The Little Winters of Tennessee

Tennessee winters are a little unpredictable. It is more moderate than upstate NY, but we still get cold temperatures and usually at least a little bit of snow.

March may start with some warm days and daffodils popping up here and there. Then suddenly it seems like we are back in mid winter. Then you may get a week or two of warm sunny days, but more cold, rainy and maybe even snowy days will follow! For centuries, farmers have observed and journaled signs that helped them decide when to plant their crops and when to wait. Here in East Tennessee, this seasonal predictions are still used today and passed down from generation to generation. These predictable cold snaps, called “little winters” happen around the same time each spring and each were given a name corresponding to what is blooming.

  • Redbud Winter – Mid-March to early April, when the redbud trees bloom.
  • Locust Winter- Early April when leaves start to appear on locust trees.
  • Dogwood Winter – Mid- to late April, when the dogwood trees bloom. Still a chance of heavy frost.
  • Blackberry Winter – Early to mid-May, when blackberries are in full bloom. In the Tennessee mountains, this often coincides with the last frost of spring, which can kill new plantings.
  • Whippoorwill Winter –Mid- to late May, when the whippoorwills can first be heard.
  • Cotton Britches Winter – Late May- early June, when farmers changed to light cotton clothes.

Interesting that down here they say the same thing they did in Upstate NY: “if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.”

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