The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Frost Dates

Last frost dates can be confusing.. Not anymore thanks to this guide!

What do you do when you’re itching to start gardening and it’s starting to warm up?

You get your seeds out, or buy your plants, and get to work. These plants aren’t going to grow themselves, you know? So you carefully prep them in their pots for the season, place them outside to get that sweet, sweet sunshine, and now, you wait…

Except, the next week, the temperatures drop to freezing, and your plants wither away in the cold. And you mourn the loss of your time, money, and baby plants. Gosh darn you, spring, and your vividly changing temperatures!

I’ve made this gardening mistake countless amount of times, and I’m sure you’ve made this mistake too. Many people think that one warm week means that the danger of frost has passed without paying attention to frost dates. And as spring temperatures are starting to warm up, now is the perfect time to learn about frost dates with this Ultimate Guide!

Hand holding seed packet with planting  directions on it
These seed packets from Pinetree Garden Seeds have planting instructions right on the front!

What Are Frost Dates?

Frost dates are days when there is a 50% chance of frost. When it’s 32 degrees F or colder, the cold can cause damage to tender plants. Temperatures 24 degrees or lower can administer some severe damage to most of your plants.

Last frost dates are the average date for the last day of spring frost for your location. And first frost dates are the average date for the first day of fall frost.

Seedling next to windowsill

Why Are Frost Dates Important?

Frost dates are valuable for organizing your plants for the gardening season. Most seed packets have instructions to start plants a few weeks before the last frost date.

Anyone can grow quickly growing plants, like radishes. However, plants that take more time, like eggplants, need to be started inside. Paying attention to frost dates will help you compensate for a shorter growing season with starting seeds indoors.

First frost dates are essential for preparing for the growing season as well. It tells you when to prepare for frost and winter chills. A good gardening rule of thumb is to stop all planting 2 weeks before the last frost date.

Unless you’re growing cold-loving veggies like kale. Those kinds of veggies don’t carrot all about cold weather.

Spinach in a garden with frost over it

How Do I Find Out My Frost Date?

There are many online sources for finding your frost dates online. In addition to websites, your local garden center or neighbor can help. If you know a gardener that grows the juiciest tomatoes and the brightest flowers, they most likely know a thing or two about frost dates.

My favorite website for finding frost dates is Dave’s Garden First and Last Freeze Guide. The percentages show the probability of frost occurring. For example, a Spring 32°F with 50% on April 29th means that there’s a 50% chance of frost happening on April 29th. Other websites to check out is the Old Farmer’s Almanac, and the National Gardening Association. Please keep in mind that these dates are averages and don’t account for microclimates like heat pockets or climate change. Heat pockets are areas that heat up faster in urban areas.

Since the estimated frost dates are based on probability, there is a 30% chance that there may be frost after the last frost date or before the first frost. For the sake of your plants, please adjust the dates. 2 weeks after in the spring, and 2 weeks before in the fall. Also, keep track of the weather and prepare to bring plants inside when chilly temperatures are approaching.

So What Now, Sarika?

Yep, that’s my name! Nice to meet you! I created gardening to make gardening uncomplicated, because gosh dang, gardening can be so confusing and frustrating!

If you haven’t bought seeds yet, now is a great time to get them before it’s too late! Especially for tomatoes, peppers, and basil. But should you buy plants instead… Find out here!

Frost dates are confusing, gardening can be frustrating. If you thought that this article made gardening less complicated, share this with fellow gardeners! You can also follow me along on my gardening journey, learn from my mistakes, and find out what plants I’m growing from seed this season, by following my Instagram!

If you want to be the first to receive articles straight to your inbox, subscribe to my email list! You will also receive my “Plant of the Month” newsletter. You also get a free gardening dictionary! If you don’t get an email from The Blossoming Gardener, please check your spam and whitelist The Blossoming Gardener.

That’s all for now,

Happy Gardening! Till we meet again.

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My name is Sarika, and I am the founder of “The Blossoming Gardener”! Let me tell you a little bit about myself…Read more

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