Despite warm weather, gardeners should be wary of possible late freeze


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — It certainly feels like spring, even if the new season is still officially a few weeks away.

The unseasonably warm temperatures may have you thinking winter is over and you might want to get out in the garden.

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But anything you plant could get hurt by a late freeze, which is not out of the question in our area.

“Temperatures in southeastern North Carolina are always bouncing up and down. So we can get snow in March, and we can have days in the 80s in February, so it’s not unusual,” said Al Hight, the county extension director at New Hanover County Arboretum. “We had such a cold early January, this kinda really feels different, but it’s not unusual.”

The National Weather Service says the average last freeze varies from March 18th in Wilmington to March 24th in Southport, and as late as March 31st in Elizabethtown.

It’s impossible to forecast exactly when the last freeze will occur, so it might not be the best idea to test Mother Nature.

“I’m hoping we don’t get below the mid 20s, because if we do, that’s gonna create enormous problems. It would be nice if we were out of the danger of frost, but statistically, you’d be really gambling to figure that’s already happened,” Hight said.

Hight says if you do plant ahead of schedule, some varieties will do OK during cold temperatures when protected by a row cover. Any tropical plants will not do very well until soil temperatures warm up.

The southeast had an early thaw last year which gave way to a March freeze. It severely damaged fruit crops across several states and cost about $1 billion.