The weather is always a popular topic of conversation, especially in spring.
The change from winter to warm weather can be challenging on the Cumberland Plateau. The change from cold to hot often sparks severe storms like we had last week.
But even when we escape the path of damaging winds and heavy rains, the roller-coaster ride of the changing seasons makes the Plateau an interesting place to be.
We’re about a month into spring, but we’ve already had two little winters. I’ve been explaining this phenomenon to my significant other, who is eager to get a garden planted. He’s accustomed to more severe winters and doesn’t quite believe my warnings of severe cold snaps.
I warned — don’t plant before Easter. I’m not convinced we’re out of the woods of another frost in the coming weeks. He put off planting all but the cold season vegetables thus far. The more fragile tomato and squash plants are hanging out inside for a bit longer.
We’d already had a few days with temperatures soaring into the 80s. My grass was turning from the dead brown of winter to green. The daylilies were brightening up. The shrubs were starting to sprout.
But those of us who have spent a few winters here know — if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.
This week, highs are expected to stay in the low 60s and upper 50s. Lows could get down into the mid-30s.
Regional folklore speaks of six little winters on the Plateau. We’ve already head Redbud Winter, typically in mid-March when the beautiful redbud trees start blooming with their brilliant pink flowers.
Around Easter, we had Dogwood Winter.
Late April to early May, expect another cold snap for Locust Winter.
Mid-May, brace for Blackberry Winter, when the blackberries are in full bloom. If your kids are involved in little league baseball or softball, keep a coat handy for a few cold nights at the ballpark.
Whippoorwill Winter in mid- to late-May coincides with the first whippoorwill calls in the twilight.
The last cold snap is Britches Winter, so named because it’s the last cold snap expected and you can finally sock away those extra layers of long underwear you’ve feared you’ll need just one more time. This usually comes in late May or early June. Some call it woolsy britches winter or cotton britches winter because it’s when farmers would change their wardrobes for the season.
For most of us, these cold snaps aren’t that serious. You may need to cover those fragile spring buds on your flowers.
Farmers, however, really sweat these early spring frosts and freezes.
A hard freeze on the heels of a warm spell can spell disaster for strawberry and other fruit-bearing tree crops. Several years ago, Tennessee strawberry yield was severely damaged. Thankfully, that sweet treat has fared better in recent years. I hope it does again this year. There is simply nothing better than enjoying a bowl of fresh strawberries as a sweet treat on a summer evening. Even better if you picked them yourself.
Keep some warm clothes handy over the next few weeks, have an umbrella close by and try to make the most of our annual roller coaster weather ride.