This fall was the first time I planted bulbs in my Missoula garden and as I've been witnessing the strange winter we've been having I've been wondering, how will the mild winter affect the growing season?

Presuming we don't get a cold snap this spring, plants may not fare poorly. The University of Minnesota Extension explains that dormancy in plants is more affected by the long nights of winter as opposed to cold temperatures (though those play a role, too). They also go into detail about how the "weird winter" affects garden plants, trees and shrubs, lawns, and fruit trees.

READ MORE: This Is What Plant Hardiness Zones in Montana Look Like Now

Regardless of how the winter affected plants during the coldest part of the season, as many gardeners know it's the last frost date you have to watch out for. Planting certain annuals and perennials too soon can lead to cold/snow damage on your plants when Montana gets those late spring snow storms. It's good to wait as long as you can.

Flower with Snow
Photo by Jack Blueberry on Unsplash

Montana's Last Frost Dates Spring 2024

I've always heard that you should wait until Mother's Day in Montana before planting if you want to avoid a frost. But as I've gotten to know some local gardeners, I've heard there's a little more wiggle room. If you're planting seeds in the ground, sometimes you can start sooner.

One way to get a more specific idea of frost dates is to use the Old Farmer's Almanac. Even these have to be taken with a grain of salt because they say "Last and first frost dates are 30% probability. Calculated using 1991-2020 Climate Normals from NOAA." But, it will get us in the ballpark.

Depending on where you live in Montana, a difference of 50 miles between locations can affect when the last frost might be by almost a week. Here are the estimates for spring 2024 in western Montana and around the state:

Western Montana's Last Frost Dates

  • Polson: May 17, 2024
  • Missoula: May 22, 2024
  • Whitefish: May 25, 2024
  • Hamilton: May 28, 2024
  • Stevensville: May 30, 2024
  • Kalispell: June 7, 2024

READ MORE: What La Nina Means for Montana Winter Weather Next Year

Photo by Aliis Sinisalu on Unsplash

Greater Montana Last Frost Dates

  • Glasgow: May 8, 2024
  • Glendive: May 8, 2024
  • Great Falls: May 11, 2024
  • Helena: May 15, 2024
  • Miles City: May 13, 2024
  • Billings: May 15, 2024
  • Hardin: May 19, 2024
  • Havre: May 20, 2024
  • Bozeman: June 3, 2024
  • Livingston: June 3, 2024
  • Butte: June 21, 2024
  • Big Sky: (year-round risk)

When do you start planting? Leave a comment or send us a message on the app.

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