Blackberry Winter in Appalachia

I thought I would share a bit of weather lore today: the past couple of days have been bitterly cold here in the southern Appalachian mountains. So cold that I’ve had to close all of the windows in the house, throw on a sweater, and we even ran the heat last night. But for the past couple of weeks leading up to these currently frigid temps, it had been pleasantly balmy and (mostly) sunny here. So nice, in fact, that I was getting ready to transplant my tomato seedlings into the garden (I’m sure glad now that I held off on that!)

Southern Appalachian Blackberry Winter and Other Little Winters

I was feeling mildly annoyed by this sudden change, and wondering why in the world winter had decided to come back. And then it dawned on me – we’re having what is known colloquially as one of the “little winters”, specifically a Blackberry Winter. I should have known this right away, but it seems to sneak up on me every time it happens. And in looking back over my garden journals, I see that our last Blackberry Winter was in 2017. That was the year I got too confident in the weather and transplanted my tomato seedlings before Mother’s Day, and then ended up having to re-plant new seedlings after the frost wiped them out. Lesson learned. I’ll be waiting a week or so to transplant my tomatoes this year.

If you’ve never heard of a Blackberry Winter, I’m not too surprised because it’s not a phrase that is used much anymore. But a Blackberry Winter is just a spring cold snap that happens right around the time the blackberries are in bloom in early to mid-May (some say that it helps the blackberry canes to grow, but I don’t really know if that’s true). So right around the time you’ve packed away your winter clothes and are planning to sit out on the porch in a pair of shorts, sippin’ on your sweet tea, winter returns for a few days to spoil the fun.

And there are other little winters that happen throughout the spring. The names vary, depending on the region, but generally speaking, Redbud Winter, Dogwood Winter, and Locust Winter all occur before Blackberry Winter. A cold snap that happens after Blackberry Winter at the end of May is often referred to as Britches Winter (because you may need to get your homespun winter britches out again!)

How are your spring temperatures in your neck of the woods? Do you have Blackberry Winter or other Little Winters and what do you call them? Let me know in the comments below!

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