Think You’re Safe From Late Frost? Think Again!

I’ve had many questions this year about our last frost date. The University of Virginia Climatology Office says that here in Richmond, we have a 50% chance of having a frost on or after April 6th and a 10% chance of frost on or after April 23rd. Officially, our last EXPECTED frost date is mid-April. However, remember that Mother Nature can’t read! Just four years ago, we had a late frost on May 10th!

My Midnight Adventure

I wasn’t expecting frost, but I figured I was safe. I’d moved some of my houseplants back outside and planted my tomato and pepper seedlings. That night, I sat down to watch the eleven o’clock news, and a few minutes later, I ran around the yard in bedroom slippers, pulling my houseplants back in and draping sheets everywhere.

How I Handle Late Frost Risk Now

Now, I still start my tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant inside. I transplant them from those little trays into peat pots and let them grow until mid-April when I set the little pots outside to “harden” off. Depending on the weather forecast, I don’t plant the seedlings directly in the soil until the end of April or the first week of May.

Some seeds I always wait to direct sow—cucumbers, squash, beans, melons I plant no sooner than the first of May—and then only if the long-ranged forecast sounds good.  Considering these are all plants that DO NOT like to be transplanted, direct sowing works well anyway.

It Pays to Play It Safe

After that late frost several years ago, I now play it safe. It’s no fun running about the yard at eleven at night like a deranged woman. If you have row covers, hoop houses, etc., to protect your plants—like running around at night trying to protect things—then go for it. As for me, I’ll take the lower-stress road and wait a couple of weeks longer just to be safe.

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