Northern Ohio gardeners beware: Killing frosts can occur throughout month of May

CLEVELAND - I inherited my love for gardening from my grandfather. He would till up a large area every year in his big back yard and I'd get to help him plant. Corn, tomatoes, peppers and beans were the favorites. I'd even get to stick in a pumpkin plant or two.

We would never plant before Memorial Day.

"If we get a late frost," Gramps would say, "we'll lose all our plants."

Indeed, all gardeners must be aware of his or her climate. Cold-weather crops such as cabbage, broccoli, peas and potatoes can tolerate a few nights below freezing. Other crops such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, melons, lettuce, beans and annual flowers will not tolerate a frosty night.

You need to know when the frost danger has passed before planting the garden. Keep in mind, also, that the dates normally given are average dates for the last frost. That means that frost can and has occurred after the average date on occasion.

As the date for the last killing frost for your city approaches, pay attention to the extended weather forecast. If a cold spell is forecast just after your average last frost date, it might be a good idea to hold off the planting until the next warm spell.

My grandfather refused to plant until all danger of frost had passed. When he was growing up, you couldn't afford to lose a crop to cold weather. It's a good lesson for all of us. Nobody wants to have to replant the garden after a springtime cold spell. Knowing your average last frost date will help you minimize plant loss and maximize the growing season.

First, here are the dates of the average last killing frost for selected cities in Ohio:

  • Akron May 3
  • Bowling Green May 2
  • Defiance May 4
  • Findlay April 26
  • Lima May 4
  • Toledo April 27
  • Bucyrus May 5
  • Elyria May 4
  • Norwalk May 3
  • Oberlin May 13
  • Put-in-Bay April 14
  • Sandusky April 16
  • Tiffin April 28
  • Ashtabula May 2
  • Canton May 3
  • Chardon May 11
  • Cleveland April 21
  • Hiram April 30
  • Painesville April 26
  • Warren May 14
  • Youngstown arpt May 6
  • Springfield April 23
  • Columbus April 16
  • London May 2
  • Marion April 29
  • Ashland May 4
  • Coshocton May 6
  • Fredericktown May 7
  • Mansfield May 9
  • Millersburg May 8
  • Plymouth May 6
  • Wooster May 8
  • Cadiz April 28
  • Canfield May 14
  • Steubenville April 30
  • Cincinnati April 18
  • Dayton April 19

Now, late frosts can and do occur after these average last spring frost dates.

For example, in Oberlin, you have to wait until May 30 to guarantee frosts are done. In Chardon, it's May 24. In Mansfield and Millersburg it's May 23. In Akron and Canton, it's May 21, and in Wooster, it's May 25. Happy planting!

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