Jack Frost nipping at your nodes: Don't plant your garden too early

Jack Frost nipping at your nodes: Don't plant your garden too early

With summer around the corner and temperatures rising on the Island, gardeners may be itching to get their plants in the ground.

Whether it's a flower bed or vegetable garden, flora fanatics should hold off a few more weeks to avoid the final frost of the season.

Peter Meijer, sales manager at Van Kampen's Greenhouse, said that unlike B.C. and Ontario where the Victoria Day long weekend is thought to be the time to plant, Islanders should wait until at least June 10 to get their gardens going.

"Just cause we get one warm day does not mean we're not going to have a couple of cool nights ahead of us," he said.

Island lore

Meijer said that many people coming into the greenhouse were eager to start planting because of the weather on Thursday.

"It's been a wonderful idea on many people's minds today. 'Let's get our annuals planted'."

"There's a lot of lore on P.E.I. about when the last frost may come, a lot of people say the full moon in June," he said. 

Meijer said that the first owner of Van Kampen's thought June 15 was the day seeds could be sown, and his sons think June 10 is safe.

"Anyone who's lived on P.E.I. for a while knows the weather can change quickly," he said.

"So we usually like to wait a little bit until the risk of frost is gone."

Flower power

There are some varieties of flower that are resistant to the dangers that frost presents.

Meijer said that petunias, osteospermum, and some types of allysum as well as pansies are more tolerant of cold temperatures.

"Some people refer to people as a pansy to say they're kind of wimpy but pansies are one of the toughest plants in the plant world," he said.

On the other end of the spectrum, Meijer said that vegetables, especially tomatoes, are more susceptible to damage from frost.

He recommended people wait until mid-June to start their vegetable gardens. 

Blanket your beds

For people who can't wait to get their flowers planted, there are ways to try to protect them on colder nights.

"You can throw a sheet, like a blanket or something over top of these plants on cool evenings to protect them from frost," Meijer said.

Another way to prevent damage is by putting your garden under something such as an awning, which will act as cover at night.

"Frost kind of falls so having something overtop is helpful," he said.

Hardening off

If flowers have been potted and are being put outside during the day and brought in at night, Meijer said 'hardening off' is a technique that can condition them for lower temperatures.

When it is 10 C or higher at night the plants can be left outside, and they will begin to develop a tolerance to the outdoor temperatures. 

"I'd be happy at 10 degrees leaving them out overnight. I'd be worried at five degrees. There's a real grey area in between there."​

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