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May Fool's Day, Ice Saints & Frankie Says....

With long days, predictably warmer weather and the sun rising still in the sky, we could think it is Summer. May is my busiest gardening month. On dry days the hoe gets a turn around all the beds, late morning for weeds to shrivel up in the midday sun. On wet days I might despair at their growth whilst sheltering undercover, sowing more seeds (for late summer annuals of zinnia, coreopsis and herbs), transplanting tender seedlings and generally jostling for space. All those dahlias, salvias, chrysanthemums and annuals with lush growth, almost bursting out of their pots ready to be planted out, stretch out into the soil, exploding into flower.

But hang on for a couple of weeks as this month is a game of two halves. I think there should be a ‘May Fool’ rather than an April one. Remember that time we got juped by the crazy warm bright spring of Lockdown 2020 only for many plants to succumb to frost in May? Fooled that summer had begun and we were all safe from a shock drop of the mercury.

Frankie was talking about early May and cautioning over surprise frosts when he warned us to ‘Relax and don’t do it’. Literally chill out! You see he knew about the Ice Saints. These are three saints, (which ones depend on the European country you are in) whose ‘feasts’ fall between 11th and 15th May. They were said to play a trick by bringing surprise frosts right back from the 5th century,

Galileo studied the weather patterns in the 17th century and we are still experiencing them today. It’s so predictable, I wonder why we are caught out by it!

With Climate Change, who knows how this phenomena will be affected but right now, know that you will still need to close up the cold frame and greenhouse until mid may in our area, hardening off your plants. The efforts and attention are worth it to me. The first seeds I ever sowed were nicotiana or tobacco flowers. They sticky scent on a summers evening is just wonderful. They are forgiving plants and flower for months. I still adore them and always sow them. Half hardy annuals, they won’t survive the cold but you can sow these directly outside now and they will germinate just as the Ice Saints leave the party. In fact, almost any annual or biennial seed will germinate this month with the warming soil and moisture still in the air at night.

My absolute favourite task is germinating plants from seed and all that that entails but it is time, attention and resource heavy to sow seeds as I do. For less effort, look to perennials. Still time to buy small plants now to flower this year and return thereafter. Stalwarts of the garden and vase, you know you can rely on these. But who gardens for safety? That’s not the point, but to suspend time a little, to feel the soil on your hands, insects buzzing, sun on your back. To forget and remember again in equal measure. That’s why we do it. Give your plants fair warning of the big world outside by hardening off with good time and go for it. I hope we all get to grow flowers and spread the love this summer, so throw the seeds around with wild abandon this May. Just please wait until the 15th yeah?


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