Avg. Yield per 10 ft. of Row
In Row Btwn. Rows
Asparagus 18 60 Crowns Perennial 5 lb.
Beans, Lima, bush 4 24 seed Ma,Ju,Jl 6 lb.
Beans, Lima, pole 36 36 seed Ma,Ju,Jl 7 lb.
Beans, Snap, bush 4 24 seed Ma,Ju,Jl 6 lb.
Beans, snap., pole 36 24 seed Ma,Ju,Jl 7 lb.
Beets 3 15 seed Ap,Ma,Ju,Jl 14 lb.
Broccoli 15 30 transplant Ap,Ma,Jl,Au 8 heads
Brussels Sprouts 18 30 transplant Jl 5 lb.
Cabbage 18 24 transplant Ap,Jl 7 heads
Cabbage, Chinese 12 18 seed or trp. Ap,Jl 10 heads
Carrots 3 15 seed Ap,Ma,Ju,Jl 10 lb.
Cauliflower 24 30 transplant Jl 5 heads
Celery 6 18 transplant Ma,Ju 20 stalks
Chard, Swiss 6 24 seed Ap,Ma,Ju,Jl,Au 20 plants
Collards 18 24 seed Ap,Ma,Ju,Jl 10 lb.
Corn, Sweet 12 24 seed Ma,Ju 10 ears
Cucumbers 36 30 seed or trp. Ju,Jl 8 lb.
Eggplant 30 30 transplant Ma,Ju 20 fruit
Endive 12 18 seed or trp. Ap,Ma,Ju,Jl,Au 10 plants
Kale 15 18 seed Jl,Au 24 lb.
Kohlrabi 4 15 seed or trp. Ap,Ma,Jl,Au 20 bulb.
Leeks 3 15 transplants Ap,Ma,Au 40 plants
Lettuce,Leaf,Romaine 8 15 seed or trp. Ap,Ma,Au,Se 15 heads
Lettuce, Bibb 6 15 seed or trp. Ap,Ma,Au,Se 20 heads
Muskmelons 36 72 seed or trp. Ju 8 melons
Mustard Greens 12 15 seed Au 10 lb.
Okra 24 36 seed Ma,Ju 100 pods
Onions, dry 4 15 seed,trp.sets Ap 10 lb.
Parsley 6 15 seed Ap,Ma,Ju 20 bunches
Parsnips 3 18 seed Ap 10 lb.
Peas 2 18 seed Mr,Ap 3 lb.
Peppers 15 15 transplant Ju 12 lb.
Pumpkins 48 96 seed Ju 4 fruit
Radishes 1 12 seed Ap,Ma,Ju,Jl,Au,Se 60 roots
Rhubarb 36 48 crowns Perennial 20 stalks
Rutabagas 4 18 seeds Ap,Jl 15 lb.
Spinach 4 18 seeds Ap,Se 7 lb.
Squash, bush 24 48 seeds or trp. Ju,Jl 25 fruit
Squash, vine 36 72 seeds or trp. Ju 20 fruits
Sweet Potatoes 12 36 transplants Ju 12 lb.
Tomatoes 24 36 transplants Ma,Ju 50 lb.
Turnips 3 18 seed Ap,Jl 7 lb.
Watermelons 36 96 seed Ju 3 melons
White Potatoes 12 24 tubers Ap 18 lb.

*Mr=March Ap=April Ma=May Ju=June Jl=July Au=August Se=September

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If you’re in Zone 6 then you’re in luck! Planting Zone 6 is known as a mild planting zone with a variety of options for gardening from flowers to fruit to veggies and more. With average minimum temperatures ranging from -10 to 0 degrees F., Zone 6 offers a cool enough environment for cold crops like rhubarb, while heating up in the summertime to create the perfect growing conditions for plants like lettuce, tomatoes, melons and more. Use our helpful planting calendar to find all of the best options for planting and growing vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers in Zone 6 and beyond!

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Location and Set-up

For optimum plant health and productivity, most vegetables should receive at least eight hours of full sun each day. The more sun, the better, so it makes sense to locate your garden in the sunniest part of your yard. Avoid low, wet areas where the soil could stay soggy. Because your garden will need to be watered during the growing season, you'll want to have relatively easy access to a hose.

