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The Best Areas in the United States to Grow Vegetables

By Sarah Lariviere ; Updated September 21, 2017
Summer squash and peppers thrive in midsummer heat, making them garden candidates for all but the coldest areas of the United States.
vegetables image by cherie from Fotolia.com

The United States provides a wealth of climates and soil conditions that allow gardeners in different areas to grow a wide range of vegetables. To determine the best areas in the United States to grow a specific vegetable, consider its needs, including length of growing season, soil composition and requirements for water and sunlight.

Growing Season

Watermelon tolerates long southern summers happily. In the north, extend the growing season by starting melon from seed indoors.
watermelon image by ewa kubicka from Fotolia.com

To grow a particular vegetable, a gardener must know both the approximate amount of time it takes for its seeds to change into plants with vegetables that are ready to harvest, and the approximate length of the growing season in his area. The backs of seed packets state the number of days a particular vegetable needs for this process. Determine the length of the growing season by counting the days between the estimated last and first dates of frost. Nurseries start plants from seeds in greenhouses during months that are too cool to support seed germination, extending the growing season for northern gardeners. Adventurous gardeners with short growing seasons begin seeds at home, using heating pads and lights to create a warm, bright environment. The best way to know what to plant in any area of the United States and when is to talk to experienced gardeners in that area--they often have tips for growing both common vegetables and more challenging ones.

Soil Composition

Sugar snap peas wilt and stop producing pods in warm weather. They prefer the early spring chill of the northern US; in the south, plant them during the temperate winter.
Fresh green sugar snap peas in the pod. image by William Berry from Fotolia.com

Soil composition varies from the loose, rich loam of the Midwest to the hard red clay of the Carolinas. Vegetables with shallow roots, such as lettuces, tolerate harder soil better than those with deep roots, such as carrots. Additionally, soil rich in organic matter is a requisite for vegetables like eggplant and peppers to be lush. Evaluating the soil composition in your area gives you an idea of what types of vegetables do best there. Local university cooperative extensions offer soil analysis cheaply, and can provide good general information about soil conditions in your area. Supplementing soil that doesn't meet the requirements of vegetables you would like to grow is a viable if potentially expensive option.

Water Requirements

Hot, dry areas, such as the desert, and regions with heavy rainfall and cool temperatures, such as some parts of the Pacific Northwest, challenge healthy tomato growth.
tomatoes image by Horticulture from Fotolia.com

Rainfall has a huge impact on vegetable growth. If you live in a dry area but have the time, energy and means to irrigate, your vegetable options expand. However, ecologically conscious gardeners often prefer to focus on vegetables that are comfortable in the area's conditions without irrigation. Desert dwellers might enjoy experimenting with chilis and cacti rather than forcing thirsty crucifers such as broccoli to adapt to places far removed from their native environments.


About the Author


Sarah Lariviere's debut novel The Bad Kid (Simon & Schuster) is a 2017 Edgar Award finalist. She has taken college courses in landscape design and permaculture, and is an avid gardener.