The expression "Patchy Frost" which was
flung around during the course of yesterday's weather conversations
provided gardeners in parts of Kentucky with an opportunity to reach far
into memory for precedent and understanding.
In Northern Virginia I worked a garden which had for
its owner a person who insisted upon doing nothing but ground preparation
until May 20th. I thought this person staid and without that sense
of adventure sometimes required for a good garden. The garden had
traditional places for traditional things. The process was
robotic. And I would move this or that seedling two inches or three
inches to the left at my peril.
I once suggested we consider planting out earlier in
May, and I was informed that May 20th was "last frost". I
was a newcomer and I accepted this as lore even though without question I
thought the owner of the garden a fuddy-duddy, because daytime
temperatures appeared to be close to the 90's.
Then some years later on a May 1st I saw a cold snap
do away with the Iris bloom. It was the beginning of my understanding
of continental land mass and weather extremes. I also had that
opportunity to understand better why some in the British Isles consider
their dreadful weather perfect for the gardener.
In the British Isle, Tomatoes are grown under glass,
and you are lucky to get a ripe one by the end of August. Cucumbers
are considered exotic and are mostly imported. Squash is a concentrate
to which one adds water to make a refreshing drink. Corn is
wheat. Britain has no hot weather crop, so "Patchy Frost" in
May results in a shrug and an extra beer, followed by a little finger
The comrade who lives too far away, remarked to the
wife that 'old timers' had a rule, "thunderstorm in February, frost in
May". A remark which would challenge the English imagination, not
because of the "Frost in May" part, but because of the
"Thunderstorm in February" part. A circumstance that would
keep children home from school, and possibly a question or two in the House
Here in Kentucky there was solemn-ness at the kitchen
window this morning, but "Patchy Frost" was nowhere to be seen.