Legend of the Three Kings

      As back and forth as our weather has been – is it spring, is it winter, is it summer? – it can be tempting on Iowa’s warmest spring days to jump the gun on gardening. While it’s safe to plant perennials and many hardy plants by now, it might be wise to hold off on tomatoes, peppers and other tender plants until May 15 in this area.

    The Three Kings, or Three Frozen Kings, is a Czech legend that serves as a warning to protect those tender plants against a possible late frost.

    In one of various forms, the story says the three kings or saints (Pankrac on May 12, Servac on May 13 and Bonifac on May 14) were

frozen when the temperature dropped while they were fishing at sea.

    On May 15, St. Zofie came along with a kettle of hot water to thaw out the three frozen kings.

    Since Czech immigrants found Iowa similar to their home country, those traditions carried over, and, whether or not the story makes sense,  it  seems sensible this year, at least, to heed the Three Kings warning.

     Knowing the last average frost date for your area can also help. That date can vary, however, depending on the source. I’ve seen that in northeast Iowa, the last average frost date is May 10. East-central Iowa is April 30, and southeast Iowa is April 20. Those seem early, especially for this year.

    A U.S. Climatography report looked more reliable. That placed northern Iowa, around Decorah, with a last average frost date of May 26; central Iowa, around the Cedar Rapids area, at May 13 and southern Iowa, around Ottumwa, at May 3.

    Climatologists say the average can vary,  even within the same county. The last frost date might be a week later in low-lying areas or a week earlier on hilltops.  Because the frost date is only an average, your safest bet might be to heed the Three Kings warning and wait until May 15 to set out those tender plants.

 

 

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