Determining your Best Planting Dates (in Spring) Part 1


I have to be honest with you, the first year we started our garden I bought peppers, onions and herbs and then went home and planted them all in the same day. (Gasp!)  I had no concept of a spring frost date or the understanding that different vegetables required different planting times. Believe it or not all our vegetables survived that year, but the next year I figured out I needed to make some changes. 

The keys points to determining when to plant in the Spring:

1.Frost free date- People who garden talk about the frost free dates.  This date is based on past years frost patterns and your location.  There are 2 different dates one for Spring (first frost) and the other for Fall (last frost).  Spring is the most critical date to start out the season.

Here are some websites where you can look up the estimated frost free dates for your area: 

Farmer's Almanac-  http://www.almanac.com
Natural Gardening Co.-  http://www.naturalgardening.com 
National Climatic Data Center-  http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov

2. Keep in mind weather is unpredictable and the dates are approximate.  
For my area I had a range of dates for our spring first frost which went all the way from:
April 12th (50% chance of frost)
April 27th (10% chance of frost) to May 12th

Last year I went with May 13th and everything worked out well.  I have always waited until after Mother's Day (May 11th 2014) because up to the point we seem to always have one last frost.  Our winter has been long and cold this year so I am going to play it safe and go with May 5th.  As a backup I have winter row covers to put on the raised beds to keep them warm if we happen to have one last frost after that time!

One last snow in March (last year 2013)
 3. In the end you have to choose the date that you are most comfortable with based on this information. 
You won't find a website or person who can predict the perfect frost free date.  Weather is weather.  But these dates will give you a good starting point. 

4. Keep track of your frost free date each year.  Then track the weather leading up to the date and several weeks after.  This will give you a good starting point for years to come. 

Now that you have figured out your frost free date what do you do with it?  Read this next post for the details!  Determining Your Best Planting Date (Part 2)

HINT: I found an amazing seed starting chart that I share with you in this next post.  You just enter your frost free date and it gives you the planting dates for seeds and transplants!  So simple.

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