We have been experiencing a bit of a cold snap here in Montgomery County heading into mid-May. Many folks call this a “Blackberry Winter,” or maybe even “sprinter” (spring + winter). Our average overnight lows in the month of May start to tick up into the low 50s, but lately our overnight lows have prompted frost advisories and tucking in our tender annuals at night. Normally, our last overnight frost takes place on April 22nd or before. So what is this Blackberry Winter all about?
Blackberry Winter is a term used around the Midwest and around the world to describe a cold snap that occurs when blackberries are in bloom. In our area, this typically takes place sometime in May. There are other “winters,” too. They include Redbud Winter, Dogwood Winter and Locust Winter. I suppose we could have called our little late spring snow event a “crabapple winter” or “lilac winter,” depending on what’s blooming. At my house, it was both! These short-lived cold snaps occur due to natural variation in spring weather, and if you’ve lived in Indiana for any amount of time, you know that variable is not a strong enough word to describe the weather here. We expect to see a Blackberry Winter each year, but this year’s seems to be particularly chilly.
Why do these cold snaps occur in the first place? Weather in springtime is so variable because of a fight between cold air in the north and warming air in the south. Temperature contrasts like this fuel our dynamic weather patterns. This is why it might be 76 and muggy one day and 45 and windy the next. The frontal systems we hear about during the weather report are the places where large areas of warm and cold air collide, creating rainy and sometimes wild weather conditions.
While the timing and intensity of a Blackberry Winter can be frustrating, this weather phenomenon is a normal part of spring in Indiana. Unfortunately, this year’s Blackberry Winter is delaying planting progress for gardeners and farmers across the county. It’s also delaying emergence of the periodical cicada. Looking into the 10-day forecast, we should be experiencing seasonable temperatures by Monday, with highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s. Soon our gardens will be flowering, our corn and soybeans will be reaching for the sky, and cicadas will be making all kinds of racket as we head toward summer.
Ashley Adair is the Montgomery County Extension Educator, Ag and Natural Resource. The office is at 400 Parke Ave., Crawfordsville; 765-364-6363. She may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.