How to Grow Vegetables in the West

The weather patterns in the Western states can range from mild, rainy winters to scorching hot summers. In addition to the variable climate, the western region of the United States has a host of natural features that include rugged terrain, desert areas, mountains and coastal land. You can grow a bountiful crop of vegetables in the west if you take all these factors into consideration before you plant your garden.


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    Consult the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) website to determine which hardiness zone you live in. Because there are so many zones in this region, you need to look at your specific area; your state may have up to 6 different hardiness zones.
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    Start your seeds indoors if your area has cold winters. Follow the seed packet directions about number of days to sprouting and maturation so that you know how many weeks ahead of time to start your seedlings. This step isn’t necessary in most coastal areas where the winters are very mild.
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    Select a level area for your garden that gets a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight.If the only available garden location you have is not south facing, consider planting vegetables in pots or planters and placing them on the south side of your house. Very few vegetables will bear fruit without at least 6 hours of sunlight daily.
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    Clear your garden plot. Remove all weeds or other plant material as early in the spring as is comfortable to work outdoors.
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    Till the soil as soon as the ground can be worked. Use a tiller or a spade. If you are not usually physically active, it is best to till a small section every day until you have tilled the entire plot.
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    Add compost to the soil. Work it in with a shovel or till your soil again to make sure the compost and soil are well mixed.
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    Let the soil rest. Wait a few weeks after tilling before you plant. This will allow the soil to absorb nutrients from the compost.
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    Plant all cool weather crops in mid-spring. Cool weather crops, such as lettuce, thrive in cooler temperatures, but wilt badly under intense sun. Cool weather crops can also be planted in early fall.
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    Plant your warm weather crops in late spring. Don't plant any warm weather crops until after all danger of frost is over. Consult the seed packet directions to make sure you plant in time for the vegetable to mature before the first frost of the autumn.
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    Water your garden. Your seedlings and transplants will need daily watering if there is no rain. Once the plants are established, water only when the soil is dry.
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    Extend your growing season. Cover your vegetables with plastic or cloth to protect them from light frosts. Root vegetables can survive hard frosts if they are heavily mulched.


  • A quick way to test the dryness of your soil is to stick you index finger into the dirt up to your first knuckle. If the dirt is dry, you need to water. If the soil is still moist, don’t water; too much water can rot the roots of your plants.
  • The heavier you mulch around your plants, the easier your gardening job will be. Mulch keeps moisture in the soil and helps prevent weeds.
  • Fruit bearing plants, such as tomatoes and melons, must have at least 6 hours of sunlight every day in order to bear fruit. Plant leafy vegetables that don’t bear fruit in the shady areas of your garden.


  • Animals can wreak havoc in a garden. If you don’t have your vegetable garden fenced in, try planting citronella scented geraniums around the perimeter of your garden. The scent masks the smell of your vegetables. You can also deter intruders by planting garlic cloves around the perimeter to mask the aroma of desirable vegetables. When the garlic leaves are tall, break some of them off to release even more scent.
  • Try not to overdo; excessive aches and pains can discourage you from performing regular maintenance in your garden. Weed or mulch a small section every day and by the end of each week, your garden will be weed free. Start the process again at the beginning of the following week.

Things You’ll Need

  • Seeds or transplants
  • Plant trays or pots
  • Trowel
  • Shovel
  • Spade
  • Hoe
  • Mulch
  • Fencing (optional)

Sources and Citations

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Article Info

Categories: Growing Vegetables