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When is it safe to plant your garden?

It is perfectly fine to plant cold-hardy plants right now, but you might want to wait a few more weeks for more tender plants.

SCRANTON, Pa. — In May of 2021, the Scranton area had two nights with lows of 35 degrees, on May 9 and May 13. And the year before that, we had lows in the 30s as late as May 21, it was 36 degrees that morning.

So, despite 80-degree temperatures in the forecast this week and nothing but sunshine, it still might be a little too early to plant.

"You should wait until Memorial Day. You can chance it around the 15th of May, but you may end up losing your plants," said Jane Risse, executive director of The Greenhouse Project.

The Greenhouse Project is a nonprofit located in Nay Aug Park in Scranton. The project's mission is to provide education around gardening, food, and wellness. Risse says right after Mother's Day is when all of the questions start coming in.

"There are some things you can plant right now that are perfect to plant. You have some flowers, annual flowers like dianthus, and pansies and violas, or vegetable wise, you have things we call them brassicas, they're the broccoli, and cauliflower and cauligreens and lettuces, and beet seeds and peas and things like that."

These are considered cold-hardy plants, but there are also more tender plants that cannot handle a light frost.

"If you are ambitious and you really want the biggest tomato plant of the year, and you want to go in now, you should cover it the night of a frost. You really can't go out of town and forget about them. What tomato plants and warm summer plants like is the soil above 55 degrees," Risse said.

But there are other factors that lead to frost besides just the temperature, like clear skies, a calm wind, and moisture both in the air and at the surface. So, if frost is in the forecast in the next few weeks, this is what you should do.

"If it's going to freeze and you're going to have a frost, you should cover it with cloth, something like a sheet or newspaper, and not plastic," Risse said.

Temperatures between 38 and 42 degrees can lead to patchy frost, between 33 and 37 degrees can lead to areas of frost, and 32 degrees and below can have widespread frost or freeze.

Posted by The Greenhouse Project on Saturday, April 30, 2022

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