A zone where your colonists will try to grow a certain kind of plant.
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A growing zone designates where growers will sow and harvest plants, including trees. Growing zones are only allowed in soil, rich soil, or gravel, each with an effect on growth rate. They can't be placed on sand, natural stone, mud, water, or flooring. When the mouse is over a tile, the fertility rate is shown at the bottom left of the screen. Only one type of plant can be selected for each individual zone. Trees planted in zones need a 1 tile radius in all directions free of other crops or trees, even if planted in other zones. Planters will remove wild trees next to growing zones to accommodate this radius.
When a growing zone is selected, buttons appear to allow the player to change the plant to be grown or to allow the zone to be renamed, deleted, hidden, or to allow/disallow sowing. When sowing is disabled colonists will still harvest.
Tips and tricks
Guesstimating a correct size of a growing zone is not easy with so many factors affecting potential harvest. A quick rule of thumb is to grow 10+ tiles of food crops per colonist in a biome with year-round growing. If the colony hunts as well, it will accumulate some, though not excessive, food reserves, which can be saved for winter, fed to prisoners, or sold. More should be planted if other factors reduce yields, such as in biomes and latitudes with shorter growable periods.
You can double-click an empty tile inside a growing zone to highlight all growing zones on the visible portion of the map. This can be handy in a biome with winter to forbid sowing as winter approaches - but be sure to turn sowing back on before spring!
You can also place growing zones over wild plants and forbid sowing. Your growers will not plant any new crops, but will instead harvest the wild plants when they are fully grown. This can be used for such plants as trees, berries, healroot or ambrosia.