Planting by the Signs in Appalachia

PlowingWhen I was a kid my father and one of the more mature ladies of the church would have pretty much the same “discussion” every spring. She believed strongly in planting by the signs and Dad was determined to convince her it was not only silly, but un-Christian to do so.

As far as I know, neither one ever came around to the other’s way of thinking. I suspect it would have spoiled the fun they had talking about it every spring.

There are still plenty of folk who plant by the signs in Appalachia. As I finish up the first round of edits on Miracle in a Dry Season I may even get Casewell to plant by the signs. He’s not superstitious, but it was very much a way of life in 1954 West Virginia.

Here’s a quick primer, in case you want to give it a try:

  • Plant ABOVE ground crops when the moon is waxing (getting bigger). Things like peas, lettuce, tomatoes, squash, etc.
  • Plant BELOW ground crops when the moon is waning (getting smaller). Things like potatoes, carrots, turnips, etc.

That’s the BASIC rule. Now, let’s look at the signs. Each month, the moon passes through each of the 12 signs of the Zodiac, which can be divided into four elements:

  • Water – Cancer, Pisces, Scorpio
  • Earth – Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
  • Fire – Leo, Ares, Sagittarius
  • Air – Gemini, Aquarius, Libra

Water and Earth are FERTILE elements while Fire and Air are BARREN elements. Generally speaking, you want to plant in one of the fertile signs and cultivate, prune, and harvest in the barren signs. Of course, you’ll also want to match the phase of the moon to the particular sign. (E.g. Plant potatoes in a fertile sign while the moon is waning.)

Of course there are a few caveats as well. NEVER plant on Sunday, a fiery, barren day. And don’t plant while the moon is full, new or in one of its quarters regardless of the sign.

Got it? Good, now go plant something. But only if it’s after the last frost date for your region. (FYI–You should plow a late snow into the soil–it’s known as poor man’s fertilizer.)

For more information (like the proper sign in which to set fence posts or shingle a roof) check out Planting by the Signs, a blog that calculates it all out for you.

6 thoughts on “Planting by the Signs in Appalachia

  1. Yup, grew up w/this for sure. Only they talked about things being in the chest, the arms, etc…I think that’s Farmer’s Almanac stuff? And now I think I planted my peas at the wrong time here…

  2. I love this. LOVE. IT. Years ago some old Tennessean I know had told me to always plant at the new moon or the full moon, and when I had my vegetable garden, I did. I see now there’s more to it than that.

  3. Melissa

    My father grew massive gardens for our little area and fed a lot of people from it. He and his parents always planted by the signs. My aunt even has her hair cut according to them so that her hair doesn’t grow as fast. I use her rule of not have a procedure, like a surgery, or dental work done when the sign is approaching or is in the sign of that part of the body. For instance, I do not have dental work done until the moon is in the chest or lower and it has worked. The one time I didn’t follow this, the tooth abscessed and I had to have major pain and repair. I thoroughly believe in it and it is not against my belief in God, as God created the moon and its sizes, regardless of what those creation hating, monkey loving folks say.

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