116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Every year, I get asked about the legend of the Three Kings. With global warming, maybe it will become a thing of the past, but for now, we'll stick with tradition.
The Three Kings, or Three Frozen Kings, is a Czech legend that serves as a warning to protect tender plants against a possible late frost.
I've heard various forms, but this one was told to me several years ago by Olga Drahozal of Cedar Rapids.
The story says the three kings or saints (Pankrac on May 12, Servac on May 13 and Bonifac on May 14) were frozen when the temperature 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 was brought to Iowa by Czech immigrants, who found Iowa similar to their home country.
What does it mean?
Basically, if you live in Iowa, it's a good idea to wait until May 15 to plant your tomatoes, peppers and other tender vegetables, or at least provide them with some protection in case overnight temperatures drop below freezing.
The last average frost date can vary, depending on the source. In northeast Iowa, some sources say the last average frost date is May 10. East-central Iowa is April 30, and southeast Iowa is April 20. With the weather we've been having, those dates seem late. We'll have to see if we've passed the last frost here already.
A U.S. Climatography report placed northern Iowa, around Decorah, with a last average frost date of May 26; central Iowa, around the Cedar Rapids area, at May 13 and southern Iowa, around Ottumwa, at May 3. Climatologists say the average can vary, even within the same county. The last frost date might be a week later in low-lying areas or a week earlier on hilltops.