Planning a garden starts with knowing the Date of the Last Frost. This date indicates the time when it’s safe to plant most seeds and seedlings in the ground, as well as move container plants outside overnight.
Once you know the date of the last frost, you can figure out which seeds you want to start indoors and when to get them sprouting.
Since I live and garden in Toronto, I’ve done the research for my area. According to The Old Farmers Almanac, Toronto’s last spring frost will fall around May 9th, 2013. Keeping that in mind, I now know that I’ll need to start sprouting my eggplants and peppers soon! (These veggies need to be started 8-10 weeks before the last frost date).
In addition to knowing the last frost date, it’s also helpful to find out what the year’s seasonal forecast looks like, so you’ll have an idea of what to expect weather-wise. I picked up a copy of the the Truly Canadian Almanac and here’s what it predicts for Ontario, 2013:
- We will experience an early spring thaw, followed by early summer conditions, and perhaps some heavy storms.
- Summer will be hotter than usual (especially July) with lots of thunderstorms.
- Fall will have plenty of rain.
The first taste of “real” spring weather (mild and rainy) should show up around the third week of April, after which it will probably be safe to start acclimatizing your container plants and hardier seedlings.
“Acclimatizing”, or “hardening off” int he gardening world, refers to the process of getting your plants “used to” being outdoors. Moving an indoor plant outside can be a shocking experience, so the transition should be done gradually. To acclimatize your plants, start putting them outside for a few hours each day, once the weather is consistently warm, and gradually increase the amount of time they spend out there. After the last frost date, it’s probably safe to start leaving them outside overnight.