First Alert Weather In-Depth: Better to wait if you have a ‘green thumb’

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – It is a pretty time of the year here in Western New York as it turns noticeably warmer and we see more sunshine. Given these weather conditions our attention begins to turn towards getting in the yard and maybe doing some planting. I have to admit, the extend of my ‘green thumb’ is just trying to not overwater the plants. But before you get the fertilizer and flowers going, consider the potential weather this time of the year.

It may not seem like it during our mild afternoons, but it still gets rather chilly during the nighttime hours. Last night was a good example, as most communities reached the middle to upper 30s. And in the southern tier of New York State, the town of Olean actually measured a low temperature of only 30 degrees. That can be a significant problem for the agricultural industry as growers attempt to calibrate the start of the planting season. This change in seasons is also evident across the county as the average last date of a freeze varies significantly from state to state. It might not be much of a problem in the southern states, but for the Northern Plains or the Rocky Mountains, a freeze can happen as late as June or even July.

This variation from town to town is also significant across Western New York. The long term average for the last freeze can vary by more than a month when comparing communities from the lakeshore to the hills and valleys of the southern tier. Gardeners in Rochester and the Finger Lakes will see dates ranging from April 22 to May 6. However, for communities south of routes 5 and 20, the freeze potential can last as late as Memorial Day or later. The reason for this difference is the deeper valleys to the south have a tendency to be a collecting spot for the cold air. Colder air is heavier and more dense and meteorologists know this concept as ‘cold air drainage’.  

Interesting to note, that the record for the latest date for a freeze in Rochester is May 29, 1889. Let’s hope this is a record that never gets broken.