Home From the Magazine Gardening Superstations and Old Wives’ Tales

Gardening superstitions and old wives’ tales are often handed down from generation to generation. Many stories may be nothing more than outdated practices, but some truly mingle scientific foundations with old-fashioned good sense. For instance, your grandmother may have used coffee grounds to make her flowers bloom better, especially her roses and azaleas. Scientifically, low rainfall and alkaline soil are tough on acid-loving plants, and coffee grounds serve as both mulch and soil improver. One theory a relative of mine lived by was that “when the pecan tree sprouts leaves, there will be no more freeze.” I believe whole-heartedly that if the cows herd themselves up to a fence, bad weather or a mighty storm is coming. With grandparents who loved to garden, there were many “reasons” why they did the things they did when they did them. However, if you asked them why, their answers would likely lack much science. With spring and the gardening season just around the corner, I wondered how many of these old practices had reason and/or science behind them. Whether they’re steeped in good science or just good stories, what better place than our annual Home and Garden issue to share some of the best and most popular gardening superstitions and wives’ tales around. You might even learn a useful trick or two.

Signs to Plant By:

  • A south wind on Valentine’s Day means crop planted that day won’t freeze.
  • It’s best to sow potatoes during the dark nights of March.
  • If rows of sweet peas run north and south, the plants will blossom.
  • Sweet peas grow best when planted on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th).
  • The worst day to plant is on the 31st of any month.
  • If a pregnant woman plants any type of plant, it will grow well.
  • For plants that ripen underground, plant the seeds in the afternoon to achieve the best growth.
  • Planting seeds at noon means they will grow.

Weather Signs to Watch:

  • Excessive activity among birds and animals that lasts throughout the day predicts a bad change in the weather.
  • Large flocks of blackbirds hovering near the ground means bad weather is on the way.
  • Smoke that stays close to the ground means a change in the weather.
  • The 12 days after Christmas indicate the weather for each of the following months.
  • You will experience a wonderful crop if you receive early thunderstorms.

Signs of Rain:

  • When the crawfish hole has no mound around it and is flat, it’s going to rain.
  • Expect rain within three days if the half moon or the quarter moon tip points down.
  • A ring or “halo” around the moon means rain. The number of stars appearing between the “halo” and the moon indicates how many days it will rain.
  • Rain on Easter Sunday means rains for the next seven Sundays.
  • When spiders pin webs on a heavy dew, rain is on the way.

Signs of Frost:

  • Rosinweed blooms six weeks before the first frost.
  • A frost after March 15 won’t damage your garden.
  • A frost and a south wind will destroy your entire garden.
  • A frost occurring between a new moon and a full moon means your plants won’t need to worry about frostbite.
  • Stretch a piece of yard string over the row of your plants in early spring. The frost will then collected on the yard and not hurt your plants.
  • If the wind blows from the north and brings with it a heavy frost, it will not kill your plants.

Signs of a Cold/Hard Winter:

  • Thicker skins of sweet potatoes and onions.
  • Ears of corn with a heavy covering of silk.
  • Thick coat of fur on animals.
  • If spring flowers bloom again in the fall, expect a sorrowful winter.

Tips to Growing Beautiful Flowers:

  • In planting a fern, always put oats in the bottom of the pot.
  • Always transplant flowering plants in the light of the moon.
  • Always water your ferns from the bottom upward and never from the top down.
  • Blow tobacco smoke on your flowers and this will keep the bugs away from them.
  • Flowers planted in the light of the moon will be filled with blossoms.
  • If flowers are planted on “Green Thursday” (Maundy Thursday) you will get all kinds of colors.
  • Never water your flowers while the sun is shining or they will die.
  • Peony plants must not be moved except during the months of October and November.
  • Mash eggshells and let them stand in a jar of water. Then pour this liquid over your flowers to create beautiful blossoms.
  • If vining flowers are planted in the sign of the “fingers,” they will have long vines.
  • If you plant dahlias in early morning during the light of the moon, they will not bloom but grow to stalk.
  • If you want pansies to be beautiful and grow tall, plant them at 6 a.m. and always water them at 6 p.m.

Other Miscellaneous Gardening Advice:

  • To keep persimmon trees from spouting again, cut in the dark of the moon.
  • Carrying Mayflowers into the house will cause bad luck.
  • A bridal wreath blooming out of season is the sign of bad luck.
  • Never let myrtle grow around your house or you will have sickness and trouble in your house as long as it grows in your yard.
  • Putting fertilizer on the ground by moonlight will prevent its decomposition, and the fertilizer will do no good.
  • If you hear a turtledove coo on New Year’s Day, it is a prediction that all crops will be good for the coming year.
  • Placing rusty nails or old irons around your plants will help them grow.
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