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Resist the Urge to Plant Early

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It’s pretty easy to get caught up in our early taste of Spring like weather over this past weekend and the 70s we are going to have the next few days. Even so it’s still only early March and while the grass, trees and even some flowers have already started to show signs of growth. It’s still way too early to think about planting the garden and flowers. That is unless you want to cover them several nights a week for the next month or so. 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 frosts until about early April and sometimes even later.

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Here’s a look at the earliest and latest freeze over 136 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. Basically 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 96% of last freeze events have occurred prior to April 15th.

DATES OF LAST OCCURRENCE OF 32 OR LOWER
EARLIEST TEMP LATEST TEMP
18-Feb 1997 31 2-May 1963 32
20-Feb 1880 28 25-Apr 2005 31
24-Feb 1905 30 21-Apr 1983 30
25-Feb 1921 30 1901 32
1946 31 1953 32
1-Mar 1935 29 1956 31
1938 27 19-Apr 2001 30

If you want to look just at the past 13 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                            

If you average that just over the past 10 years the average last freeze in Charlotte has been around April 8th. 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 there are always outliers.

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You can find interactive versions of maps by clicking here.

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