Appalachian Thursday – Spring Planting (by the signs)

produceIt’s finally March and while we still have redbud, dogwood, and blackberry winters to go (at a minimum), country folks are thinking about plowing the garden.

When 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 rehashing the subject every spring.

There are still plenty of folk who plant by the signs in Appalachia. Here’s a quick primer, in case you want to give it a try this year:

  • 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.)

There are also rules about the proper sign in which to set fence posts, cut your hair, shingle a roof, or do just about anything, but we won’t get into that. And you can always check out the Farmer’s Almanac, which has planting days all figured out for you!

FYI – Today is a good day to get in your root crops, but tomorrow is a barren day–a good time to get in some pruning!

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