5 Little Winters

As we all know and have experienced over the last week, spring and warm weather is not fully here. Spring is a time of constant changing temperature and weather. One day it will be sunny and 70 degrees then the next rainy and 40 degrees. Fortunately, there is a way to estimate how many more cold days we will have. The term 5 little winters was used by our ancestors to determine when they could plant their crops without them dying from frost bite.

“I have had tomatoes planted in early May and we had a severe frost that killed or damaged most of them. I tried to cover them with buckets but it got too cold and ended up killing most of them.” said Agriculture teacher, Mrs. Miller.

The first is Redbud winter, appearing late March or early April. Once you start to see redbud trees bloom be prepared for a cold snap. The next is in late April when the Dogwood trees bloom, hence the name, Dogwood winter. In East Tennessee Dogwoods produce small white blooms, but can be pale pink or yellow.

There are three more winters in May. Locust Winner ranges from April to May but more commonly in May in the East Tennessee area. Locust Trees produce a cluster of blooms that later produse long pods. Next is Blackberry Winter occurring in mid May. Farmers used this term because it takes a snap of cold weather to stimulate blackberry canes to start growing. And Lastly is the Whippoorwill or britches winter. In later years it was called Britches Winter as a reminder to not store away your britches , long and thick pants, until after late May. It is now called Whippoorwill winter as it’s the first time you can start to hear these small birds after migrating back home.

“Yes I do believe in the little winters theory and I do think that they are an accurate representation of the crazy weather we experience here in East Tennessee!” said Mrs. Miller.

So before you start your garden or freshen up your flower beds check the weather and keep the 5 little winter theories in mind and even talk to a more experienced gardener.

“I would advise folks to wait until the last predicted frost date. For Tennessee, that is usually mid-April, plus a week or two to plant most garden crops like tomatoes, squash, peppers, cucumbers, etc. We never know what Mother Nature will throw at us though!” said Mrs. Miller