Growing vegetables in April in Toronto


It’s now April 23, 2023 – can start planting in my vegetable garden at this time?


Dear gardener, thank you very much for asking this very timely question of the Toronto Master Gardeners. The short answer to your question, is that it is a bit too early for major vegetable gardening, but there are exceptions.

Although the traditional day for transplanting all vegetable and flower seedlings, and sowing heat-loving seeds like beans and squash is May 25th, Victoria Day, it is possible to do this as early as the first or second week of May. These vegetables like to have a soil temperature at least 13 °C.

April and May are very fickle weather months in Toronto, which has to be taken into consideration when you plant vegetables outside. Although last weekend (April 15-16) in Toronto was gloriously sunny and warm, as the week progressed we had snow flurries. This weekend (April 22-23) was cold and rainy. If you look at this week’s upcoming weather forecast you will see that there is a chance that we may achieve 11 °C towards the end of this coming week, but that the evening temperatures are at zero or 1°C. It is still possible for Toronto to have a killing frost.

However, if you have a nice protected area in your vegetable garden (alongside a south-facing wall, for example), some vegetables can be started now (last week of April). Sow your onion seeds; onion sets; leaf lettuces, romaine lettuce and spinach; peas; swiss chard; mustard seed now. Some transplants/seedlings can also be put in the soil now: lettuce, parsley, romaine, broccoli, cauliflower.

Some thing to consider:  Think about how wet your soil is. If your soil is very wet after this weekend rain, avoid walking on it, and avoid digging into it as you will compact the soil. Give the soil time to dry out a bit before digging.

Secondly, make sure that your transplants have been hardened off before you set them out in the garden. Hardening off is done by gradually exposing the seedlings to outdoor light and temperature conditions (especially the wind), increasing the number of hours per day over 8-10 hours. Place in the shade for the first week, and then move the seedlings to a sunny spot.

I wish you a very productive and happy gardening season.