Frost & Freeze Defined: How cold snaps can destroy plants and crops

Weather Glossary

ROCHESTER, NY – A frost and freeze occurs when temperatures drop below freezing either during the last stretch of spring after the growing season has begun or late in the growing season before the last harvest and before the winter season. This can be minor with some partial damage to plants around the home, or major to where acres of farmland are destroyed. Once certain plants completely freeze over, they are unable to thaw and die. While some plants are vulnerable, others are hearty enough to handle a certain amount of frost. It is important to remember that many plants are dormant through the winter. Once spring comes and buds are exposed, the vulnerability to a freeze increases.

Freeze watches and warnings are issued by the National Weather Service in Buffalo.

As long as it is some time within the growing season, either a frost advisory, freeze watch, or freeze warning can be issued based on the significance of the cold and how long it may last. If the forecast calls for temperatures that drop to 32° or around that value for three hours or less, an advisory may be issued. If temperatures drop to 28° during the season, that would be a hard freeze and a freeze warning would be issued.


There are plenty of different options to protecting plants. That includes everything from covering wtih a cloth to watering to bringing inside. The growing season varies for different parts of the country. For Monroe County the growing season starts May 1, and that marks the beginning of when the NWS Buffalo office activates their frost/freeze watches, warnings, and advisories.

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