Whether you are new to gardening or have been gardening for decades, you’ve probably heard the term last frost. It’s an important date to understand especially if you’re interested in growing typical warm weather crops: tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and eggplants. Each of these will not survive if put in the ground before the weather and soil are warm enough. These foods are often grown by seedlings planted a few weeks after the last frost date.
So when is the last frost? An easy way to find out: go to the Old Farmer’s Almanac and input your zipcode. If you live in New York State you can visit Cornell University’s gardening resource page to find out your county’s last frost in Spring. Here in Brooklyn the last frost is early April; which is why kale, spinach, lettuce, radish and other cool weather crops were planted in the first week of the month. The downside here is that occasionally there will be a snowfall after the last frost date, just as we had last night. Floating row covers and cloches were put on the newly sprouted seedlings to keep them from freezing in the snow.
It is possible to begin planting outdoors before the last frost with some kind of wind and temperature protection. At Gaynor Campus Garden we use floating row covers and cloches made from plastic soda bottles. At Southside Garden we use cold frames, which will be taken off the raised beds in early May. The thinnings from first planting of arugula and lettuce, put in the ground on March 15, are now ready to eat. An exciting moment in gardening: eating greens from the cold frame with snow on the ground!
We’re hoping for a long Spring to make the most of our successive plantings and looking forward to working with the weather as much as possible. Please let us know if you have a great last frost story!