Early Settlers of
Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Planting by the signs
In this time of vernal equinox when days grow longer, fresh warm breezes stir the budding trees, and the sun's rays paint nature with golden newness, we who had the privilege of growing up on a farm have a built-in system that hears the call of overturned soil to plant seeds into rows and watch the miracle of growth.
The "preacher" in Old Testament days exclaimed: "To everything there is a season...a time to plant...(Eccl. 3: 1-2).
And when the story of creation was recorded in Genesis, the writer declared that the lights created in the firmament would divide day from night and "be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years" (Genesis 1:14b).
I grew up on a farm that produced well for our family and others with whom we shared our bounty. We sold that beyond our needs for money we used to purchase things not produced on the farm, for improvements to the farm, and for those annual taxes on the land.
My father planted and harvested by "the signs." He believed in them, and the astronomical calculations presented either in "The Old Farmer's Almanac" (in continuous publication since about 1796) or "Grier's Almanac" founded by a Georgian, Robert Grier, and in continuous publication since 1807. These references were frequently consulted at our house. But what is more, through using the signs and his own expertise as a farmer, the results of his efforts proved that, combined, the system worked.
I wish I had listened more closely to him and my other relatives who planted by the signs. Was this system just superstition, or was there wisdom in their assiduous following of the Zodiac to plant and harvest?
I did a little "googling"(you who are computer internet users will know this is researching via internet). I was amazed at the plethora of sights that lauded "moon gardening" or "planting and harvesting by the signs." Likewise, the two almanacs my father used faithfully when I was a child have numerous sites to applaud their still sought after wisdom.
In tracing the history of lunar cycles and "signs" for doing ordinary tasks of daily living, I discovered that texts have been uncovered for this astronomical knowledge as far back as 8,000 years, or when the earth was in the waning stages of the Ice Age. Moreover, the various civilizations, from the ancient Sumerians, the Mayas, the Chinese, the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome, the Highland Scots and the native American Cherokee (who were farmers, as well) had knowledge of and practiced signs.
Was it folklore or is there authenticity in "moon gardening"?
It should not surprise us of the twenty-first century that scientific discoveries have authenticated the subtle interactions between sun, moon and planet earth. Our ancestors were not practicing superstition, but proven methods of gaining the best results through working with Nature. After all, had the account of creation not said that in the firmament of light there were "signs" for "seasons...days...years?"
Planting by the signs can be extremely complicated. But the simplest method is to think of the phases of the moon as "waxing" (or growing from a sliver at the new moon to the full moon, first and second quarters) and "waning" (third and fourth quarters as it grows to a sliver in its last quarter). In its 29-day journey around the earth, the moon passes through all twelve signs of the Zodiac. The signs are divided into four "elemental" groups, either water (Cancer, Pisces, and Scorpio), earth (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn), fire (Leo, Aries, Sagittarius) or air (Gemini, Aquarius, Libra). The "fertile" signs are when the elements of water and earth are in the ascendancy. The "barren" signs are in the periods of fire and air.
Above-ground crops (or those producing harvest on plants above-ground) are planted in the waxing (or growing) stage of the moon. Among these are peas, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage and the like. Underground crops (such as potatoes, beets, radishes and carrots) should be planted when the moon is waning.
Even though you, as I, do not have many elderly forebears still alive to consult for a lesson on "planting by the signs," we can still purchase handy references, the well-known almanacs like "Grier's" and "Old Farmer's." Or we can access interesting articles on internet that show this long-ago practice of "seeking the signs." Again this method is in great favor among present-day gardeners. Away back in 1562, a man by the name of Thomas Tusser wrote in his "500 points of Goode Husbandry":
"Sow pease and beanes in the dark of the moone,
Who soweth them sooner, he soweth too soon;
That they with the planet may rest and arise,
And flourish with bearing most plentifully and wise."
And remember, too, that Good Friday, especially in the afternoon of that day, is a good day for planting. Best wishes, gardeners. May your "green thumb" follow the signs.
Dyer Jones is a retired educator, freelance writer, poet, and
historian. She may be reached at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; phone
478-453-8751; or mail 1708 Cedarwood Road, Milledgeville, GA