Micro-Season: “The Frost Stops the Rice Grows” (2023)

We have entered the micro-season of “The Frost Stops the Rice Grows .” This is the second micro-season of the mini-season of Grain Rain. All the micro-seasons within Grain Rain are:

  • The First Reeds Grow (Apr 20 – Apr 24)
  • The Frost Stops the Rice Grows (Apr 25 – Apr 29)
  • The Tree Peony Flowers (Apr 30 – May 04)

The micro-seasons were established in 1685 by Japanese astronomer Shibukawa Shunkai. While they are specific to Japan, they can be useful to people all over the world. No matter where you live, you can use these seasons as a starting point for your own exploration of the natural world.

To celebrate this season we will learn about how to prepare a paddy for seedlings and then read seasonal haiku by Basho, Issa, Buson, and Reichhold.

A Bit About Rice

When we use the term “rice” we are talking about the seed of a grass species from the genus Oryza in the Poaceae family.  Oryza sativa, which is more commonly known as Asian Rice, is the primary domesticated species of rice. Oryza glaberrima, or African rice, is the second most commonly grown species.  The term “Wild Rice” is sometimes used for grasses from the genera Zizania and Porteresia, or it may be used for primitive versions of Oryza sativa.(1)

Rice was first domesticated for human use in China along the Yangtze River around 8000 BCE.(2) It is suspected that rice traveled west with traders and travelers in the 15th or 16th century.  

Before Planting Rice

Before planting any rice seedlings, a farmer must prepare the rice field or paddy. Preparing the paddy takes multiple steps and it starts with primary tillage.

Primary Tillage

The first step in preparing a rice paddy is plowing the field.  The purpose of this step is to break up the soil and make it suitable for sowing seeds.

Secondary Tillage

After the initial plowing is done, a secondary process known as harrowing is performed. Harrowing breaks up the soil clods, cuts up the weeds, and mixes in new organic matter to support rice growth.  Harrowing should be completed three times.

  • The first harrowing is at 14 days before transplanting or sowing rice.
  • The second harrowing is completed 7 days before transplanting or sowing rice.
  • The third harrowing is at 1‐2 days before transplanting or sowing rice.


Leveling the paddy is completed after the third harrowing. The field is leveled so that water can flow evenly throughout the field.  Farmers may level a field by pulling a wooden plank across the field or by sight.  During the leveling process, farmers may also construct canals for proper drainage and irrigation. It is said that “proper leveling of the field solves more than 50% of the problems in rice production.”(4)

After the tillage and the leveling, the rice seedlings can be planted. 


Flooding of the paddy can happen during or after the seedlings are planted. Since rice is a semi-aquatic plant, the seedlings need to be wet in order to grow.  It is recommended that you flood your paddy with about two inches of water above the soil level and then monitor the paddy drainage so the water doesn’t drain too quickly. (2)

It will take about six months for rice to go from seedling to harvest. 

What about the Frost?

In this season, we also notice that we have reached the end of the frost.  Frost occurs when the temperatures on outside surfaces drop below the dew point.  This allows water vapor that is suspended in the air to turn into liquid.  Then, as the temperature continues to drop below the freezing point, the water will freeze into ice crystals. These ice crystals are called frost.  When the temperatures get this low, the water that is also found in the plant tissues may freeze and can damage the plant tissue or even kill the plant.

To prevent potential frost damage to crops, farmers have developed systems to identify the last frost dates for their region. These dates are calculated by examining historical weather data to predict future weather patterns. However, it’s essential to remember that these are just estimates.  The Farmers’ Almanac estimates that there is a 30% chance that the freeze dates will fall outside the predicted dates.   

Seasonal Haiku

According to the World Kigo Database, there are a few late spring “frost” references including “last frost”, “parting frost”, “end of frost”, and “damage of frost”.  This last kigo references what happens when a farmer plants a little bit too early. 

In The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words as selected by Kenkichi Yamamoto, we also find “tilling a paddy”, “tilling a field”, and “sowing, planting seed” as related kigo. In Jane Reichhold’s  A Dictionary of Haiku we find the kigo of “planting” and “plowing” that also fit nicely with this season. 

With all this in mind, let’s read some haiku.


Beginning of poetry – 
the rice-planting songs
of the Interior. 
(translated by Haruo Shirane

This is one of my favorite haiku. I first came across a version of this haiku in Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches as translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa.  In that book, the haiku is translated as:

The first poetic venture
I came across–
The rice-planting songs
Of the far north

Another verse found in Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches that fits this season is:

The busy hands
Of rice-planting girls
Reminiscent somehow
Of the old dyeing technique

Here is another translation of this haiku

The way they pick up seedlings
Reminiscent of the old art -
Designing with shinobu dye. 
(translated by Takafumi Saito & William R. Nelson)


mountain village--
every day, day after day
the last frost
(translated by David G. Lanoue)
rainy day--
alone and diligent
planting rice
(translated by David G. Lanoue)


Scattered petals 
lie on rice-seedling waters; 
bright is the starlit sky. 
(translated by H. G. Henderson

Jane Reichhold

such a spring day
dad spades his garden
wherever he is

A Haiku Invitation

This week’s haiku invitation is to write a haiku or senryu that references spring planting or spring gardening

Share your haiku in the comments below, or post on your own page and link back to this post. I can’t wait to read what you write!  


