Should I or Shouldn't I?

There comes a time in the spring when a gardener asks herself, "Should I or shouldn't I plant these annuals and other tender plants outside now?"

In other words, have we had our last frost?  Looking at our ten-day weather forecast, I think I can truthfully say we aren't supposed to get within ten degrees (Fahrenheit) of a frost for the next ten days. That takes us to about May 11th.

The rule of thumb around here is it is safe to plant after Mother's Day, which is the second Sunday of May. This year, that's May 10th. Some years that could be as late as May 13th or as early as May 8th, if I've figured out calendars correctly.

But, but, but, there was that one time—maybe in 1997 or '98—when I had a frost on my garden on May 25th, which has left me a little shy about planting too much prior to Memorial Day, the last Monday in May.  I had to re-buy and replant all my peppers and tomatoes that one time. Once bit, twice wary!

Of course, I don't want to scare off new gardeners who are excited about plants and gardening and as anxious as anyone to plant out their new gardens with tomatoes and other plants that simply do not tolerate frosts at all. It is hard to hold them back!  But,  generally, I like nighttime temperatures to be in the 50s before I plant out tomatoes and peppers.  See above about May 25th.

But all this didn't keep me from buying some zinnias for my sister's condo earlier this morning when it was about 44ºF. And I'm tempted to plant them for her today because the ten-day forecast looks pretty good. And the sun is shining.

And now I've just confessed to gardeners, new and experienced, that there is a whole lot of guessing to this gardening business. I hope that's helpful to know. And with all that said, you know what I'm going to do. I'm going to plant those zinnias later today. I think they will be just fine!

I hope I'm guessing right this year.

If you'd like to see a little video of my trip to the greenhouse, it is Episode 3 of Gardening with Carol.