Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Weather Signs & Lore: Predicting A Spring Frost

What a crazy winter it has been! And our Spring is "acumin in" by fits and starts - like Sandy said "one day 75 and the next day we have 4 inches of snow!" When will the cold weather finally end?

The signs and lore (aka natural history observations by ordinary people over time) are sometimes the only help when it comes to the "last frost" of spring. When can we safely plant tender garden veggies? In Texas, two highly reliable signs are:
(1) Never plant before Good Friday; and
(2) When the Mesquite trees leaf out, all danger of frost is past.

Easter is at its midpoint this year, on April 4th, so we don't have much longer. Especially during years of a Late Easter, it sure is hard to wait until Good Friday to plant, with our warm Texas springtime, but it pays off. One year the only snow we had in Midland was 8 inches on Good Friday.

This past year (2009), the date for Good Friday was April 10th, and we had a late frost on April 7th that was so hard it froze the leaves on our pecan trees on the North side of the house, and so widespread it decimated crops all over Central and North Texas.

In some states this maxim is adjusted: not before Derby Day or not before Memorial Day - but all seem to have a traditional touchstone date that accurately pinpoints the most extreme last killing frost date for that region.

This lore will differ from the standard horticultural guides because they use the "Average Date of Last Spring Frost", which is also useful but a different thing entirely. Here are a couple of standard guides:

Texas A&M University Spring Frosts
Dave's Garden Freeze and Frost Dates

Here is a great article from the Farmer's Almanac about how to tell when a frost is coming:

Another Easter-related bit of lore is "If it rains on Easter, it will rain for seven Sundays". In 2009, it rained on the night of Holy Saturday, and we had rain within 36 hours of Sunday for 6 out of the next 7 Sundays. So there might be some truth to this one. Let's watch and see, shall we?

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