A late March 2024 snowfall covered perennial plants that had already emerged in Iowa gardens. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

It might feel like summer this weekend, but gardeners are warned to heed a Czech legend that guards against a late frost.

The legend is known under various names, including the Three Frozen Kings, the three icemen – tři ledovi muži – or Three Ice Saints, Three Frozen Men and Three Iron Men, and warns against planting tender crops too early in case of a late frost.

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According to the legend, the three kings or saints – Pankrac on May 12, Servac on May 13 and Bonifac on May 14 – were frozen when temperatures 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.

That means gardeners should wait until May 15 to plant tender vegetables, such as peppers, tomatoes, squash and cucumbers.

Given that Mother’s Day in the United States generally coincides with that timing — in 2024, it falls on May 12 — some gardeners use that as a gauge and wait until after the holiday to plant their tender crops.

In Iowa, mid-April is generally an appropriate time to plant cool season vegetables, such as peas, carrots, radishes, lettuce, spinach and beets, which can be direct-sown by seed in the garden.

Daylilies, hosta and other perennials can be planted before the last average frost date, and it’s often preferable to plant perennials before the heat of summer hits.

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