Here’s a reader question that I received this week:
I’m thinking of starting my own vegetable seeds this year and I keep reading about the last frost date. I live in Northern Virginia and I’m not sure when mine is.
This question is relevant to me in so many ways. I’ll cut right to the chase for the last frost dates for the Mid-Atlantic region but then I want to expand on them a bit. The average last frost date for Zones 5-7 is somewhere between April 1 and April 30. It can vary depending on the year but this is a good baseline. In Richmond, VA I always use April 15 as the last frost date and that has served me well for years. If we were experiencing a particularly cool spring, I’d assume that closer to the end of the month would be safer. If you look at this pdf for Vienna in Northern Virginia, it shows that there is a 90% chance that freezing temperatures will occur on March 30; a 50% chance of freezing temps on April 10 and a 10% chance on April 22.
The reason that you want to know your last frost date is so that you can figure out when to start your seeds. For instance, tomatoes need to be started indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date. Many seed packets will say 6 weeks is sufficient but I have found that they need 8 weeks unless you’re starting them in a greenhouse. All the grow lights in the world just can’t compensate for the rays of light that emanate from that golden orb in the sky. With that being said, if you use April 15 as your last frost date, you can count backwards and see that you need to start your tomato seeds on February 19. You may be thinking that seems like forever from now but it’s only 8 weeks away. Unless you already have your seeds for next year, it’s time to get cranking on selecting which jewels you’ll have growing in your veggie garden this year. I’ve found that it takes a week to ten days to receive my seeds so that means that I need to have all of my tomato seeds ordered by February 5 and that is only 6 weeks away.
If you’ll be growing peppers in your veggie garden this year, you need to get moving even faster….those seeds need to be planted 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost date. That means they need to be planted February 5 and should be ordered by January 22. That’s exactly one month from today! I hope that you find it exciting and not overwhelming that you can start planning your vegetable garden. If you haven’t signed up for the catalogs that I mentioned in another post, I highly recommend that you do that as soon as the holidays are over. I love seeing my mailbox full of seed catalogs!
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’ll be focusing on vegetable gardening for the next couple of weeks. I hope that you are excited to learn more about it…I know that I’m excited to learn more about your experiences. I’ll share successes and failures and veggies that I am in love with…there’s just a few! Leave me a comment below or e-mail me at email@example.com and let me know what you’re planning for your veggie garden this spring. Or perhaps you have a cool season garden in the ground right now…either way, let me know! Happy veggie gardening!