Gardening and Ice Saints – Elle Decorations


The period covering the dates of May 11, 12 and 13 is a nightmare for gardeners. Under the name “Saints of Ice”, represented by Saint Mamert, Saint Pancras and Saint Servais, it heralds the changeable weather that can bring beautiful white frosts at the beginning of the season, a critical moment when nature, which is slowly awakening, can suffer. . This period of late frosts in May is much feared by gardeners and plant experts.

What are the names of the three ice saints?

© Ja’Crispy, iStock

According to folk belief dating back to the Middle Ages, the Ice Saints represent the climatic period between May 11 and 13. Saint Mamert is celebrated on May 11, Saint Pancras on May 12, and Saint Servais on May 13. There are many popular sayings, for example:

  • May 11 – Saint Mamert: “Be careful, the first saint of the ice, you often follow him”;
  • May 12 – Saint Pancras: “Saint Pancras often brings ice cream”;
  • May 13 – Saint Servais: “Before Saint Servais there was no summer, after Saint Servais no more frost”.

During this period, nighttime temperatures often drop and frost phases occur during the red moon, which can cause severe damage to vegetation and damage to future crops. Located between mid-April and mid-May, this red moon corresponds to the lunation after Easter.
The decisive time of the year for the beginning of nature and plants, gardeners, farmers, orchardists, winegrowers observe it with great attention and pay close attention to temperature drops, because young and fragile buds, leaves, shoots and stems could be damaged. After this period, frost should no longer appear. Sowing and planting, even cold-sensitive plants, can be done directly in the ground and the potted plants removed.

Not to be confused with the “Riders of the Cold”, also called “Great Knights”, whose numbers vary by region:

  • St. George on April 23;
  • St. Mark’s on April 25;
  • St. Vital April 28;
  • Holy Europe on April 30;
  • St. Robert on April 29;
  • Saint Philip 1ahem ;
  • Saint Jean-Porte-Latine May 6.

This period between April 23 and May 6 marks the end of winter and the beginning of summer with expected frost.

Who is the fourth ice saint?

And 4E the saint of ice, less known than the other 3, marks the end of possible spring frosts. May 25, St. Urban’s day, marks the end of the frost, if we believe the saying: “Mamert, Pancrace, and Servais are three icy saints, but St. Urban holds them all in his hand.”

What damage is done during Ice Saints?

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© Silvia Jansen, iStock

Frosts lasting several days or just one night can cause severe damage to plants. Snow can still fall on the garden in April and, more rarely, in May.
Some plants with soft leaves wilt and rot because they are made up mostly of water, ice crystals form in the cells and tissues of the plant that cannot hold it. Potatoes with tender leaves, young plants of sun vegetables, geraniums or surfinia taken out too soon can roast in the frost. Some types of lettuce, cabbage, leeks, onions, beets and many other vegetables are frost-resistant. So be careful about the selected varieties, they are ideally adapted to the weather conditions in your region.

Other plants will have scorched ends like fruit trees with just opened flower or vegetative buds that will be necrotic. At this time of year, depending on the species and region, these flower or fruit stages may not withstand these white frosts and the fruit harvest may be reduced or even zero. The stems of apple, pear and other fruit trees can crack under the influence of frost and the leaves will be punctured. However, the slower the thaw, the better for the plants.

Do not rush to prune frost-damaged plants. There could be a second wave of frost. Wait until mid-May to start pruning in the garden. Some plants that appear to be at the end of their lives can regrow and regain their beautiful silhouette. Give plants time to resume their natural cycle after this spring stress.

How to protect yourself from damage by ice saints in the garden or on the balcony?

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© Freila, iStock

The situation is not the same whether we are in the north of France or the south. Winter veils can be expected in the Loire until mid-May, when mild temperatures will settle in the south of the Loire, albeit with little frost at night. A gardener must always monitor the weather in May, the key period for starting a garden, vegetable garden and orchard.
If you planned to sow and plant flowers or vegetables, store them under a greenhouse, tunnel, frame or porch. Use the nice days to get them out and acclimatized. If you have a balcony and a small terrace, there are small greenhouses and tunnels suitable for protecting plants. Move the sowing and planting season back as much as possible. Beans, tomatoes, courgettes, melons and summer flowers (geraniums, calibrachoa, petunias, begonias) need warm soil to grow well, so wait until May 15th to plant them.

All non-chill-hardy plants such as bulbs, perennials, grasses, small-fruited shrubs, aromatic plants (except basil) and grasses are already planted and sometimes simply covered with winter cover, garden bells or thick mulch.

All potted plants are more sensitive to frost. Whether on the balcony, windowsill or terrace, try grouping them together or surrounding them with a protective veil or cardboard boxes. Also, turn over the saucers, which may contain frozen water that will remain in contact with the roots and possibly damage them.

Even though the stalls are full of flowers, vegetables and other plants from April, don’t rush to buy too early. If you’re concerned, keep them under cover and don’t bring them out until after mid-May. A gardener must know how to be patient.



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