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.