Why Knowing the First and Last Frost Dates Are Critical

Why Knowing the First and Last Frost Dates Are Critical


When temperatures fall below freezing (32°F or 0°C), the annual plants in your garden start withering and dying. It’s also the time when your perennials put their energy toward their dormancy period to survive the cold winter.

You’ll discover that some plants are hardier than others in both classifications. If you have a mild frost, you might still get some more productivity out of your garden.

When you experience a hard freeze, that’s the end of your growing season unless you protect your outdoor plants.

If you know the frost dates for your area, it’s easier to understand when to plant your early and late crops to achieve the results you want from your garden.

Why Are Frost Dates Important?

Your region’s frost dates refer to the last day in spring and the first one in fall or winter when temperatures plummet to or below freezing.

You know that spring and summer is the time when growth and productivity become the trademarks of your garden. When you give your plants the right start or pull them inside before winter, you can continue the process for as long as possible.

If you plant vegetables too early, you won’t give your garden the same chances to flourish. A hard frost might still happen, killing off the tender shoots before they can grow. This issue typically causes the plant to die. 

The early season plants often die during summer’s heat, which is why they need a head start at the beginning of the year. You can also plant them at the start of fall in most regions because the weather turns cool enough for them to grow again.

Knowing to plant them about six weeks after the last average frost ensures that you can hit the growth markers that lead to impressive yields for the summer crops.

How Do I Find the Frost Dates for My Area?

Since each environment has multiple microclimates that affect your frost dates each year, you’ll need to take these steps to figure out this information independently.

1. Use online charts and calculators to look up the generic average dates for your first and last frost. Websites with growing zones can let you look up this information by your ZIP code.

2. The NOAA produces a national climate report each year that reports the annual freeze dates from the previous growing season. That data can let you estimate with reasonable confidence for the next year.

3. Most gardening centers let you see what the hardiness zone is for each plant. They might even have maps and knowledge to share about your community that you can implement at home. 

4. Seed packets often come with the updated growing zones so that you know how long it will be for the plants to reach maturity.

When you know how many days are in your growing season, you’ll have a better idea of knowing what to plant and when. 

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