Planters beware: Looming frost threat across Ontario and Quebec

Despite a warmer start to the year, and an early arrival of some plants and flowers, those eager to get in their gardens to plant, may want to hold on a little bit longer. A chill is in the air

The record warm start to 2024 has had birds chirping, buds blooming, and many reaching for the gardening tools early. The question is, is it actually still too early for the green thumb enthusiasts to begin their spring planting?

The simple answer is, yes.

"Arctic air is expected to return next week, with an overnight frost and freeze risk to crops and gardens across Ontario and Quebec," says Rachel Modestino, a meteorologist at The Weather Network.

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As a slow moving system finally exits Quebec, it will open the door to chilly arctic air funneling in from the northwest. Daytime highs will likely hover around 5°C below seasonal by Wednesday.

"But it's the overnight lows that eager gardeners will need to especially pay attention to," Modestino adds. "Without the sunshine and daytime heating this time of year, we can drop close to 0°C, or even below, through the overnight hours."

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By Wednesday night, much of southern Ontario, including Niagara’s Orchards, does see the risk of plunging below freezing. With buds blooming about two to three weeks ahead of schedule, this certainly poses a threat to crop and garden damage.

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The chill is even more dominant in Quebec, where the risk for snow flurries may even creep into the Eastern Townships on Sunday.

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It's an important reminder at this time of year that it's normal to have a frost and freeze in April in Ontario and Quebec. In fact, the average last frost dates for the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), London, Ottawa, and much of southern Ontario persist all the way to the end of the month. Folks near Barrie, Muskoka, Sault Ste. Marie and Kenora have the risk extend all the way until May.

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Across northeastern Ontario, and much of Quebec, that frost risk lasts even longer, stretching right into June for some.

If you're planning on viewing the peak cherry blossom bloom on Monday in Toronto, don't wait! The chilly air may affect the flowers past Wednesday, allowing for a tight ideal viewing window in the city.

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After next week's chilly overnight lows, temperatures will gradually begin to rise in southern Ontario and Quebec, so the official start to gardening season may be sooner than you think.