Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Planting Time

Subsistence Garden
(courtesy Rootsweb)

Warmer temperatures, longer daylight in the evenings, bugs beginning to hum through the air...all of these can only mean one thing. Spring has fully arrived and summer is quickly approaching.

This time of year always brings up thoughts and discussion about the coming growing season. My family, like many Appalachians, has always put out a sizeable garden every year, and it is always amusing to hear all the theories surrounding when to plant, what to plant, and most importantly, under what signs everything should occur.

I still get reports through phone conversations with mamaw and dad going round and round about these details, vigorously supporting their own ideas, theories and experiences. These conversations always abound with the many factors that have to be considered when planting: the lunar calendar, the zodiac, the different "winters" such as dogwood and blackberry, the 10th of May spell. Take for instance this tidbit of wisdom:
Potatoes should be planted by the light of a full moon. No matter how deeply planted during other phases, they will rise to the surface of the soil and be sunburned during the day.

Though I've never been an expert at such things, I always find myself listening to these conversations with child-like fascination. While I don't know that this is uniquely an Appalachian practice, many old-timers I know swear by it and don't touch the ground until they've consulted a calendar.

Several books and resources on the web touch on the topic, and are listed below:


The Foxfire Series, an authority on this and many other things Appalachian

Astrological Gardening: The Ancient Wisdom of Successful Planting & Harvesting by the Stars


Appalachian Traveller

Agricultural Forecasting; the Methodologies of Appalachia Farming and Maya Agriculture - Appalachian State University
A particulary interesting link.

Gardening by the Moon

Nature Almanac

It also applies to canning, for those inclined:

Catching Summer in a Mason Jar - Appalachian Voice


Mike Mason said...

You know, I was just thinking about the Foxfire series this afternoon, thinking about when to put in some fence posts and plant some taters. Good timing Mr. Peters!

Byron Chesney said...

When I was in the 8th grade waaay back in the 80's, we spent one whole semester learning from the Foxfire series books. Out of all of my years of schooling, that's the class that I remember the most from. I've still got my old Foxfire 2 book and still to this day I read from it.
Oh, and speaking of taters...I was always the one that got stuck with hilling the taters when we planted. Nowadays I pretty much just buy them at the IGA.

the Contrary Goddess said...

naw naw naw! Ya plant taters when the moon is waxing. Plant on full and they will lay on top of the ground. Plant on dark and they will be so deep you can't dig them. Plant on waning and they will go deep. So plant on waxing.

Hard corn (you do plant hard corn for your corn bread, don't you?) is planted when the dogwood's leaves are the size of squirrel ears.

And forget that stuff about not putting out until May 10. Good gosh almighty, we've had salads since the first of May.

I just came across this quote in Jared Diamond's book Collapse today to add to my favorites: "My highland friends who spent their childhood years away from their village to pursue an education found, on returning to the village, that they were incompetent at farming their family gardens because they had missed out on mastering a large body of complex knowledge."

Jeremy Peters said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeremy Peters said...

Sounds like you've got the signs down proper, and the art of persuasion that is necessary in educating others of their value.

That's a good quote. One that definitely applies to me and many others. I'm definitely planning on getting out in the garden the next time I'm home!