The Ice Saints of May

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IMG_9717I was not surprised when a Spring snowstorm blew through Colorado on May 18 and 19th.  This happens almost every Spring despite weeks of lovely sunny warm weather.   Because of this, I never ever plant any warm season crops until Memorial Day weekend.   On Wednesday night May 17, temperatures dropped below freezing and the next day snow fell heavily in the city and more in the mountains.   In the preceding weeks, the sun had been shining and we’d all been wearing shorts and digging in our gardens.   Many eager gardeners who’d  been seduced into filling their pots with Mother’s Day flowers and seeding their plots with warm season crops, had to scramble to protect everything from the impeding storm.

In the days before weather forecasts on radio and TV, gardeners of northern Europe would look to the feast days of the “ice saints” as a guide to planting their gardens.   I was alerted to this weather folklore by my German friend who is familiar with this historical planting guideline.   I did some research and from “Marlies Creative Universe”,

http://mcuniverse.com/2010/what-are-the-ice-saints/    I found this reference:

The “Ice Saints” Pankratius, Servatius and Bonifatius as well as the “Cold Sophie” are known for a cooling trend in the weather between 12th and 15th of May. For centuries this well-known rule had many gardeners align their plantings after it. Observations of weather patterns over many years have shown, however, that a drop in temperature occurs frequently only around May 20. Are the “Ice Saints” not in tune anymore? The mystery solution is found in the history of our calendar system: Pope Gregory VIII arranged a calendar reform in 1582, whereby the differences of the Julian calendar could be corrected to the sun year to a large extent. The day of the “Cold Sophie” (May 15) was the date in the old calendar and corresponds to today’s May 22. Therefore the effects of the “Ice Saints” is felt in the timespan of May 19-22. Sensitive transplants should only be put in the garden beds after this date.

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Being of Irish descent, I was not aware of this folklore but from personal experience, I know that planting warm season crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, pumpkins, corn, cucumber and many flowers is not safe until late May.   When the storm arrived this year, I knew the feast of the ice saints were here.   No matter what the weatherman says, no planting until after the feasts of the ice saints!

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About anaincolorado

Hi, I am an avid gardener both at home and at Rosedale Community Garden where I've had a plot for 19 years. I am very interested in learning more about gardening, how to preserve it, incorporating farm fresh produce into my cooking and living a healthy lifestyle. In addition, I am a Master Community Gardener through Denver Urban Gardens and am a shareholder at the Chatfield CSA. In 2015, I spearheaded an effort to start a community donation garden at St. Philip's Lutheran Church -- a project I will share on my blog. I am eager to share what I've learned and the adventures I had learning new things and interacting with the garden community.

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