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The Mother’s Day Rule: Is There Any Truth To It?

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The Mother’s Day Rule: Is There Any Truth To It?

According to folklore, there are a lot of rules gardeners need to follow. Whether it’s planting on Good Friday or waiting until after Three Ice Men have passed to get your seedlings in the ground, lore and tradition have a lot of advice to impart, and many swear by these tidbits passed down from our ancestors for a successful, prolific garden. One popular bit of planting wisdom suggests that you hold off doing any planting until Mother’s Day, known appropriately as “The Mother’s Day Rule.” What is it, and is there any truth to it?

What is the Mother’s Day Rule?

The premise is simple—Mother’s Day falls on the second Sunday in May which, for many, the threat of frost has passed and it’s considered safe to get your garden started. It’s a good rule of thumb because as we all know, while the calendar may say spring, it doesn’t mean we’ll have spring temperatures in March and April (especially for those of us in the Northeast). If your tender plants go in the ground too early, when temperatures are still in the 20s and 30s at night, you’re setting yourself up for disaster.

Of course, those who live in warmer, arid climates have their own set of rules for when to plant, and much depends on the plant itself and its hardiness.

Plant Hardiness

Folklore aside, every successful gardener knows that understanding a plant’s hardiness (its ability to withstand cold conditions) is key. All plants have different levels of hardiness; some grow well in cold weather while others need the soil to be nice and cozy warm. Refer to the growing information on each seed packet (or greenhouse label) before getting started. Check the USDA’s Hardiness Zones map here.

So while the Mother’s Day Rule is a good one, it’s really more of a Mother’s Day “guideline.” We all know Mother Nature can be fickle, no matter what part of the country you live in, and it’s not unheard of to have a freak snowstorm as late as May. But for the most part, the second Sunday in May is a safe time, temperature-wise.

Gardening by the Moon

If you follow the rules for planting by the Moon (independent of weather conditions), you’ll want to check the Farmers’ Almanac’s Gardening by the Moon calendar, which provides the key dates for gardening chores and planting tasks based on phases of the Moon. Many people swear by this method as well. So with the guidance of the Farmers’ Almanac and a little bit of wisdom from the ages, here’s hoping your garden is abundant this year.

Do you follow the Mother’s Day Rule when it comes to your garden? Tell us in the comments below.

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9 comments

1 Albert Lively { 05.12.19 at 6:11 am }

Charlot Ray, the pecan tree rule works for Texas too.

2 Ellie { 05.10.19 at 10:41 am }

The Plains of Eastern Colorado had a snow on May 9th this 2019 and there may be more next week following Mother’s Day. In the early 1980s there was three days of snow which forced the cancellation of school the very last three days of the school year.

3 Mary { 05.09.19 at 2:09 pm }

My mom always planted the sunflower seed on mothers day/my birthday. The other plants for the garden last weekend of May the first weekend of June.

4 P Dubb { 05.09.19 at 7:44 am }

I live in northern Va. I have heeded the siren call of spring from the gardening centers a few time and dumped the Mother’s Day rule only to have my beauties wacked by that one cold night in the last gasp of winter. I’m now a true believer and can walk through the garden centers in late April and early May and just enjoy the colors.

5 CJ { 05.09.19 at 12:02 am }

I live in southwest Colorado. I can plant seeds in my garden about the 3rd week of May. But we always have a late frost so plants don’t go in until after my hubby’s birthday which is June 9th.

6 Jeannine { 05.08.19 at 12:25 pm }

Climate change is moving these old traditions around a lot. Where I live in east central Missouri, hard frosts used to be fairly common in April. I no longer have any qualms putting out tomato and pepper plants before May 1. My 94 year old mother even said she was shocked that she could see the changing climate in her lifetime.

7 Susan Murray { 05.08.19 at 9:05 am }

I live in Colorado and have learned over years to wait until even the end of May. Everyone gets excited for warmer weather,but you can’t force mother nature!

8 Bonita Cravens { 05.08.19 at 7:45 am }

My Mother and Grandmother both . Planted by the zodaic signs . so do I.

9 Charlot Ray { 05.08.19 at 7:08 am }

I live in Mississippi. A rule that my grandmother taught me: There will not be a freeze after the pecan trees bud out. this has been true for the 70 years of my life. It has gotten cold — down to the low 30s but never (so far) have we had a freeze or a frost after they bud out.

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