When some parts of the country are blanketed by thick layers of snow, it’s hard to even think about planting fruits and vegetables. Still, your healthy eating habits and environmental commitments don’t have to hibernate until the weather warms up. Contrary to popular belief, there are quite a few fruits and veggies that actually thrive in cold weather.
If you’re looking for some delicious ideas for fruits or berries to grow during the cold months, your options are going to depend on your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone. Different fruits thrive in different climates, and the United States Department of Agriculture has divided the U.S. into 13 unique zones to give growers a better understanding of what they can successfully grow and when to plant their produce. If you’re looking to plant some winter fruits this year, we’ve rounded up 23 of our favorites according to climate.
If you live in zone 3 (parts of North Dakota) or zone 4 (parts of Nebraska), your growth options are somewhat limited. After all, these climates can reach minimum temps of -30–40 degrees Fahrenheit. Zones 5 through 7 can also get incredibly cold but are still warm enough to successfully grow fruit and veggies. For instance, the latter zones can get as chilly as 10–20 degrees Fahrenheit, and include such areas as parts of Iowa (zone 5), Ohio (zone 6), and Virginia (zone 7).
Still, there are some mighty fruits that can withstand the cold, and even thrive in it. Zones 0 through 2 can get as cold as -65 degrees Fahrenheit, which is way too cold to grow anything, so if you live in zones 3–7, consider growing these fruits:
- Honeycrisp apples
Your best bet: pears
Not many fruits will ripen in temperatures below zero, so for individuals who live in colder climates, you may need to purchase much of your fruit from other parts of the country between the months of December and March.
If you're planting your first pear tree, try to choose a plot with access to bright and direct sunlight and well-drained soil.
Not all of the U.S. faces blizzards in the wintertime. If you live in a warmer climate, such as zone 8 (including parts of Arizona) or zone 9 (including parts of Nevada), you have a lot more growth options at your disposal. Temperatures in these climates seldom dip below freezing, and they present the ideal year-round growing conditions, particularly for citrus fruits. Consider growing these fruits in warmer climates:
- Mandarin oranges
- Winter squash
- Passion fruits
Your best bet: kiwis
If you're not very patient, try growing kiwis because they mature quickly on vines and ripen in winter and spring, so you can enjoy them during the colder months, too.
Because kiwis and their vines grow quickly, consider buying a trellis to support them. They can grow up to 40 feet tall!
Zone 11 makes up the warmest and most tropical-friendly climate in the United States. It’s also the smallest zone, limited primarily to Florida's southern tip and a small section of coastal Los Angeles. If you live in one of these areas, you have access to cold-weather growth opportunities not available in other parts of the nation.
For example, these super warm climates can accommodate papaya and mango, which are otherwise difficult—if not altogether impossible—to grow in the United States. The warmer zones 10 and 11 can also accommodate these crops:
Your best bet: grapefruits
Grapefruit comes into season in January, so it’s an excellent fruit to enjoy during those chilly winter months on the West Coast.
Planting grapefruits is actually pretty easy. All you have to do is remove the seeds from a fresh grapefruit and plant them in a well-draining pot that's filled almost to the top with soil. Leave the pot in a well-lit window and keep the soil moist (but not soggy).
Super Hot Climates
Puerto Rico makes up zones 12 and 13, which can get mighty hot. In fact, the average temperature year-round is 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Not many fruits and veggies can stand such heat, but there are a select few. If you live in Puerto Rico, try growing these fruits and vegetables:
Your best bet: pineapples
While pineapples are certainly delicious, they are also very slow to mature. In fact, some can take up to two years.
Cut the crown off a ripe pineapple, remove the lower leaves, and plant the exposed stalk in a planter. All you have to do is water it lightly and leave the planter in the sunlight.
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