Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Zimni Ogrodnicy (Chilly Gardeners)

Last night at 9.15pm, saying goodbye to friends after the Pilates class, we remarked how chilly it was . . . "There's going to be proper frost tonight!" one friend called as I got into my car to drive home. On the way back along the dark country lanes joining Cambridgeshire to Suffolk, I could hear my Dad saying "Have you earthed up your potatoes and covered the strawberry flowers?" – for years I always checked with my Dad when I should sow seeds or plant things out; I didn't bother to remember for myself. Then one day he was no longer there to ask . . . over the past 10 years the wise gardening advice he gave has gradually re-surfaced in my memory.

I parked my car and remembered that months ago I'd bought a roll of protective fleece for a very cheap price at QD in Newmarket, it was in my office. In the dark I went out to the vegetable garden, after making sure I'd zipped up the cloche covering the courgettes, I unrolled the fleece and anchored it in place over the flowering strawberry plants.


I grabbed a handy trowel and flicked soil over any newly emerged potato leaves (the ginger studio assistant arrived and tried to help!). It felt cruel to cover lovely soft leaves with dirt – but without protection the leaves would be black and crinkled by morning.


I also moved our rather scruffy looking lemon tree into the greenhouse – there are lots of new tender leaves and flower buds appearing. One of the heated propogators is still plugged in, warming the germinating Achocha seeds, and giving just enough heat to the greenhouse to keep night-time temperatures well above freezing.


Early this morning I read in yesterday's Times about the 'Ice Saints' or "Eismänner": Saints Mamertus, Pancras, Servatius and Boniface whose feast days traditionally bring frost from May 11 to May 14. Farmers in Germany and Northern Europe knew that it was not safe to plant crops until the saints had done their work. I'd never heard of them before, although it fits with our proverb "Ne'er cast a clout 'til May be out" – don't take your vest off until the Hawthorn blossom (May) is blooming.

A search on the web unearthed the Chilly Gardeners or Zimni Ogrodnicy in Polish. Zimni Ogrodnicy, even the sound make you shiver! Four saints of the catholic church in Poland: St Pancras, (Pankracy 12 May), St Servatus (Serwacy 13 May), St Boniface (Bonifacy 14 May) and St Sophia (Zofia 15 May). Traditionally in Poland these four days are usually accompanied by a sudden cold snap after the first few weeks of beautiful spring weather.

I think I've got the message, I'll be out there tonight, rolling out the fleece and earthing up the spuds again. Zimni Ogrodnicy . . . the Icemen cometh!

18 comments:

  1. He cameth here too! Even with fleece, one of the tomatoes in the greenhouse has suffered Crinckly Leaf Syndrome. I think it will live though. Tonight is forecast for another sharp frost.

    I've never heard of the Ice Saints though. I shall bear them in mind for future years!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Due to get another sharp(er) frost tonight, one forecast I saw this morning said it could be down to -4 in my part of NW Norfolk! Shiver me timbers!!! Poor plants... not even sure I shall bother uncovering the courgettes and beans this morning as it's wet and cold, and I don't fancy being exposed to it, let alone the plants!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Had a familial chuckle, Celia. When I lived in sub-tropical regions (near Brisbane, Qld) I used yo keep my "frost covers" out until September. I remember driving home from theatre rehearsals, feeling the chill and putting up my frost covers before went indoors.
    Hope your spuds and berries survive!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Just when you thought it was safe! We are having the opposite - strangely hot days amidst a run of cold ones. I drag all my warm things to Sydney and sweat all day. Looking forward (as always) to seeing your garden in spring while ours are wintery. We had complete disaster with our spuds this year, very disappointing but our own silly fault for experimenting. Lovely to always have a studio assistant or under gardener on hand to help!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh burrr! The hubby luckily bought rolls of fleece yesterday and they quickly went on our tender plants - everything else is still in cold frames or under cloches.
    Love the Ice Saints info - new to me too xxx

    ReplyDelete
  6. Good job you listened to your instincts. I heard a warning on the radio but I think we escaped the worse of it.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I sympathize. In New Mexico, because of the high desert environment, May is still rather tricky. We are prone to frosts and punishing winds during the early part of this month. A week ago, one of our small peach trees lost half of its new leaves and buds due to a storm.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I forgot my strawberries were out!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Well done! We haven't been so organised and went to the allotment this evening to find shrivelled courgettes and potatoes. Oh dear!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Why oh why didn't I listen properly to the forecast - there was frost on the grass this morning and I am a bit worried about my veggies!

    ReplyDelete
  11. How odd, I only heard of the ice saints yesterday too, but not from a newspaper, rather an on-line friend who lives in Germany.

    ReplyDelete
  12. i love the eismanner--i will defiantely tuck that ways to remember next year! :) the same timeline is here in southern connecticut: plant before mother's day, pay the price of tender plants to the frost. next year i will also take care to put seedlings in larger peatpots & a bit later in the year starting...

    ReplyDelete
  13. Your words are ringing in my ears! I came home from dog training class at 11.30pm on Tuesday night, got into bed and then remembered I had forgotten to bring my tomatoes into the greenhouse on the allotment. Grrrrr

    ReplyDelete
  14. When we lived in Switzerland this sunny South African was introduced to the Eisheiligen, the Ice Saints. The date is forgotten, but you remind me. My Swiss friend said today they are having to heat, and she is still wearing winter pullovers.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I too have been taking things in and out of the greenhouse all week, but I didn't thing to cover the flowers on the strawberries though, so I hope they'll be ok. thanks for the warnings.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I think my Polish must be better than I thought-as I was spared frost damage without fleece.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Thanks for the warning, didn't think about my strawberry flowers!
    Debbie

    ReplyDelete

I love reading all the comments (except for spam and advertising which I will delete) and I'll reply here in the comments under each blog post, it may take a few days if I'm busy.
You don't need to have a blog to leave a comment, you can select the name/URL option and fill in just your name instead of a blog link.
And, I've turned off that annoying word verification malarkey, to make it easy for you :-)