Are you itching to start your garden and wondering when you can put plants in the ground? Many of us in the United States are still very much in winter, but if you’ve started connecting with gardeners on social media, you’ll notice some people are starting seeds or even putting seedlings in the ground! What gives? Be you jump into throwing seeds to the wind in the snow, lets get a handle on the most important date you’ll want to know for your garden, your frost dates!
Welcome to the third episode of Garden Things with friends! Today, I want to dive into one of the most important aspects of planning your garden and that’s understanding Frost dates.
There is some confusion in the gardening community, particularly among beginners, regarding frost dates and garden zones. Frost dates are often mistaken for garden zones, leading to misunderstandings. On my social media, I frequently share garden tours and tips, and many people inquire about my garden zones, hoping to apply the knowledge to their own gardens. However, garden zones have little to do with frost dates and are more about overall climate, soil type, and other important factors.
This post contains affiliate links and I may earn a small commission when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. You can read our entire affiliate disclosure here.
What are Frost Dates?
So what are frost dates and how do they differ from gardening zones. According to the Old farmer’s Almanac
“A frost date is the average date of the last light freeze in spring or the first light freeze in fall.”
Freezes are categorized based on how they effect plants and are broken into 3 categories:
- Light freeze: 29° to 32°F (-1.7° to 0°C)—this can be tough on tender plants, and they may not survive.
- Moderate freeze: 25° to 28°F (-3.9° to -2.2°C)—this can cause widespread damage to most vegetation.
- Severe freeze: 24°F (-4.4°C) and colder—this can result in heavy damage to most garden plants.
It’s important to keep in mind that frost dates are estimates based on climate data, so they’re not set in stone. There’s a 30% probability of frost occurring after the spring frost date or before the fall frost date, which means there’s still a chance of frost happening before or after the given dates.
When it comes to planning your garden, this basically means you can use these as a guide but be conscious of what’s going on in the weather in case you need to protect tender transplants and seedlings!
What is the difference between frost dates and growing zones
Earlier, I mentioned the confusion between frost dates and growing zones. Many novice gardeners mistakenly believe that following a gardener in a similar zone will provide a blueprint for their own garden plans. You might have come across those Pinterest guides that suggest what you can grow each month based on your growing zone. Let’s clarify things.
Growing zones, officially known as the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, were developed by the USDA to classify the ability of perennial plants to thrive in specific locations. This map is based on the average annual extreme minimum winter temperature. It provides gardeners and growers with a standard to determine which perennial plants are most likely to flourish in a given area.
Now, why is it crucial to distinguish between growing zones and frost dates? Let’s take my example. I reside in zone 7B, and there are others in New York who are also in zone 7B. Both of us can be confident that rosemary is probably a perennial in our respective areas. However, there’s a significant difference in our last frost dates. Mine falls at the end of March, so technically, I can start planting tomato plants in my garden in March. On the other hand, the gardener in the same zone 7B in New York should wait until closer to May before planting tomatoes.
Understanding this distinction between growing zones and frost dates is vital for successful gardening. It ensures that we make informed decisions about when to plant and nurture our beloved plants.
How do you find your frost date?
Now let’s look at how to find your frost date! There are a few ways to do this, but my favorite is by using the online tool from Almanac.com. All you have to do is enter your zip code, and it will provide you with the average frost dates for your area. This tool is continuously updated with new data, and you can also sign up for email alerts to stay informed of any changes.
Another way is to check with your local extension office or ask fellow gardeners in your area. They have first-hand experience with gardening in your specific location and can give you valuable insights into the best planting times for your garden.
Gardening is ALL about community, and as I grow as a gardener, I am seeing that more and more! My frost date is at the end of March, but local growers who have been gardening in the area for many more years than I have, swear that you shouldn’t be putting plants in the ground until after Easter. And in my gardening experience at least, they have been right!
Joining Facebook groups in your area is a great way to not only build community but gain a wealth of information specific to your area!
As we come to the end of this episode, we hope you now have a better understanding of frost dates and their importance in gardening. By understanding the importance of these dates and how they can guide your planting decisions, you’ll be setting yourself up for success in creating a thriving garden. Remember, frost dates are not the same as growing zones – while both may seem similar at first glance, they offer distinct information that can greatly impact your gardening plans.
If you are ready to get planning, you can grab your frost date easily! Just head over to the Old Farmers Almanac website and find yours. I hope this information has been helpful to you and inspires you to create a beautiful and thriving garden. So why not put your newfound knowledge to the test and share it with others?
Consider rating our podcast and spreading the word to your friends who are also passionate about gardening.
Your support fuels the growth of “Garden Things with Friends,” and together, we’ll cultivate a network of thriving gardens and plant-loving friends.
Happy Gardening and Remember It’s never the wrong time to Grow where you are!