Beautiful early spring weather ahead

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Fair skies and mild temperatures are on tap for the rest of the week.

Here in the Deep South, February begins our transition from winter to early spring. This week the emphasis will definitely be on early spring.

Surface high pressure will dominate our weather this week resulting in mostly sunny days and mostly clear nights. The upper levels of the atmosphere will also be dominated by high pressure causing the air above us to slowly sink and warm. Down at the surface, temperatures will range from the upper 60s in to the 70s in the afternoons. Nights and early mornings will be cool with minimum temperatures in the 40s and 50s.

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By Sunday a cold front is forecast to slowly approach from the north increasing our clouds and bringing a slight chance of showers. Our rain chances increase even more on Monday. But we should stay on the warm side of the front both of those days.

This week’s pleasant weather will cause some who have been thinking about finally trying their hand at vegetable gardening to wonder if it’s time to start planting.

Experienced gardeners may have already planted their Irish potatoes. In fact, the optimal window for planting them is closing soon.

Many have already set out cold-resistant greens such as collards, turnips, and spinach.

But, it’s still too early to plant most familiar warm weather garden vegetables. The risk of a killing frost or freeze is on the way down, but is still over 90 percent.

For Picayune, the median date of the last freeze is March 14th. The median means that the last freeze of the winter has occurred earlier than that date in half the years on record and later than that date the other half.

But, of course, there’s a lot of variability from year to year. In 10 percent of the years on record, Picayune’s last freeze of the winter occurred earlier than February 18th. In another 10 percent, the last freeze occurred later than March 28th. In fact, one year the temperature in Picayune dipped below freezing on April 13th.

Official air temperatures, which are measured six feet above the ground, don’t even have to get down to freezing for tender plants to be damaged. Frost can occur when official air temperatures are as high as 36 degrees. Picayune’s median frost date is March 24th, and in 10 percent of years the last frost hasn’t occurred until April 11th.

The Mississippi State University Extension Service has a helpful guide on their website at, which explains a map and chart of vegetable planting dates at .

We may have had our last freeze of the year already, but it’s very likely we haven’t. Unless you don’t mind doing a lot of replanting, you should resist the temptation offered by this week’s mild weather and keep most of those vegetable seeds on the shelf until mid-to-late March.

By Skip Rigney