Tag Archives: Warm season crops

The Ice Saints of May


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.


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!


4 X 4 ft. Garden Plan

4 X 4 ft. Garden Plan

Gardening Basics

Power point presentation given on 2/21/16.   The outline is below.

Gardening for Beginners, St. Philip Community Garden   2/21/16

Things to Consider:

  • A Plan/Vision
  • Good Soil – fertile, well-drained soil
  • A sunny spot
  • Water
  • Good Tools
  • Commitment

Benefits to raised bed gardening:

  • Higher yields and less area to weed
  • Reduced soil compaction
  • Earlier planting – better runoff and drainage, warmer soil
  • Frost protection
  • Soil improvement
  • Architectural interest
  • Accessible gardening
  • 4 X 4 Ft. Plot can be built for less than $40

Colorado Climate:

  • Dry climate, need to water, mulch, shade
  • Clay soils, need amendment – compost, garden mix, organic matter
  • Frost dates – May 15, Sept. 20-Oct. 20
  • Cold Crops vs. Warm Season Crops
  • Pests – take a look at your plants, animals – rabbits, mice, dogs, deer; insects good ones and bad ones
  • Snow in the Spring, hot, dry summers

Winning Crops:

  • Cold Season Crops (plant before last frost March-mid-May) lettuces, spinach, onions, radishes, beets, peas, chard, kale, broccoli, scallions, cabbage, carrots, potatoes
  • Warm Season Crops (after last frost May 15-22) tomatoes, peppers, beans, herbs like parsley, basil, etc., eggplant, cucumber, squashes, zucchini, summer squash, melons, pumpkins,

Benefits of Community Gardening

  • Learn from others
  • Fresh air and exercise
  • Improving the community
  • Individual garden plots
  • Leadership, social and volunteer opportunities
  • Youth education
  • Low cost and grocery savings
  • Fresh local produce
  • Reduce carbon footprint

To reserve a garden plot, please email atolenti@aol.com.   Plots available April 1.