Mar 12, 2024 - News

Michigan's last frost could still be a month away

Data: Midwest Regional Climate Center; Map: Rahul Mukherjee/Axios
Data: Midwest Regional Climate Center; Map: Rahul Mukherjee/Axios

Spring is in the air, but don't get out your gardening gear just yet.

  • After Sunday's frost, we could still be waiting another month before we're out of the woods for our final freeze of the season.

The big picture: Spring's last frost can be as early as January and as late as June, according to data from the Midwestern Regional Climate Center.

State of play: Growing seasons are getting longer, increasing by up to 2.2 days on the West Coast every decade. The last spring frost date has moved up by as much as 30 days in Arizona and California as a result.

  • The regional climate center predicts Michigan's median last spring frost will be on April 21.

Why it matters: Most vegetable plants and summer blooms can't be planted in the ground until after the threat of a freeze has passed.

Yes, but: Cool-season crops and flowers can be planted outdoors as soon as the soil is dry enough to work.

  • Cabbage, kale, radish and peas are some cool-season vegetables that could be planted now.

Zoom in: Rebecca Finneran, a horticulture educator at MSU, created this statewide table for frost-free dates. It helps gardeners know when they should plant crops by showing the percent probability of freezing temperatures occurring on or after a given date.

  • Finneran says most gardeners will plant after the 50% date, which is April 30 in Detroit, according to the table.

What they're saying: "Don't jump the gun," Finneran tells MLive. "Everybody wants to go to the garden center and get their plants. The downside of that is if you put them out, and we do end up having a freeze, those lush plants that have been in a real hot greenhouse are going to get fried by the cold weather."

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