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When it’s safe to plant veggies outdoors

Q. Hi Carol. I’m planning out my vegetable garden and am finding conflicting information regarding when the last frost date is for Boston. I thought it was late May, but some sources say early May. I’ll be planting in the ground and with containers and don’t want to have to move plants indoors and out. Can you provide guidance on the last frost date for Boston? Thanks.


A. The date of last frost (when the thermometer drops below 33 degrees Fahrenheit) is naturally different every year. But the safe time to plant tender veggies is about two weeks after the average date of last frost, which used to be mid-May 40 years ago, so people would plant on Memorial Day weekend. However, the average date of last frost now is 11 days early, which puts it in early May, so the safe date for planting is mid-May. Since you live in Roslindale, it’s even earlier than in the further suburbs, as Boston is an urban heat sink because of all the heat retaining buildings. So I think you would be safe planting May 15 in your garden. Your containers can be planted a few days earlier if they are elevated by hardscaping, such as front steps. Every garden has microclimates. Low areas are more prone to late frosts than higher areas.

Q. What are good plants the deer don’t hit? How can I stop deer from eating my rhodies?



A. They say deer will eat anything when they are hungry, but I’ve never seen them eat evergreen andromeda (pieris) or boxwood, which includes several cold hardy varieties. Deer love tulips but won’t eat daffodils and flowering alliums. They adore hostas, but shun epimedium and hellebores, two other prized ground covers for shade. Now with more tender greenery sprouting, your rhodies should be safe until next winter. Starting in October, spray them with a deer repellent every two months on a day when temperatures are above 45 degrees. Thick black plastic temporary fencing can also work. I use both.

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Q. Congratulations on your new column. I have a question: We live in the terrace level of a condominium that has a hill just beyond my patio. We are allowed to garden in the area which has beautiful rhodos and an area approximately 5-by-10 that is open space. I love spring/summer flowers but do not get sun until mid to late afternoon. Any suggestions for flowers that require partial to low sun? Thanks for any help.


A. The New England Wild Flower Society’s nursery at the Garden in The Woods sells locally propagated native wild flowers for shade (and sun). It’s near you at 180 Hemenway Road, Framingham, and the acres of shady spring gardens make it well worth a visit (, 508-877-7630). Spring and summer wildflowers for shade I have bought there and can personally recommend include amsonia, columbine, jack-in-the-pulpit, dicentra (bleeding heart), disporum (fairy-bells), dedecatheon (shooting-star), Iris cristata, lobelia, mertensia (Virginia bluebells), Phlox divaricata, uvularia, and trillium.

Carol Stocker can be reached at