Most of southern Connecticut is within USDA hardiness zone 6, meaning the area gets freezes but winter temperatures usually do not go below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. The proximity to Long Island Sound also moderates both summer and winter temperatures, bringing cool summer breezes while staving off autumn frosts until late in the season. This creates a perfect growing environment for a wide array of vegetable crops for home or market gardening.
Squash and Pumpkins
Squash and pumpkins are signature vegetable crops of southern Connecticut--so much so that one of the most popular pumpkins grown in the eastern United States is a variety named "Connecticut Field." According to the Connecticut Crop Map, pumpkins are grown on over 270 farms in Connecticut, and squash on over 220. Winter and summer squash were among the first crops planted by the students of Connecticut College in coastal New London when they formed their campus organic growing project called Sprout in 2005. Zucchini, delicata, and acorn squash have since been successfully grown annually by these southern Connecticut college students for use in their campus dining halls.
Snap beans are grown on over 103 Connecticut farms, according to the Connecticut Crop Map. Snap beans--or stringless string beans--are grown in many parts of the United States, but are a local favorite in southern Connecticut, where the well-drained soil and warm spring temperatures favor sweet green bean growth. The University of Connecticut Cooperative Extention recommends provider, blue lake, tenderpod and roma as green bush-type snap beans for Connecticut growing; while yellow slenderwax, goldcrop, and golden butter wax are recommended as bush yellow snap beans; and romano, rust-resistant strains of Kentucky wonder, and French horticultural are recommended for pole bean growing.
Tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetable crops grown in Connecticut. According to the Connecticut Crop Map, tomatoes are grown on over 300 farms in the state. As with squash, tomatoes were one of the first crops planted by the Connecticut College Sprout project in New London. The Connecticut College students bolstered their production with a local source of mushroom compost; the high calcium content of mushroom compost is particularly beneficial to tomato production. Coastal Connecticut's well-drained soil and moderate summer temperatures yield delicious tomatoes for fresh eating and canning uses.