Determining Frost Dates
Determining frost dates is an important step in gardening. For those who aren’t familiar with a frost date, it is a date that determines the typical date for the first or last freeze of the season. As always weather is variable, so these dates aren’t perfect. In fact, it’s about a 50% chance that you may experience a light frost after the frost date in the spring or before the frost date in the fall.
When assessing these dates, there are three categories to the severity of the frost. These categories are taken from Almanac.com and are listed below.
- Light freeze: 29° to 32°F—tender plants are killed.
- Moderate freeze: 25° to 28°F—widely destructive to most vegetation.
- Severe freeze: 24°F and colder—heavy damage to most plants.
Using Frost Dates to Know When to Plant
The goal of determining frost dates is to reduce the likelihood of frost killing or harming your plants. A rule of thumb is you NEVER want to leave plants outside or plant anything new if you are at risk of a moderate or severe freeze. There are some exceptions to this such as cool weather bulbs. If you aren’t sure, check your plant’s tag or ask your local nursery or garden center.
For example, in the area where I live, the last spring frost is between April 1 – April 13th depending on who you ask. And the First Fall Frost date is around October 27th. This leaves me with 196 days for a growing season. Though this is slightly extended due to starting seeds early indoors. I’ve recently written a post with tips of growing seedlings. In this article, I touch briefly on timing when starting your seeds. Generally, you want to start the seeds 6 weeks or so before the last spring frost. So in my case, it’s best if I start my seeds the last week of February or the first week of March.
In terms of the first fall frost, this is pretty straight forward as well. For any plants that you want to bring inside, you will want to do so before the first fall frost. If you can’t bring them in right away, then you may consider covering them if you hear it’s going to frost. Be sure to remove the covering the next morning however. There are some cold season vegetables that can tolerate the colder temperatures and light frosts as well. So as always, know your plants and what’s best for them.
By determining your frost dates, you will know exactly when you can start your growing season. Do you have anything to add? Are there any other methods you use to determine when the start your seeds?
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