When Can I Plant My Garden?

Well, it’s May and by now every gardener in Alberta is biting at the bit to get out there and plant their garden. Traditionally in these parts, gardens get planted on the May long weekend – this year landing on May 16th through 19th. Two years ago I planted my garden the first weekend in May and suffered no ill effects, but I don’t think I would dare do that every year. So what’s a gardener to do?

Find Your Frost Date

To start, find out what the ‘average last frost date’ in your area is. BE SPECIFIC. These can vary greatly from place to place. For example, Red Deer’s frost date is May 25. I live just 15 minutes south east of Red Deer, near Pine Lake. Pine Lake’s frost date is June 9th. That’s a whole 2 weeks difference!

And you can’t even guess based on north/south location. Hannah (south) & Edmonton (north) both have a frost date of May 10th! By the way, I think it is very unfair that Edmontonians (150 km north of me) should get to start their gardens a whole month before me! But that’s the way it is.

You can find the frost dates for your area at the Alberta Agriculture & Rural Development website.

Check the Forecast

Secondly, watch the long range forecasts for your area. I personally like the Environment Canada website, but they only forecast five days in advance. So for the long range forecast, I go to Accuweather Canada. They have a 15 day forecast that, of course, isn’t quite as accurate, but it gives you a good idea.

Guess, Hope, & Trust

All the averages and all the forecasts in the world will NOT guarantee that frosts or snow will not arrive after you’ve planted your garden. There comes a point when you just have to go for it.

For me, I’ve worked out a bit of a forumla: If it’s May, if the long range forecast has nothing colder than plus 2°, if it hasn’t pouring rain, and if I feel like it – then I plant my garden! Perhaps not the most scientific method, but thus far it’s worked for me.

This year things are shaping up to be ready to plant… [looking at accuweather forecast] Hmmmm. May 16th – the May long weekend. Go figure.

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5 Responses to When Can I Plant My Garden?

  1. Amy says:

    Our last frost date is May 22 but I think this year, due to very strange weather, I’m going to wait a bit later for some of my plants – especially the tomatoes!

  2. Carmine Henderson says:

    Hi Dave
    I am in Penhold and planted my square foot gardens the week after the long weekend. As of today I have mostly radishes and a few spinach and arugula that have come up. I had planted corn, peas, a variety of greens, beans, herbs, onions, potatoes, carrots and beets. I am seeing almost nothing! Is it possible that they have all died wither from drying out (I water once a day but the soil is very porous) or from freezing during some of our frost warnings?? I am very dicouraged as I did about 15 box gardens, mixed vermiculite, peat moss and our soil/compost mix and even bought a soil tester which showed the soil to be ok. Even the potatoes that we planted on the May long weekend haven’t come up yet. Is it too early to worry. Thanks for reading! Carmine

    • Dave says:

      Hi Carmine,

      Seeds always take longer than you think they should! 🙂 I wouldn’t be too worried yet, but you could carefully try to dig up a bean seed or a potato and see what’s happening… If you watered once I day I can’t imagine they dried out, and if they haven’t sprouted yet I don’t think it’s been cold enough to freeze the seeds in the dirt. (Though the cold will certainly set them back and perhaps hurt their germination rate…) But I would dig up something carefully and take a look!

  3. Louise says:

    Is preen weed control a good product to use in our area

  4. lionel says:

    Thank’s im going to give a garden a try again this year..
    Thank’s for the info on frost dates a forecast’s.:)

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