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Eastern Ontario Hardiness Zone Map

This map is reproduced from Agriculture Canada and shows the areas of winter hardiness
for ornamental plants in Ontario and Western Quebec.

     Plant Hardiness Zones in Ontario

The most important element in plant survival is minimum temperature during the winter.  Other important considerations are the length of frost free period, summer rainfall, maximum temperatures, snow cover and wind.  

The hardiness areas have been divided into 10 zones. The one marked 0 is the coldest. Other zones are progressively milder, to 9, which is the mildest. A given zone on this map corresponds only approximately to a zone of the same number in the United States Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone Map, which has been in use in Canada for a number of years. This present map, however, presents more detail for Canada. If data warranted it, each zone has been subdivided into a dark and a light section to represent, respectively, the colder and milder portions of the zone. If undivided, the zone was designated by the color of the colder section. The list below contains representative plants that normally survive in each zone. Users should locate their own area on the map and so establish the zone in which the plants are to be grown. Sometimes, even though older plants are hardy, young plants of many species may be tender and need protection the first winter.

Great Resource - Michigan State University Electronic Library - Flowers

Small areas with peculiar microclimates often exist with a zone,  these areas are colder or milder than the surrounding area.  The zone lines are arbitrarily drawn and the zones merge gradually into each other.  Conditions near the border of one zone may closely approximate those of an adjacent zone.

Planting Guide

In and around Ottawa there are five hardiness zones.

A narrow strip along the St. Lawrence River, Wolfe Island  and on Picton Island - 6a
Kingston and Belleville - 5b
Peterbough, Perth, Cornwall and Ottawa - 5a
Ste-Agathe, Pembroke, Haliburton - 4a
Maniwaki - 3b
Annuals by definition are plants whose life cycle lasts only one year, from seed to blooms to seed. 

Consideration should be taken to these zones when you decide what you want to grow in your garden.  We can grow most anything here indoors and out. Even bananas will grow under the summer conditions. But, to have these certain plants types survive over the winter months is problematic. So check with the seed catalogues, seed packages, local growers and the Internet prior to purchasing plants and seeds.

Last frost dates are approximate and are at the whim of the weather conditions, however as we are aware the amount of frost free days in the Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec areas are increasing

Perennials, like old friends return year after year, growing in size and stature until they reach their full maturity. Although they live on longer, many perennials lose their vigor after 3-4 years and should be replaced.

Minimum Annual Temperature for Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec

Zone Average Annual Minimum Temperatures
3 - 40 to - 30 F  / - 40 to - 34 C
4 - 30 to - 20 F  / - 34 to - 29 C
5 - 20 to - 10 F  / - 29 to - 23 C
6 - 2  to - 10 F  / - 23 to - 18 C
AccuWeather Long Range Weather Forecast for Ottawa
Farmers' Almanac - Long Range Weather - Ontario

Don’t confuse hardiness zones with the length of frost-free growing seasons. The two are not related and USDA hardiness zones do not predict the length of frost-free period. What they do tell you is whether or not the type of plant you want to grow here can survive and outdoor existence.

Check with your weather service, a local nursery, or the Extension Service to find out the average frost-free growing season in your area, including the usual date of last frost in spring and first frost in autumn.  

Knowing the soil temperature is imperative when battling pests and diseases. Since certain pests thrive in certain soil temperatures, having that information can really help you stay
ahead of the game.

Here are some hints on growing plants in the area in and around the Ottawa region.

Frost Free Date
For most of the area in and around Ottawa, the stated frost free date is between May 4 and May 31. For many agriculture producers this wide a discrepancy can be economically disastrous as aggressive growers will plant and transplant starting before the May 1st date gambling that frost will not occur when the young shoots appear above the soil.   There are many ways to advance the date: some of which are to grow the plants in greenhouses, use cold frame protection of beds and also use raised bed gardening techniques.  In recent years the frost free date has been advancing towards the first of May from the traditional May 24th date used in the past.  In 2023, we are predicting the first frost free day of the growing season will be May 6 in the Ottawa and south area. And the earliest date when you will be safe to plant is May 10th, 2022.

Information about the different types of soil used in gardens

Check to see when the last frost date is for your zone.  Presently, the last average frost date for Ottawa is May 9th.  This can vary greatly.  If you are a conservative gardener and not a gambler move this date ahead to at least May 16. 

