The Q&A Archives: New York State Last Frost Dates

Question: I have a new garden in Rhinebeck, NY (the beginning of zone 5--heading north). What is the last frost date from which I count backwards to start my seeds indoors. I have your seed starting book and she lists Albany NY (which may even be in the next zone--zone 4) that is just over one hour's drive north of my garden, as April 28 as the last average date of frost. But I just looked it up in another source which listed June 5 for Albany and May 28 for New York City (which is zone 7!) What do I do????? I am starting seeds for the first time this year and would like to get at least some of this right and I do not wish to labor over these seeds to find that they are getting pot bound and leggy becuase I can not plant them when expected because I had the last frost date all wrong.

Answer: As you have discovered, frost dates can vary significantly in just a few miles. For this reason, I would suggest you check with your local County Extension (677-8223 for Dutchess County) for a guideline as to the last average frost date in your area. I would also suggest you check with any neighbors who are gardeners because they will have an even better fix on what happens near your house, and then I would also suggest you begin keeping a record of what happens in your own garden because each garden has its own microclimate! Much of gardening is by guess and by golly -- and every season is different. Most gardeners also find it necessary to use supplemental lighting in order to produce good quality seedlings; you might also invest in a good cold frame for hardening your seedlings and some garden blankets in case there is one of those late cold snaps. On the reassuring side, most plants have about a two week "window" when they are of a good size to transplant.

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