A few weeks ago, I saw a post written by Julio Freitas of The Flower Hat. He was talking about planting hardy annuals in Bozeman, Montana (zone 4b). He said something like, "March is our October."
By that he meant that March is the right time for him to plant out hardy annuals for the earliest and longest harvest time in the spring. In warmer regions, those transplants would be planted out in the fall, establish their roots, go a bit dormant, and then explode in bloom in the spring. Plants like snapdragons, anemones, ranunculus, stock, sweet peas, etc. are in that category. I think I'd put flowering tobacco (nicotiana) and dusty miller in that group due to their resistance to frost, too.
If we think in terms of Julio's analogy, I'm inclined to move my planting out (under low tunnel cover and frost cloth) schedule a bit earlier for those plants. We aren't exactly 4b. I think our farm is just barely 4a. Our ideal plant out time for hardy annuals should be a little later than Julio. But I've been planning on an even later start because of the possibility of frost here in late May. Julio's post is a good reminder that some of our tougher plants will do much better with an earlier start, even if it is still pretty chilly at night. This is especially important to remember when planning for early summer weddings.
I dug into the last 6 or so years of weather history for the closest city that had history listed online. Plattsburgh, NY is about as good as I'm going to get. It is a bit warmer than here, though, so I have to take that into account. Based on a comparison in temps between Plattsburgh and Bozeman it looks like April 1 is about the start of our "springtober." Given that we can have our last frost as late as the end of May, that probably makes sense. In determining our spring October, I looked for the point at which I wouldn't have to worry too much about low nighttime temperatures of less than 25F.
In practice, I'll have to monitor temps as we get close to the end of March to determine if we can start a little earlier or if we must wait to put the transplants out. Other factors like whether or not there is still snow on the ground and whether or not the soil is dry enough for us to work also come into play. Our property is also in a low lying area. On cold, clear nights the frosts swoop in here faster than even just a half mile up or down the road. C'est la vie. Fortunately all of our young plants will be protected from those late frosts with cover.
Here's to spring in the Adirondacks! It will arrive at some point! Have a question about "springtober" planting? Please share a comment below, and I'll be sure to get right back to you.