Optimistically the total number of frost free days from May 11 to September 30 are 142 growing days. However, if you are a conservative gardener from May 20 to September 16 (this is the traditional first frost day) there are 119 growing days.

tdc's FarmGate - Gardening Calendar

January - February
Time to revisit and rethink your garden and plan.  Attend meetings, surf the web and go to gardening shows to get ideas. Do you want to expand or make it smaller? Do you want to add raised gardens, pond gardens, flowering shrubs, vegetable beds, a rock garden, perennial and annual beds, grow fresh fruits like strawberries and raspberries.  How about a few indoor plants to brighten your living quarters. Order seed that you can't get locally  now... !

It was reported in January that the cost of living had risen by 4.3 % mainly due to the fact that fruits and vegetable coming from the United States are paid for in American Dollars which are 30 percent more expensive than Canadian Dollars.

Now is the time to start thinking about putting in a vegetable garden and growing your own veggies.

     Side Note - Hydroponic greenhouse producers in Eastern Ontario plant their tomato
     seeds just after Christmas and expect to have their tomatoes for sale in the stores by May 1st.
     For books on Hydroponic Gardening , Greenhouses and Propagation

    Do you want to know what plants to buy and tips on how to grow them - BBC has the answers - Click Here

    Do you want to know how long it will take seeds to germinate? Click Here

    Thinking about putting in a vegetable garden... Click Here for planting and timing tips

March 7 - 14

If you are a serious gardener and want to start sowing and growing seeds indoors now is the time to start by sowing eggplant and peppers.  If you want to grow annuals start your impatiens and violas now. For professionals who have springtime greenhouse facilities... now is the time they start sowing seeds for annual and perennial plants into plug trays and putting them in their seedling incubators.

If you kept geraniums over the winter, try taking a few cuttings now and planting them into some potted soil. By summer they should be blooming.

Seed Sprouting Animation                      Growing and Planting Calendar

Zucchini Seed Sprouting
Over 5 1/2 hour period
It really doesn't take too long once it gets started

Check out Starting Plants

Propagating Plants - Purdue University
Seed Germination Database
Seed Germination Database
Seed Germination Database Trees and Shrubs
Seed Germination and Soil Temperature

Soil Temperatures for Vegetable Seed Germination

How to Save Your Vegetable Seeds for Next Year

March 14 - 28
Sow globe artichokes, parsley, begonias, nicotiana and petunias now if you want to be able to transplant them into your garden after the last threat of frost in May.

Here is a couple of items that might come in handy to use in the garden.

Vertex Garden Rocker Rolling Seat
Garden Seat - Rocker Seat (Green) (11"-15"H x 16"W)

Side Note - Planting by the moon is considered controversial by some people, but it is based completely on basic earth science. The same lunar forces that cause ocean tides, also are responsible for land tides. Centuries ago, people noticed that the water in their wells rose and fell in rhythm with the lunar cycle and that their crops responded to the influence of the moon as well.

For more on the Lunar Gardening Calendar

April 4 - 14
Get busy and sow those tomatoes, onions, lettuce and leeks. Tomatoes generally take about 7-14 days to germinate depending upon the type of seed and the temperature where they are geminating. Prepare your outdoor beds as soon as the temperature is above freezing.   Clear the beds of fall and winter debris and add compost and either sheep or cow manure.  With a edge cutter, edge the garden and grass beds making them look neat and tidy. Start a compost pile with the old leaves and make sure that you pour some water and soil on the compost pile to get it in action.  By fall, you will have lots of fertilizer which to replenish your soil. Rake up the lawn to get rid of thatched grass that might have compressed into mats and apply the first application of lawn fertilizer and lawn seed to get the lawn growing.

April 14 to April 28
Sow cucumbers, gourds, cabbage, broccoli, fresh herbs, large seed annual flowers such as morning glories, ageratum and marigolds. If there has been no frost now is the time to plant broad beans, peas, turnips, onion sets, candytuft, cornflowers, pansies, poppies, black-eyed Susans and snapdragons.  Start to harden off some of the plants that you presently started back in March.

April 28 - May 11
There are some plants that you can transplant and seed right into the ground now.   Seed beets, broccoli, cabbage, kale and potato eyes.  Transplant annuals that can tolerate a gentle frost like pansies, snapdragons, violas and parsley. Harden off lettuce and other seedlings that you might still be growing indoors.

