RHODE ISLAND — Important dates are coming up for Coventry residents eager to get outside and start digging in the garden. The big question: When is the danger of frost over, is it safe to put plants in the ground?
The Old Farmer’s Almanac offers a handy tool to find the average date of the last frost by city and state, right down to the ZIP code. For most of Rhode Island, that’s usually around April 27.
Bear in mind, this isn’t a fail-safe date. It’s based on historical climate data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information, and the probability of a frost after the average date is about 30 percent.
The publication, which has advised readers how and when to grow things since 1792, also has a 2023 planting guide calculator that allows Rhode Island gardeners to narrow down when they should be putting different vegetables in the ground.
Some plants to start with in Rhode Island are arugula, beets, carrots, chives, cilantro, onions, parsnips, peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach and more.
Another good resource for gardeners is the University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension. The scientists and specialists experience the same gardening challenges when it comes to weather conditions and pest management, and can provide geographically specific advice to plant what food crops.
Interest in growing their own food was increasing among Americans before the pandemic, but one analysis of Census Bureau and gardening industry sales data found an estimated 18.3 million people, most of them millennials, became first-time gardeners during the pandemic. Another survey suggests new gardeners are here to stay.
Some of those new and existing gardeners grew their vegetables in containers placed in sunny locations on decks, balconies and other open-air spaces. Almost anything that grows on the ground can be put in a pot.
The same frost dates apply. Some plants, like asparagus, can live and produce for 20 years, according to Harvest to Table, which offers practical guidelines for gardening no matter the setting.