Statues of saints line the Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic. A Czech legend warns against planting tender crops before the chance of a late frost. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Temperatures that soared into the upper 80s in Iowa and elsewhere in the Midwest this weekend are giving way to overnight lows in the 30s.

While a hard freeze isn’t predicted, at least for now, it’s not unheard of to have a late-season frost in Iowa.

Czech lore, brought to the United States by immigrants, warns against just such a scenario.

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

The late Olga Drahozal, music teacher and leader of the Czech Plus Band in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, passed along the following about this piece of gardening lore years ago.

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.

The legend serves as a warning to protect tender plants against a possible late frost.

While many vegetables, such as peas, kale, radishes, cabbage, beets and lettuce, can be planted sooner in the Midwest, wait until May 15 to plant tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash and other tender vegetables and flowers outside, or at least provide them with protection in case overnight temperatures drop below freezing.

Perennials, such as daylillies and hosta, can be planted before the last average frost date, and it’s often even preferable before the heat of summer hits.

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Story/photo © Cindy Hadish/Homegrown Iowan