When you look at the back of seed packets you’ll see a map of the US (if you live in the US) with colors on it; those are USDA gardening zones. Each zone represents a certain average low temperature for that area and are 10 degrees apart.
I live along the Texas Gulf Coast which is a zone 9 (zone 9a to be exact). That means that the average low temperatures in my area are 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit. You can find your zone by typing in your zip code in this map.
Although gardening zones (often called hardiness zones) focus on the cold temperatures, there are some other things you can glean from them and often gardeners will use them as a way of communicating what kind of climate they have. Knowing your gardening zone is a good place to start.
But they don’t tell the whole story. A gardening zone 9 along the California coast is similar to a gardening zone 9 along the Texas coast in the winter, but not during the summers. Santa Cruz has an average August high temperature of 76°F, while our city along the Texas Gulf Coast has a average August high temperature of 95°F – that’s a big difference!
This is why it’s super important to really learn about your climate and not just rely on knowing what your gardening zone is. If you need help understanding your climate we have a wonderful short course to help you out. You can learn more about the Understanding Your Climate course here.
In a moment, I’m going to share with you some tips for gardening in zone 9. But first let me tell you about a tip that is good for any gardening zone.
Write-things-down. Keeping track of what you planted and when, what you learned, which varieties did well and which ones didn’t will help you immensely. I know you think you’ll remember, but really, there’s just too much good gardening stuff and you won’t.
The Gardening Notebook a great tool to help you create a custom notebook for your garden.
If you don’t live in a zone 9 area, I have list of similar posts for your area written by some of my blogging friends who live all over the US and Canada. So, if you want to skip on down to the end of the post and find your zone, feel free to do so.
Tips for growing a year round garden in zone 9
Know that you will plant your spring garden earlier and your fall garden later than most people online. It’s okay. If you read a lot of gardening blogs, don’t get discouraged when everyone is putting in their fall gardens in late July and your garden is all burned up.
I share my photos of my burned up garden in July and August so you will know you aren’t alone. Your fall garden will be put in in late September or early October and will grow all winter long.
Don’t fall into the trap of believing that just because you have 8 or nine months between frost dates that you have an 8 or 9 month growing season. You probably don’t.
Most plants (even heat loving ones) can’t take temperatures that reach the high 90’s or 100’s day after day. That means don’t dilly dally around when it comes time to plant your spring garden. I know no one else is planting outside in early to mid March (remember tip number 1) but you need to.
Nothing but peppers and okra will produce in August and much of September. Either rip out the plants you do have that are barely surviving or keep them watered and they might start producing again when the temperatures come down.
We usually start cleaning up our beds but I do leave the healthiest cherry tomato plant for the fall. You can also try covering your plants with shade cloth. We’ve not done this but it’s on the list to try.
There is no winter break in zone 9. In some zones you put in your spring/summer garden and you harvest your spring/summer garden, then you put in your fall garden and you harvest your fall garden then you take a winter break. In a zone 9 garden that has a hot summer, your break (kind of) is in the heat of the summer when very few things are growing.
Of course, you can take a winter break but honestly, winter is the best time to garden in most zone 9 gardens. It’s cooler, there are fewer pests, and there isn’t the rush to preserve everything since most of the winter garden is greens and brassicas.
If you’re trying to grow most of what your family eats, do you know how much you need to plant? I have some printable worksheets to help you out. Just fill out the form below and they’ll be emailed to you.
Zone 9 Gardening Month by Month
January – If you planted a fall garden you should be enjoying all kinds of greens, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower from your garden this month. You might need to sow some more lettuce seeds or carrot seeds. You can also start seeds later this month.
This is the time to make sure all your garden area that wasn’t used for a fall garden is ready for the spring. Layout your spring garden on paper, knowing that crops such as kale and swiss chard will still be producing into summer so use those beds last. If you didn’t plant onions in the fall, you can buy transplants and plant them this month.
February – If you are going to start seeds inside and didn’t in January, you need to as soon as possible. Your average last frost date is probably sometime this month. You don’t need to plant right away but you need to be ready to plant in early March. You can probably go ahead and sow pea and bean seeds outside this month. You can also plant potatoes this month.
March – This is the month to get most of your seeds and transplants in for the spring and summer garden. Plant summer squash, tomatoes, more beans (to keep extend the harvest season), beets,melons etc. I like to succession plant some things like our summer squash.
April – Early this month plant sweet potatoes, okra and winter squash. All the winter crops, except kale and swiss chard, have probably all bolted by now so clean out these beds and use them. You might also sow a few more summer squash seeds to extend the harvest.
May – Keep everything watered and weeded. You will probably pick your first summer squash, beans and tomato this month.
June – The tomatoes, summer squash and beans should really be coming in this month. Towards the end of this month is when you will probably begin to feel overwhelmed by the heat, the pests and the harvest.
July – It’s getting hot so make sure you are watering a lot. The harvest should still be coming in quite a lot at the beginning of the month. The melons should start ripening now. This is the time to think about using shade cloth to cover some of your plants. Many tomatoes will get sun scorched in the heat.
Your winter squashes will probably be ready by the end of the month. The onions should be ready this month. As you clear areas of your garden out, consider sowing buckwheat as a green manure or to feed the bees.
August – It’s mainly peppers and okra this month. You’ll get a few random tomatoes but mostly the plants are struggling to survive. Same with the summer squash. You can decided to just pull it all up or try to keep things watered enough to make it to fall. Either way is fine – it’s hot and you deserve a break. If you pull up things up, consider sowing buckwheat in it’s place.
This is a great time to make notes in your gardening notebook.
September – By mid month it should start cooling down. You can start some seeds indoors or wait a few more weeks to sow them outside. You should still be harvesting peppers and okra this month. You can probably harvest your sweet potatoes now. Towards the end of the month you can plant some tomato transplants for the winter (I like to do cherry type tomatoes because they ripen quicker).
October – Now’s the time to sow your fall garden- lettuce, kale, chard, broccoli, beets and cauliflower are all things I plant this month. I try to wait until we’re going to have rain for 2-3 days and sow seeds the day before. We can still have hot days in October so make sure you water regularly.
November – You should be harvesting lettuce and other baby greens by the end of the month. If you are going to plant onions and garlic for next summer now is the time. I really like starting onions by seeds. I just sprinkle them in a line and let them grow all bunched together and in February dig them up and transplant them.
Depending on the winter you might be able to keep your tomato plants going, just be sure to cover them if you dip below freezing. You should not have to cover any of your cold weather crops unless you dip into the low 20s.
December – You should be able to harvest greens and maybe even some broccoli and cauliflower towards the end of the month. Cool temperatures and almost no pests make winter gardening in zone 9 super enjoyable.
Gardening in other zones
Joybilee Farm in Canada
The Northern Homestead in Canada
Homespun Seasonal Living in Montana
Idlewild Alaska in Alaska
Grow a Good Life in Maine
The Homestead Lady in Utah
Learning and Yearning in Pennsylvania
Little Sprouts Learning in Oklahoma
Pierce Ponderosa in Georgia
Homemaking Organized in Washington
The Farmer’s Lamp in Louisiana
Preparedness Mama in Texas
SchneiderPeeps in Texas
I’m sure I’ve forgotten something, so if you garden in zone 9 what are your tips?