Planting time is here! We made it through another long, cold winter, Michigan!
Now, it’s time to get growing.
It’s time to get those transplants outside and time for more direct sowing in the garden. Just be sure to keep an eye on the weather forecast and those night time temps. A late freeze can zap your young plants, ruining all of your hard work. Check out our Michigan Frost Dates page to find the average date of the last frost in your area.
Be sure to harden off your transplants by setting them outdoors during the day and bringing them back inside at night for a week or two before you intend to plant them. And keep an eye on the soil moisture to ensure that your transplants do not wilt.
Also, now is a great time to plan out any succession planting you want to do this year. Johnny’s Select Seeds has an excellent succession planting calculator to help you plan ahead and stay on track.
Here is a quick list of sowing dates for many common vegetables:
- Corn – Through May 21 (This usually does better sown directly into the garden, but if you’re trying to get a jump on your planting, you can certainly give it a try. Just try not to disturb the roots too much during transplanting.)
- Cucumber – Through May 21
- Melons – May 1 – May 21
- Pumpkins – Through May 21
All of the following cool season crops can be sown outdoors during the month of May. Warmer season crops like cucumbers, melons, squash, and tomatoes can be direct sown toward the end of May (or early June) after soil temps rise a bit and the danger of frost passes.
- Leaf Lettuces
- Mustard Greens
- Swiss Chard
Whether you push the gardening season or not, here in Michigan there’s always a danger that a late spring frost will wipe out your lovingly planted spring veggies. The earlier you plant, the more likely this is. The easiest way to almost guarantee that you’ll avoid a frost is to resist planting your vegetable garden (or tender annuals or herbs) until after the last spring frost date. Depending upon where you are in the state, that could be anytime between the first week of May to early July.
However, if you just can’t resist getting your garden started as soon as possible, there are still several things you can do to protect your plants if frost (or even snow) is in the forecast.
How to Protect Your Plants from Frost
If we have a prolonged period of freezing temperatures, your plants may be in trouble no matter what you do. However, if it’s just a day or two, with a bit of protection your plants should be able to come through just fine. The best thing to do is place some kind of barrier over your plants to keep cold air, wind, and frost out of them. Some ideas:
- Plastic milk jug with the bottom cut out off it, placed over individual plants
- Old-fashioned garden cloches
- A cold frame placed over part of a bed
- A low tunnel covered in plastic
- A plastic tarp, set over stakes to lift it off of the plants
- A floating row cover (best for when there’s just a chance of light frost)
- A sheet or blanket (again, this is a good option for a light frost, not for snow or really frigid weather)
- A drink cooler, overturned over a few plants. Remove it as soon as possible to ensure that your plants get enough light.
- A cardboard box. Depending on the size this can cover several plants. Remove the box as soon as possible to let your plants get the light they need.
These ideas will help because they use items that most of us have around the house. We might not all have a cold frame, but chances are good that we can come up with a milk jug or cardboard box if we really need one. Keep these ideas in mind, and you’ll be able to save your garden from those annoying late spring frosts that are a common part of gardening in Michigan.