When Should Zone 3-4 Gardeners Start Planting Seeds?


“How late can one start seeds inside for planting a garden in Zones 3-4?” Question from Jill of Greybull, Wyoming

Answer: It depends on what you are planting. Some crops are fast-growing, yielding vegetables or flowers in a matter of weeks (please see the video below). Others take more time and need the warmth of summer to grow to full potential. For indoor seed-starting we recommend planting in natural & organic Black Gold Seedling Mix.

Start warm-season vegetables no later than early March. When you have a short growing season, it is important to jump-start the season by getting warm-season, summer vegetables planted and growing inside early. The bigger your tomatoes, peppers, beans, and even pumpkins and melons at planting time, the better. Get them planted outside as soon as possible, after your last frost date.

Start cool-season vegetables any time from spring to late summer. Cool-season vegetables, like greens, cabbage, carrots, and peas, can be planted from spring through fall.

Here are some more Q&A blogs for northern gardeners that you may consider reading.

Happy gardening!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

Flowering Shrubs for Minnesota

“What is a good flowering shrub for Zone 4? Question from Sandra Lee of Cottage Grove, Minnesota

Answer: There are so many great flowering shrubs that grow beautifully in USDA Hardiness Zone 4 winters! Here are three super hardy options to try:

1. Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens, USDA Hardiness Zones 3-9): There are lots of wonderful varieties of this summer-flowering beauty, and the shrubs grow well in partial shade and full sun. Two of the best to try are the giant-white-flowered Incrediball® and more compact, mauve-flowered Invincibelle Mini Mauvette®.

2. Potentilla (Potentilla fruticosa hybrids, USDA Hardiness Zones 2-7): These sun-loving, summer-flowering shrubs are long blooming and have flowers in yellow, white, or pink. They are also tolerant of drier, more well-drained soils. The golden-flowered ‘Happy Face‘ is a good performer.

3. Hardy Roses (Rosa hybrids): Loads of shrub roses really tough it out way up north. Those in the Oso Easy® group of roses are extra hardy and very high performing. There are lots to choose from with flowers of rose-red, peach, white, and pink. Try the super hardy (Zones 3-9), pink-flowered Oso Easy® Fragrant Spreader , which is fragrant, pretty, and spreads to form a low mass of roses from early summer to fall. The double red Oso Easy Double Red, is slightly less hardy, surviving in Zone 4a winters.

Happy gardening!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

Best Green Beans for Northern Gardeners

“What green bean variety would you recommend for Minnesota?” – Question from Van of Hendricks, Minnesota

Answer: Early, early, early varieties! With the short northern summers of Minnesota, you want to choose a top-performing bean that produces as quickly as possible. Choose bush beans or pole beans, depending on your garden’s size and your planting preference. When seeking good veggie varieties for northern growers, I tend to turn to northern seed vendors, like Pinetree Seeds or Johnny’s, which are both based in Maine.

For bush beans, I recommend the early, disease-resistant, green bush bean ‘Provider‘, which yields in just 50 days from seed and germinates in cool soil. The flavorful heirloom bush bean ‘Bountiful‘ is even earlier, bearing green beans in just 46 days.

For pole beans, I LOVE the early-to-produce ‘Fortex‘. It’s long, slender, delicious beans appear in just 60 days from seed and are high yielding. I’m also a big fan of Roma green beans, and ‘Northeaster‘ is a very fast Roma that’s stringless, very early (56 days), and delicious!

I hope that you have good luck with these exceptional green beans! Happy gardening, Jessie

I also recommend you watch this Black Gold video on successful bean growing!