Resist the urge to plant the tender stuff early

It’s pretty easy to get caught up in our early taste of Spring like weather we had in February and the 86° we had yesterday. Though the hard freeze last week should be a wake-up call for home gardeners. It’s still only early March and while the grass, trees and even flowers have already started to grow. It’s still way too early to think about planting the tender garden and flowers. That is unless you want to cover them several nights a week for the next few weeks. Or if you just want to replace the plants a few times from now until early mid-April.

I have a rule of a green thumb around here, plant the hardy stuff around Saint Patrick’s Day(March 17th) and plant the tender stuff around Tax Day(April 15th).  I say this because history shows us that there will be a hard freeze and many touches of frost until about early April and sometimes even later.

FrostDamage_ProtectYourGardenFromFrostDamage_TrevorAllenIDreamstime.com_2

Here’s a look at the earliest and latest freeze over 139 years of records here in Charlotte during the Spring/Winter. You’ll see our latest freeze ever was May 2, 1963, but even the record for the earliest last freeze is still right only as early as late February. So if you plant, now you are betting on a very rare event. You are gambling that we have already had our last freeze of the winter/spring season. While if you wait until April 15th for the tender stuff, you are playing the odd in your favor.  In Charlotte, 97% of last freeze events have occurred before April 15th.

DATES OF LAST OCCURRENCE OF 32 OR LOWER
EARLIESTTEMPLATESTTEMP
18-Feb1997312-May196332
20-Feb18802825-Apr200531
24-Feb19053021-Apr198330
25-Feb192130190132
194631195332
1-Mar193529195631
19382719-Apr200130

AVG FROST FREEZE

If you want to look just at the past 15 years in Charlotte here are the dates of the last freeze of the season.

2000 April 5                2006 April 10

2001 April 19              2007 April 10

2002 April 7                2008 April 16

2003 March 31            2009 March 22

2004 April 6                2010 March 27th

2005 April 25              2011 April 6th

 2012 March 11th          2013 March 29th

    2014 April 16th          2015 March 29th  

2016 March 3rd             

If you average that just over the past 10 years the average last freeze in Charlotte has been around March 29th. So you are in really good shape if you are waiting until the week of tax day, April 15th.

Now it should be noted these are only the “official” freezes reported at the airport and at your house it could be colder than at the airport. Also, this doesn’t include frosts which can occur above 32° but aren’t as damaging to most plants. For that reason here are some maps that show the average date of our last frost/freeze. Remember this is the average date and there are always outliers.

2011-02-21_10212011-02-21_1020

2011-02-21_1004_0012011-02-21_1004

You can find interactive versions of maps by clicking here.