Starting Plants from Seed -  A FEW HINTS

Fill a bucket with sterilized soiless mixture (sand, vermiculite and peat moss) which is available from most nurseries or hardware stores)

Fill containers up to 1/4 " from the top of your container and gently tap it down to level.

Fine seed can be dusted over the top of the mix and then cover with dry mix.

Coarse seed should be planted to a depth of no more than 3 times the diameter of the seed.

      Make sure all containers are labeled.

Cover containers with plastic bags so that the containers will not dry out.   Use a spray bottle of water to mist the seeds.

Most seeds need warmth to germinate and some need darkness.  Check with the instructions on the seed package.

Once the first set of true leaves develop thin crowded seedlings by snipping off weaker ones at soil level with small scissors.

vase2.gif (4075 bytes)

"Ball Culture Guide"
The Encyclopedia of Seed Germination
by Jim Nau

Provides in-depth germination and scheduling information for some 300 of the most popular seed-grown crops. Covers bedding plants, potted flowering and foliage plants, herbs, cut flowers, perennials, vegetables, and ornamental grasses. Material is presented in an easy- to-read chart style. This edition is organized by genus name instead of common name, but provides an extensive common-name index. This edition also covers 150 additional seed crops

tdc's FarmGate Gardening Calendar  May 11 - May 30      

Planting Time

A busy time.  When you are confident that there will be no more frost then it is time to transplant. Take your tomato, melons and squash plants that you have to hardened off. Then plant them into your raised gardens or ground beds. In the early going, have emergency plans to be able to cover the beds with old sheets, old storm windows or store-bought row covers. Listen and watch the weather reports and when they report that frost is imminent - Don't Panic... Just cover the plants if you can.   If you lose them to frost - just buy some more plants and replant.

And don't forget to harden off those tender plants especially the ones that you planted from seed !


Hint - Magnesium. For faster development in tomatoes, eggplant & peppers; mix 2 tbsp. of Epsom salts to one gallon of water, apply one pint to each plant just as it begins to bloom.

Hint - Use Christmas tree branches as mulch in the spring to keep rabbits away from lettuce seedlings.

Hint - Calcium, found in lime and things like crushed eggshells are beneficial to peas, beans, cabbage and turnips. If you are not a seed gardener and only want to transplant  ~~ now is the time to get those beautiful colourful annuals and perennials from the local growers and sellers to fill in your garden. Noted here is that annuals transplanted here usually flower the whole season while perennials that do not need to be taken out every year flower only part of the season.

To transplant
hardened plants, dig a hole in your garden about 6 to 10 inches deep and big enough to take the whole root ball of the plant.  Fill about 1/2 the hole with a liquid fertilizer such as 20-20-20 solution. Allow the liquid to permeate the soil.   Carefully remove the plant from its container and try to maintain the root ball.   Put the plant in the hole and fill it with a loose soil mixture. Gently add soil so that all the roots are covered and their is a little earth depression around the stem of the plant.  This will form sort of a dam when you water the plant. Once the plant is planted, then water the ground around the stem lightly. The plant will show stress for about a day or two depending upon the weather. Then you will notice a marked improvement as it starts to grow.


If you are planting in Eastern Ontario this year, make sure that you add lots of water to the hole in which you are planting.... as the ground this year right now is pretty dry .... Dig your planting holes in the morning and water them all with a hose... Let stand for a few hours to allow the water to permeate the soil. Then plant your hardened plants in the late afternoon.  May 11, 2016

To make evenly spaced holes of uniform depth in your raised-bed garden for transplanting plants, use a post-hole digger. It digs deep down into the subsoil quickly and easily

Whether they are in a pot or in the ground, give your tomatoes a lot of water, really soaking the soil every time. Most problems can be prevented if you avoid wetting the leaves. Water your plants biweekly with a mixture of diluted milk (it's an anti-fungal) and sea kelp fertilizer added in for extra assurance.

October 10 - 30

With the progression of autumn, we start to think about winterizing our gardens. Many of you find this chore a little overwhelming, but it really needn’t be.

