North Carolina is one of the fastest-growing states in the country. With a thriving economy, inexpensive housing, and plenty of great beaches, it’s no wonder why people are flocking to this area. North Carolina gardeners, established and new, looking to get established for their next growing season need to know what to expect in terms of climate, adverse weather, and the impacts of the most recent winter.
Take a look at the most important elements of North Carolina that gardeners should know about before planting their flowers and crops this spring!
North Carolina’s Historical Climate
The state of North Carolina is located on the East Coast of the United States. Part of the land borders the Atlantic Ocean, while most of the state lies inland. The westernmost parts of the state are mountainous, but the area to the east is a low-lying area.
As a result of the state’s location, North Carolina’s Köppen climate type is primarily considered a humid subtropical climate in all but the western locations of the state. That portion of the state is a subtropical highland climate.
As a result, North Carolina has hot summers and mild winters. The state receives about 49.3 inches of rain per year on average. That makes North Carolina one of the wettest states in the U.S. The state can receive some snow as well.
The average growing season throughout most of the state is between 181 and 240 days. However, the mountainous western part of the state only has between 121 and 180 growing days.
The plant hardiness zones in North Carolina range from 5b to 8b. It’s a good idea for any North Carolina gardeners to see exactly where they are and consider the appropriate plants to grow. Much of North Carolina also receives over 200 days of sun, with Raleigh seeing about 217 days of sun each year on average.
On average, Raleigh’s temperatures in January are about 50 °F as a high and 30 °F as a low. That temperature quickly warms up in March to 62 °F as an average high and 39 °F as a low. Other parts of the state are even warmer.
Overall, the climate in North Carolina seems perfect for growing a garden. The state has plenty of warm weather, lots of sunshine, and adequate rainfall to grow a variety of plants.
Challenging Weather for North Carolina Gardeners
This state isn’t without challenges for North Carolina gardeners, though. The region can experience plunging winter temperatures. Back in 1977, North Carolina experienced its coldest January ever. During that time, the average daily high was merely 38.2 °F while the average low dropped to 18.7 °F.
On average, Banner Elk, a small town in Avery County, is the coldest place in North Carolina. This region has the lowest average temperature. Yet, it’s not the site of the coldest temperature recorded in the state. On January 21, 1985, the temperature on Mount Mitchell was recorded at a blisteringly cold -38 °F.
Cold weather is not too unusual for a coastal state, but North Carolina is warm overall. The region faces other significant weather phenomena, though. For one thing, North Carolina can get hit by the odd Nor’easter. These powerful storms generate winds and precipitation. These storms ride up the coast from North Carolina to Maine, bringing rain in warm months and a lot of snow in the coldest months.
Hurricanes and tropical storms are the most dangerous storms to strike North Carolina. Given its location, North Carolina can be the site of true hurricane landfalls. Most recently, Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm with winds of 155 mph, struck North Carolina in September 2022.
These storms can devastate communities, obviously ruining gardens, homes, and livelihoods. They are fairly common throughout North Carolina.
How Has the Most Recent Winter Impacted Plants?
The most recent winter beginning in 2022 and ending in 2023 in North Carolina was mild. Few snow storms struck the state, and temperatures remained above average in many places. The same can be said for much of the East Coast. As a result, spring planting seems as though it will be an uneventful experience for North Carolina gardeners, at least as far as the weather goes.
When Are the Last Frost Dates in North Carolina?
Spring planting requires knowing when the weather is right to plant crops and flowers. However, not every part of the state is ready at the same time as others. The last frost date is the average last date in a region when there is a very small threat of having a frost afterward. Take a look at four cities throughout North Carolina and see how the beginning of the planting season ranges between locations.
|City||Last Frost Date|
The coastal regions warm up quicker than the mountainous areas. Still, the state has a warm climate, so the majority of North Carolina gardeners will be ready to plant by the middle of April.
5 Easy Plants to Sow for North Carolina Gardeners (And When to Plant Them)
North Carolina’s green thumbs like to plant a variety of crops and flowers. Given the last frost date of Charlotte, learn when to put in some of your plants!
Cabbage is a popular vegetable to serve in a variety of dishes in North Carolina. Start these plants inside between February 7 and February 21. Plant them outside between March 7 and March 22.
2. Jalapeño Peppers
People looking to spice up their meals will love homegrown jalapeño peppers. Begin growing them from seeds between January 24 and February 7. Then place them in the soil after the last frost date on April 12 to April 25.
Onions go great with barbeque, so it’s a no-brainer to grow them in North Carolina. Start them in the soil between March 7 and 29, mark where they’re planted, and give them plenty of space to grow.
4. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are tasty vegetables that can be integrated into many different meals. Start these tubers outside between April 26 and May 10. They’re going to take some time to grow and ripen, but it’s worth the wait.
Watermelon is a mainstay at every picnic. Start the seeds indoors between March 7 and March 15 and then transplant them into the soil by April 19 until May 3, long after the threat of frost has passed! North Carolina gardeners can grow these plants with ease with the rich soil and mild weather. However, it’s necessary to look up the last frost dates in one’s particular region before planting. Furthermore, the last frost date is not set in stone. Check the long-range weather forecast before planting anything
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