Having a productive garden in Montana is easy to accomplish so long as you have the right plan. Below we’ll walk you through which plants thrive in Montana, when to plant in Montana, and how to adapt your garden as the seasons change.
Hardiness zones, sometimes referred to as “growing zones” or “planting zones”, were created by the USDA to help gardeners determine which plants are best suited for a particular location.
Montana encompasses 4 hardiness zones. They are zones 3, 4, 5 and 6. Before we get started, determine which zone you live in by visiting this interactive USDA hardiness zone map.
At their core, hardiness zones only represent how cold a particular area gets in winter. This information, combined with the average frost dates for your area, is the key to planting the right herbs and vegetables in Montana.
Below, we’ll guide you through the best crops to grow in your zone in Montana and when to plant them.
During the spring in Montana zone 6, try planting short season produce in March that prefer cold weather, such as collard greens, kale, and carrots.
These crops will feel much more comfortable in the moderate temperatures of spring, as opposed to the intensity of a Montana summer. And their short growing period means once temperatures begin to rise, they’ll be ready to harvest and replaced with plants more adapt to the Montana heat.
Classic home garden produce, such as sweet peppers, cucamelons, cayenne peppers, and acorn squash are great options for mid-to-late spring planting.
For warm weather crops such as these, start seedlings indoors in March. In April and May, once temperatures at night are consistently above 50 degrees, transplant established plants to the garden.
In Montana growing zones 3, 4 and 5, spring is considerably cold compared to most other areas. As a result, the viable growing season in these locations is fairly short.
To get the most out of your garden in Montana zones 3, 4 and 5, seedlings should to be started indoors. We also recommend using a blanket of straw to help protect transplants from a surprise frost.
With so much of the growing season experiencing cooler temperatures, focusing on frost tolerant crops is a great strategy for success. Vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, green peas, and iceberg lettuce can usually be planted in late April or May for zones 3, 4 and 5. Cool weather crops that have a bit longer growing period, such as Brussels sprouts, parsnips, and artichokes, are another great option for the colder areas of Montana.
But at the end of the day, for most common garden vegetables in Montana zones 3, 4 and 5, planting will have to wait until things warm up in June.
Want to keep gardening in Montana zone 6 even as the weather cools? You might be surprised by your options!
Fall crops for Montana zone 6 are typically planted around July and August. This should give the plant enough time to establish itself before cold weather begins to set in. Think cold-loving crops such as cabbage, radishes, and broccolini. Hardy root vegetables and durable leafy greens are great options, especially if you’re looking for something to plant in September or early October.
For Montana growing zones 3, 4 and 5, fall gardening is a race against the cold. Likely, you’ll want to plant short season fall crops during July or August, to ensure ample harvest time before the season’s first frost hits.
Cold hardy produce are the most viable fall crops for Montana growing zones 3, 4 and 5. Some of our favorites for Montana are buttercrunch lettuce, green peas, iceberg lettuce, and collard greens. Not only can these type of plants withstand a bit of cold, but they’ll be great roasted or thrown in soups and stews during the Montana winter months.
You can also extend the life of your fall garden in Montana zones 3, 4 and 5 by using methods such as hotbeds, covering plants with a plastic sheet at night, or “overwintering” perennials such as tomatoes and peppers.
See our full list of growing guides for cold weather vegetables and warm weather vegetables for more inspiration.