Good soil is the single most important ingredient for a good garden. Raised beds give you an immediate advantage over a regular garden, because when you fill your raised bed, you can fill it with a blend of soil that's superior to the native soil in your yard. Soil that's loose and rich with nutrients and organic matter will allow the roots of your plants to grow freely, and ensure that they have access to the water and nutrients they need to sustain healthy growth.

Before placing your raised beds in their permanent location, be sure to remove grass or perennial weeds from the area. Use a garden fork or shovel to loosen the native soil to a depth of 6-10". This will improve drainage and moisture retention in the raised beds. It also means that even with a 5"-high raised bed, your plants will think they're growing in a bed that's 12-18" deep — plenty of room for carrots, potatoes, full-size tomato plants and most any other vegetable you'd ever want to grow.

If you'll be filling more than one raised bed, you might want to buy your soil in bulk — by the cubic foot or cubic yard. Use the Soil Calculator to figure out the total amount of soil you'll need for each bed. For most situations, we recommend these proportions:

  • 60% topsoil
  • 30% compost
  • 10% Potting soil (a soilless growing mix that contains peat moss, perlite and/or vermiculite)

Keep in mind that proportions are approximate because soil volume varies from source to source. For instance, if the calculator specifies .444 cubic yards of soil for your bed, go ahead and buy a half yard.

If you do not have access to quality topsoil, an acceptable substitute would be a 50-50 blend of soilless growing medium (often called "potting soil") and compost. If you want to add peat moss to the bed, it should not be more than 20 percent of the total mix. Peat moss is naturally acidic and is not a good medium for growing vegetables.

Pennsylvania: Vegetable Planting Calendar

CityLast Frost DateFirst Frost Date

*Based on statistics there is a 10% chance that frost will occur before or after these dates. Watch your local weather for more accurate dates.

Pennsylvania on average has approximately 150 days between the last and first frost. Using the planting schedules below will help you get the most out of your garden.

Choosing Vegetables

As a beginner, start by choosing easy vegetables that are also productive. We’ve listed ten easy vegetable below. However, it would also be wise to contact your state’s Cooperative Extension Service to find out what plants grow best in your area. For example, if you live in an area with extremely hot weather, vegetables that prefer cooler temps may struggle.

Top 10 Easy Vegetables
(Tip: Click on a veggie’s name to see its detailed Growing Guide.)

  1. Lettuce
  2. Green beans
  3. Radishes
  4. Tomatoes (bush variety or cherry are easiest)
  5. Zucchini
  6. Peppers
  7. Beets
  8. Carrots
  9. Chard, Spinach, or Kale
  10. Peas

Mix in flowers such as marigolds—which discourage pests, attracts pollinators, and adds some color!

Five tips for choosing vegetables:

  1. Choose what you (and your family) like to eat. If no one likes brussels sprouts, don’t bother planting them! But if your kids love green beans, put more effort towards growing a big crop of beans.
  2. Be realistic about how many vegetables your family will eat. Be careful not to overplant, as you will only stretch yourself thin by trying to take care of tons of plants! (Of course, you could always give excess veggies away to friends, family, or the local soup kitchen.)
  3. Consider the availability of veggies at your grocery store. Maybe you want to grow tomatillos, instead of cabbage or carrots, which are readily available. Also, certain veggies are so far superior when homegrown, it’s almost a shame not to consider them (we’re thinking of garden lettuce and tomatoes). Also, homegrown herbs are far less expensive than grocery store herbs.
  4. Be prepared to take care of your plants throughout the growing season. Going on a summer vacation? Remember that tomatoes and zucchinis are growing strongest in the middle of summer. If you’re gone part of the summer, you need someone to look after the crops or they will suffer. Or, you could just grow cool-season crops such as lettuce, kale, peas, and root veggies during the cooler months of late spring and early fall.
  5. Use high-quality seeds. Seed packets are less expensive than individual plants, but if seeds don’t germinate, your money—and time—are wasted. A few extra cents spent in spring for that year’s seeds will pay off in higher yields at harvesttime.

