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  • Writer's pictureInes Batterton

It's seed starting time!

Hello kitchen gardeners,

Did you ever get overwhelmed by all the gardening advice out there? Did you end up panicking that you did not start your seedlings yet?

I do definitely get affected by the progress of gardeners further south every year. It’s so easy to get impressed by all the pictures of hopeful seedlings. But, let’s bear in mind, that we are a great deal north. We need to be patient, when it comes to start seeds.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the plant hardiness zones that can give you a guideline for your growing season ( This ‘Canada’s Plant Hardiness Zones’ map gives you the most important information we kitchen gardeners need: the last and first frost date.

Due to the global warming many hardiness zones in Canada moved north during the past 20 years. Traditionally Ottawa was located in zone 5a, but in the newer maps you find Ottawa in 5b. The same accounts for Montreal – former zone 5a and nowadays 5b. The South Shore of Montreal even moved to zone 6a (see map)! The Prescott-Russel-area (and basically the whole area between Ottawa and Montreal) is marked as zone 5a (former 4b).

As said before, the important information we kitchen gardeners need are the first and last frost dates. I’m sure you have read advices like ‘plant after the last frost’ or ‘sow indoors 5 weeks before your last frost date’ on your seed packages. So there you go, that’s all we need to know! And here is finally the hard data:

  • Ottawa: May 1-10 (last frost) and October 1-10 (first frost)

  • Montreal: April 21-30 (last frost) and October 1-10 (first frost)

Because of these given dates, we don’t need to start most crops indoors before mid-March. We can't transplant most of them outside before mid to end of April (hardy brassicas) and the end of May (frost sensitive plants) anyways. So no worries, you didn’t miss much yet! You are just in time to gather your materials and seeds and wait for the spring to approach us a little more.

The first seeds you want to start indoors around mid-March are: broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, lettuce, tomatoes, parsley and kohlrabi. As a beginner gardener, you should try to focus on leafy greens like lettuce, kale and parsley, because they are easy to grow and transplant into your garden easily.

If you didn’t order your seeds yet, you should hurry up though! The vegetable garden hype is still going and lots of seed companies are having delays in their delivery or don’t even accept new orders anymore. And some seeds are selling out already as well. That means (1) quickly make your seed wish list and (2) place your order ASAP!

Local seed companies we are working with are Gaia Organic Seeds and Greta’s Organic Gardens, both located in Ottawa. Companies with a wide range of organic and heirloom seeds are Vesey’s Seeds (PEI), West Coast Seeds (Vancouver, BC), Annapolis Seeds (Nova Scotia), The Incredible Seed (Nova Scotia) and W.H. Perron (Quebec).

I hope you found some clarity in this post and you will be ready for seed starting in two weeks! (Hint: Get ready with some seed-starting soil, starting trays - or recycled yogurt pots, a spray bottle, wooden tags and seeds.)

Stay tuned and be patient with this winter weather. It will be spring soon. Promised!

Happy Gardening!


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