  1. “Rice”; Wikipedia
  2. “How to Grow Rice: A Guide to Growing Rice”; MasterClass.com
  3. “Cultivation Practices: Main Field Preparation”; TNAU 
  4. “How to Prepare the Rice Field”; PinoyRice.com
  5. “Frost”: National Geographic’s Resource Library
  6. “Frost Dates”: The Almanac

 Basho’s haiku was retrieved from Matsuo Bashō’s haiku poems in romanized Japanese with English translations and  Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel sketches translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa.  Buson’s haiku was retrieved from “Haiku of Yosa Buson Organized by Rōmaji, in alphabetical order; translated into English, French, Spanish” Terebess Asia Online (TAO). Issa’s haiku was retrieved from David G. Lanoue’s HaikuGuy.com.  Jane Reichhold’s Haiku retrieved from A Dictionary of Haiku


61 thoughts on “Micro-Season: “The Frost Stops the Rice Grows” (2023)

Add yours

    1. Thanks for joining the conversation about the seasons and adding your haiku! I hope you have a good weekend and can enjoy the sun. Thanks again!

    1. Yes, the last frost date is very dependent on your location. That is why they suggest that the last frost date is just an estimate and there is a 30% chance it will fall outside of that date.

    1. Hi Ashely, I think we are almost there! We still fire up the woodstove overnight to keep the chill out, but it the mornings are getting a little warmer. I hope all is well!

    1. Hi Marjorie, Thanks for adding to this season! I agree that the use of harrowing is great. Well done! Have a great weekend and thanks again!

      1. Wow, I so enjoyed reading everyone’s responses to your challenge. What a fun way to learn. Thank you Mark & to all the contributors. Fun to wonder if the chipmunks set up their own roadside stand. Everyone have a great weekend. 🙂 m

    1. Hi Mary Jo, What a fun haiku for the season! I have definitely had that situation before. It’s usually deer instead of rabbits. Nevertheless, it has happened to me. Thanks for sharing!

  1. mom’s garden
    soaking sweet corn seeds
    to plump them up

    This week’s season brought me so many memories of helping mom with her many many gardens in New Mexico. She never failed to have corn. The process was so extensive, and I hated most of it. Though I never complained when we had fresh corn on the cob in the summer.

    1. Wonderful memories, Eavonka. Our only attempt at growing sweet corn ended in a massacre. It was growing well, ears just about ready to pick. One morning we went out to check whether we could have corn on the cob that evening only to find that raccoons must have climbed the fence (or through the fence) and ate nearly every ear and trampled the few that weren’t quite ready for harvesting. We were devastated. Fortunately, our farmer’s market supplied corn.

      1. Hi Lafcadio, Great additions to this week’s prompt! Much like Mary Jo’s haiku about the rabbit, here we have another instance of the struggle between farmer and all the other beings that reside on the land. Thanks for sharing!

      2. Thank you Mark. I loved this week’s post about planting rice! Fascinating!

        Yes planted a huge flower pot full of tulip bulbs and the little cute chipmunks ate every one. Between squirrels and chipmunks weeds are the most successful crop.

      3. Oh no! What a tragedy! I remember there being some years where things went all wrong, and it was always heartbreaking. Gardening can be so hard, but then again, so wonderful.

    2. Hi Eavonka, Thanks so much for the narrative that accompanies your haiku. I don’t know a lot about planting sweet corn and the process, so this peaks my interest. I hope you have a good weekend and thanks for sharing!

  2. Wonderful post, Mark. Once again, I have learned so much; I never knew the process of planting and (what it took to) grow rice.

    spring planting
    dandelion seeds found
    in the colt’s tail
    ~Nancy Brady, 2021
    published in Stardust Haiku #53 5/2021

    helicopter parent…
    helping her daughter
    plant maple seeds
    ~Nancy Brady

    spring planting…
    sowing seeds
    of discontent
    ~Nancy Brady


      1. Thanks, Eavonka. I rather feel like that myself. I think it was published somewhere, but for whatever reason I couldn’t find my note on it. ~nan

    1. I am really enjoying the “helicopter parent” haiku! I think this is because I really enjoyed tossing the maple seeds in the air as a young kid and watching them spin down.

    1. Hi Jules, thanks for sharing and linking up. Another solid offering of haiku and American sentence pairs. If this isn’t already an established poetry trend, I think you might be on to something. Its like a micro haibun, or a mirroring of two forms of English language haiku.

      1. I like mixing up short forms. Creating something new… I don’t have a clue if anyone has done the pairs as I have. Or if I started them just for your prompts… I’d have to look 😉

        Looks like the first ones for you were in early March. But I might have done others but not labeld them as such. 😀

    1. Hi Shelley, You have perfectly captured the spring fever that overtakes so many gardeners! Thanks so much for joining the conversation. Have a great weekend.

  3. Presenting a sequence of Senryu in a rhyming form that references spring planting.

    Garden gloves on tight,
    Digging into soil just right,
    New life in plain sight.

    Rows of seeds in ground,
    Sprouts reach up without a sound,
    Earth’s secrets unbound.

    Water, sun, and love,
    Nurturing like a mom dove,
    Harvest from above.

    Fresh greens on the plate,
    Nature’s gift, what a great fate,
    Spring planting, just great!

    1. Hi Pankaj, Thanks for sharing this collection of verse. My favorite lines are “earth’s secrets unbound” and “Spring planting, just great!”. Thanks again for adding to this week’s discussion!

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