Where and When to Plant

If you are simply growing two or three tomato plants, this process is easy. But if you plan to grow a full garden, you need to consider:

  • Where will each plant go?
  • When will each vegetable need to be planted?

Here are a few guidelines for arranging your vegetables:

  1. Not all vegetables are planted at the same time. “Cool-season” vegetables such as lettuce and brocoil and peas grow in cooler weather of early spring (and fall). “Warm-season” such as tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers aren’t planted until the soil warms up in late spring and summer.
  2. Plant tall veggies (such as pole beans on a trellis or sweet corn) on the north side of the garden so they don’t shade shorter plants. If you do get shade in a part of your garden, save that area for small, cool-season veggies. If shade is unavoidable in parts of your garden, save those areas for cool-season vegetables which appreciate shade as the weather heats up.
  3. Most veggies are annuals (planted each year). If you’re planning on growing “perennial” crops such as asparagus, rhubarb, and some herbs, provide permanent locations or beds.
  4. Consider that some crops mature quickly and have a very short harvest period (radishes, bush beans). Other plants, such as tomatoes, take longer to produce, but also produce for longer. These “days to maturity” are typically listed on the seed packet.
  5. Stagger plantings. You don’t want to plant all your lettuce seeds at the same time, or all that lettuce will need to be harvested at around the same time! Stagger plantings by a few weeks to keep ‘em coming!

When to Plant What

Every region has a different planting time based mainly on their weather, and every vegetable has its temperature preferences, too. See the Almanac’s Best Planting Dates—a gardening calendar customized to your local frost dates. Just enter your zip code (or postal code in Canada)!

For specific planting information, see our individual Grow Guides for over 100 popular vegetables, herbs, and fruit. For each crop, we provide specific information about how to plant, grow, and harvest, including watering and fertilizing and pest control!

A Starter Beginner Garden Plan

To help out beginners, we thought that it may be useful to see a garden design. Here is an example of a starter family garden using mainly of the common easy-to-grow vegetables listed above. It also features companion planting (the practice of placing plants that thrive together next to each other).

You’ll see that we have given the garden decent-sized paths and mixed in a few herbs and flowers, too. Frankly, if we had grown this garden in our very first year, we would be thrilled! In planning the garden this way, we have made it so much easier for you to succeed with it.

Click here to see the full plant list, number of plants, spacing, and spacing in rows.

Garden Planning Tool

The Old Farmer’s Almanac offers an excellent online garden planning tool which makes your garden planning fun and easy. With this tool, draw your garden plan on the computer and drop in your preferred vegetables, and it automatically calculates the proper spacing for each type of crop! This way, you don’t waste seed or crowd your plants. The Garden Planner automatically pulls in the frost dates for your specific location, identifies easy vegetables, and even identifies companion plants. Then you can print out your plan and the tool reminds you of your seeding and harvesting dates for every vegetable!

Plus, you’ll see many free garden plans for inspiration! Over time, you’ll see that this tool also provides “crop rotation” so that if you plan a second season, you can properly reposition your plants to avoid pests and disease.

With new gardeners in mind, we offer a FREE week to try the Garden Planner—ample time to plan your first garden. Check it out here:

Photo: Almanac Garden Planner. Earth’s most popular tool for planning your garden. Try it free for 7 days.

Any questions or advice about starting your garden? Check out some of the comments below. Many of your questions may have been answered already by our Almanac community or you are welcome to add your own comment. Happy gardening!

7. Biodiversity and companion planting

When planning your garden, it’s a good idea to incorporate companion planting. It is a system of which plants go together and how to create more beneficial relationships among plants to increase productivity and to repel pests naturally.

By planting certain vegetables, herbs and flowers together, you can allow them to help one another to grow a healthier and more beautiful and abundant garden. ( Via Helen Philips )

This companion planting chart by afristar is a wonderful guide to start with. If you want to dig deeper, there are some great books on companion planting. We have this one: Carrots Love Tomatoes !

Check out this book on Amazon: Carrots Love Tomatoes

Stay tuned for more in our vegetable gardening series!

Watch the video: 2019 Vegtable Garden Tour New England zone 6

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