ROCKFORD (WREX) — A powerful system is pulling in colder temperatures and that could bring the first freeze of the season.
A freeze warning goes into effect for most counties in far northern Illinois later this evening. Lows are forecast to drop into the upper 20’s to lower 30’s into early Saturday morning. The prolonged stretch of below freezing temperatures could bring an end to the growing season in the Stateline.
Growing seasons are defined as the number of days between the last freeze of spring and the first freeze of fall. Looking through weather observations in Rockford, the last 28° or colder temperatures was recorded on April 28th. This puts the number of growing days at 166 as of today’s date, October 11th.
When considering our current climate period from 1980 to 2010, the average date of the first freeze is October 18th. The earliest freeze during that 30-year period in Rockford occurred on September 30th. The latest freeze was observed on November 17th.
What should you do if you have sensitive plants in the ground currently? It’s fairly simple to prevent plants from being killed by early season frosts. Covering sensitive plants with a blanket or tarp before sunset is a good way to keep the cooler temperatures from damaging your bounty. Any potted or hanging plants need to be brought in if at all possible. Most plants can handle temperatures a few degrees below freezing for up to about two hours.
Pumpkins are a huge staple this time of year, and while they may seem like a fairly hardy fruit, they’re susceptible to freezing temperatures. Make sure your pumpkins are out of any grassy areas.
The excess moisture in the soil in combination with below freezing temperatures could cause pumpkins to rot. Be sure to place pumpkins under an awning or overhang close to the house. The shelter an awning provides along with the radiating heat from the house can help prevent damage to pumpkins. If you’re still worried your Jack-O’-Lantern’s ghoulish grin will get frozen in place, you can also bring them indoors.