Roses are often at the top of the ‘how to do it’ questions. Cut back hybrid teas, floribundas and grandifloras to about 30-36”. Unless canes will be broken by heavy snow, it is not necessary to cut back other types. There is always some winter kill requiring spring pruning, so you might as well wait until then. Clean up fallen rose foliage before winter. This will prevent any over-wintering disease or pests. Install a rose/plant protector before freeze-up. We prefer this method (instead of rose cones) because it allows the plant to go completely dormant and to breathe properly, thus preventing rot. These protectors work very well for any other plants which may require additional frost protection as well- butterfly bushes, caryopteris, rose-of-sharon. When the ground is frozen, fill the plant protector with peat moss or dry leaves up to the top. This will insulate and prevent freeze-thaw.  Note it was on October 12. 2012 there was the first hard frost in Eastern Ontario.  October is a good time to plant garlic for a August crop the next year.

Raking up your lawn, Doing something with the leaves to help the lawn next year. There are two things you can do to make your lawn nice and beautiful next year, and help your garden as well. First, collect the leaves and not putting them into bags. Instead, put the leaves into a compost bin so that they can degrade over the winter and become mulch in the spring. This will allow gardeners to use it in the garden as compost to help the garden grow. Second, leave some leaves on the grass and break them up into little pieces with a rake or some other method. The reason for this is that while a layer of leaves can suffocate the lawn, smaller bits of leaves will break down quicker, and provide nutrients for the lawn to help it grow.

Here are a few excellent resources for information about germinating seeds.

Organic Weed Killer

This is really good for between patio stones or rock areas that tend to sprout weeds.
Do not use it on your lawn.
The weeds will grow back but then just spray them again 
5 min | 5 min prep | 1 Liter 4 cups white vinegar
1/4 cup salt
2 teaspoons dish detergent

Mix ingredients together and spray on the weeds- Goodbye Weeds! 

For the rest of the garden, just let the leaves collect around the plants as the wind blows them around. This is definitely not the time to be worried about a clean, tidy appearance. Remember when cutting back perennials to leave about 6-12” of plant to hold leaves in place.

Plants that are wind or sun sensitive, such as boxwoods, yews and broadleaf evergreens, will benefit from an application of anti-dessicant spray. This will coat the needles/leaves and prevent moisture evaporation caused by harsh winds and drying winter sun. It will be worn off by spring so normal growth can resume.

All plants should be well watered through late fall. This prevents dehydration during winter, and can help ensure a healthy start in spring.

Hybrid Tea roses should be hilled with soil and mulched with leaves at the base to protect the graft. Do not mulch with leaves too early as it provides an excellent warm home for mice. Wait until the temperature drop and they have found another home

Once you have your garden safely tucked away for winter you can turn your attention to dressing your homes’ exterior for the holidays. November is chocked-full of great workshops offering everything from evergreen planters and hanging baskets to table centerpieces and more. This is a great way to enjoy some fun with a friend, get in the holiday spirit, and make something really beautiful for your home.

Thanks to Rob Gemmell of Gemmell's Garden Centre in Smith Falls for these October hints.

Leaves - Do you want to know what to do with the fallen leaves?   Dig a hole in the garden and bury them in the Fall. In the spring they will self compose- Voila another great garden


Many plants have natural substances in their roots, flowers, leaves etc. that can alternately repel (anti-feedents) and/or attract insects depending on your needs. In some situations they can also help enhance the growth rate and flavor of other varieties. Experience shows us that using companion planting through out the landscape is an important part of integrated pest management. In essence companion planting helps bring a balanced eco-system to your landscape, allowing nature to do its' job. Nature integrates a diversity of plants, animals, and other organisms into every ecosystem so there is no waste. The death of one organism can create food for another, meaning symbiotic relationships all around.

The best time to dig up perennial plants is in early spring and fall, when temperatures are moderate and the soil is moist.

October is the best time of the year to plant some garlic cloves.  They will be super large by early next August.
Spring-blooming bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils should be planted in September or October, when the soil temperatures have cooled. Summer-blooming beauties such as dahlia and gladiolus are best planted in the spring, after all danger of frost has passed.

Plant bulbs deep—at least 8 inches, measuring from the base of the bulb. And that means digging even deeper, to loosen the soil and allow for drainage, or creating raised beds. Remember, the bigger the bulb, the deeper the hole it needs. Set the bulb in the hole with the pointy end up.


If you like gardening CLICK HERE and read Astrid Strader's poem 
"Being in My Garden"

Best of Luck with your gardening season ....
and let us know how you make out.

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