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Zone 4B Gardening

Every garden location has its blessings and its curses. A gardener might be able to grow citrus outside for example but that also means no tapping of maples for syrup because of the required freezing period. A garden might have a long season but not enough daylight to grow long day onions. The trick in any garden is always to maximize the blessings while suffering through the curses gracefully. Here at my house we’ve learned a lot of tricks for zone 4b gardening to take the guess work mostly out of each season.

Some tips and tricks from an experienced gardener to get the most out of Zone 4B Gardening.

1. Stick to 90 Day Vegetables

It’s always so tempting to buy the interesting heirloom corn, or luffa gourds but they rarely do well in zone 4b. Instead of wasting garden space on things that might not fruit, let alone ripen in a short season stick to things that come ripe in 90 days or less (from transplant). It’s not as limiting as it might sound, there are amazing heirloom varieties of melons, tomatoes, peppers, popcorn, and more that come ripe in 90 days or less.  Gourds tend to be tough but there are a few smaller types available. I’m all for experimentation and do plant small rows or patches of things that might not make it but I never count on those things to feed us – they’re for fun and there is always room for fun and exploration in a garden regardless of growing zone. 

2. Always Be Prepared for Frost

Keep an eye on the local weather reports but never take it as gospel truth. If there is any possibility of frost, keep an eye on your own thermometer as often as possible. If the weather looks like it might dip into the danger zone, cover the tender plants. Have a stockpile of blankets, sheets, plastic sheeting, etc. at the ready. I’ve been known to run outside to cover plants at 2 A.M. because I was awoken by a cat or something and checked the thermometer to see it drop dangerously low. Don’t be afraid to invest in grow tunnels, either. 

3. Save Seed

Save seed that does well. Saved seed becomes adapted to the garden area it came from meaning it can generally deal with heat, cold, drought, and more better than freshly purchased seed. In a small garden, some plants are likely to cross but beans and peas have a lower chance of crossing than say winter squash so try those things first. I save the things that cross too but accept that they might be some kind of weird cross-mutation in the next season. This is not to say there isn’t room for new varieties or seeds because, of course, we should try new things but it’s good to know that there are good, solid producers in the seed stash in case one of the new things flops.

4. Keep Track

Become an obsessive note-taker. Write down planting dates, harvest dates, weather details and more. Truly everything and learn to use that information to compare and better maximize the garden’s production. Tape seed packets in there, bits of articles that could prove useful as well as notes on how the items tasted, kept, and preserved.

The Gardening Notebook is a resource that will give you basic information on many vegetables with ample space for recording area and garden specific experience from which to learn and apply year after year. I highly recommend this source to novice and experienced gardeners alike to cultivate good record keeping skills that will pay off in better growing habits and garden yields in the future.

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Are you in a different gardening zone and wanting tips for that specific zone? I’ve teamed up with some other amazing bloggers and gardeners to share tip and tricks from across many zones, look for zone below and click through for great advice from experienced gardeners: 

Zone 3
Joybilee Farm in Canada
The Northern Homestead in Canada
Zone 4
Idlewild Alaska in Alaska
Zone 5
Grow a Good Life in Maine
The Homestead Lady in Utah
Zone 6
Learning and Yearning in Pennsylvania
Zone 7
Little Sprouts Learning in Oklahoma
Pierce Ponderosa in Georgia
Zone 8
Homemaking Organized in Washington 
The Farmer’s Lamp in Louisiana
Preparedness Mama in Texas
Zone 9
SchneiderPeeps in Texas


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Saturday 5th of November 2022

thanks for the information. i have 2 crappy years with my gardens I am hoping next year is better.

Chelsea Lee Ward

Tuesday 27th of September 2022

Thank you so much for these helpful hints! I'm zone 4b up here in Palmer, Alaska and I know I'll be sharing your page with some other gardeners! Let me know if you have any tips on how to prevent my tomatoes from splitting.


Tuesday 4th of February 2020

Hi, thank you for all your info. My zone is 4b. But am at 5k plus elevation. Im putting in a fruit orchard this spring. My question is ; Do i go with the 4b as is suggested, or go with a 3 zone because of my elevation. We are west of Cascade. Which is referred to as “the banana belt” area of MT. Any help is thankful.

Chelsea Lee Ward

Tuesday 27th of September 2022

@Ginger, I would love to help as I've had these questions as well (though I'm not quite as high up). I would recommend the NOAA website's seasonal/annual data for agriculture. You can use their search tool to find the NOAA tower closest to your area (choose one that is close but also has a similar elevation)then you can view data from previous years (it's presented as a spreadsheet by month) to predict your coldest temperature averages throughout the year and use them as a guide for selecting an accurate gardening climate.

Kathie Lapcevic

Thursday 6th of February 2020

Boy this is a tough question - that elevation can be tough. Have you talked to the extension office in your area? They'd likely be a great source of help.


Tuesday 8th of May 2018

Hi I'm marion,I'm in anaconda,mt. Gathering info for my new garden,have only dabbled till now,growing space very limited, trying to get as much in that will grow here for me. Info a plus, time is not, but I got bunnies to give me a booster.

Mary Brammer

Tuesday 16th of February 2016

I came over over from your friends at We moved to Ashland in 2012, right after the big wildfire that took out most of the ranch. I can tell you just about anything you want to know about gardening in Colorado or Arizona, but being in Montana is a learning experience. Thank you for blogging about how to garden in the Zone 4 area (we are in zone 4a, along the Tongue River, and so far have experienced temps as low as-36). Keep up the good work, and I will be digging through your site in the next few days. Mary @ River Ranch, Ashland, MT

Homespun Seasonal Living

Tuesday 16th of February 2016

Mary - thanks so much for stopping by and saying hello! Happy gardening!