Why Are Frost Dates Important

by woodlandpowerproducts
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In a very easily crackable nutshell, frost dates tell gardeners both when it’s time to harvest your plants, and also when it’s safe to resume planting again. A frost date can be thought of as the first day when the chances of the ground being frost free are below 30%. In other words, frost dates function as a safety mechanism to keep your plants and garden safe and healthy from the cold.

There are a couple key resources new and experienced gardeners alike would be wise to bookmark when planning their gardens and navigating the chilly winter months.

Both resources will allow you to input your zip code and will tell you location specific information regarding things like growing season length, last spring frost, first fall frost, and altitude. When using these websites, it’s important to remember that much of the information related to frost dates are predictions based on historical estimates, so frost dates—especially with the impact of climate change—are not guaranteed. Nonetheless, these historical estimates are the best and only tool gardeners have to understand when things are likely to freeze and thaw—unless there happens to be a Frost Date Nostradamus out their who has yet to reveal themselves.

Gardeners should also keep in mind that there are three different variations in freezes:

  • Light Freeze. This is characterized by temperatures ranging from 29-32 degrees. Cool hardy plants are likely to survive; more fragile plants likely won’t make it.
  • Moderate Freeze. This is characterized by temperatures ranging from 25-28 degrees. Moderate freezes are destructive to most vegetation.
  • Severe Freeze. This is characterized by temperatures ranging from 24 degrees and colder. While some cool season annuals can survive these temperatures, likely nothing else will.

What to do?

  • Potted plants. Before the first frost date, gardeners should bring potted plants inside.
  • Fall clean-up. The first fall frost date is also an excellent time to begin cleaning up and preparing your garden beds for springtime. It not only will save you valuable clean-up time in the spring, but messy gardens sitting through the winter can also harbor pests, which can damage the following year’s crop.

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