Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Garden Superstitions: Are You A Beliver?


Garden Superstitions: Are You A Believer?

By Catherine Castle


Photo by Catherine Castle (c)


Gardening is in my blood. My grandparents on my mother’s side were country people with a farm and a garden in which Grandma frequently enlisted me to help pick the vegetables for dinner. I can’t say how much I picked, but I have fond memories of running up and down the rows of vegetables she so neatly planted in the large, fenced-in garden just beyond the outhouse. Much of what we ate at Grandma’s came from her garden, including the shucky beans we strung and hung in the rafters of the summer kitchen to dry.


My mother continued gardening when she moved away from her country home to the big city. Every one of our yards had a garden, usually a BIG garden. If the garden didn’t produce well, we would go to the local farm markets and come home with bushels of beans, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and every kind of fruit she could find. Then she canned them all for winter. She could have just gone to the store and bought frozen or pre-canned vegetables, but she didn’t. Gardening (and canning) was in her blood.


Being from the hills of Kentucky, my parents were a superstitious couple. Daddy wouldn’t give a knife as a gift, because it would cut the ties of the friendship. He wouldn’t dry his hand on a towel when anyone else was holding it, because the youngest person touching the towel would die first. He would drop that towel like a hot potato if I reached for it. And he hated Friday the thirteenth. He’d turn around and go the other way if he saw a black cat in his path. Spilt salt was always followed by throwing some over your shoulder to counteract the bad luck.


Mom had a few superstitions she followed, too. No opening umbrellas in the house (it was bad luck), and she always made sure we never brought an old broom into the new-to-us houses we moved into. I don’t remember as many of her superstitions as I do Daddy’s, but I do remember one garden superstition she followed religiously:  “Don’t thank someone for a plant they’ve given you, or it will die.” To this day, I heed that advice, skirting around the gifts with platitudes like “How nice of you to offer,” or “That would be lovely,” or I just explained I wouldn’t be thanking them and why. You’ll never hear the words, “Thank you,” pass my lips when I’m gifted with a plant. After all, who wants to kill a free plant?


Here are a few of the odder garden superstitions, or garden lore, or garden folk sayings I found that you might find interesting. I know I did.

·       The number of seeds in an apple will be your lucky number.

·       Plant potatoes at night so the eyes don't see light.

·       Planting peppers when you are mad makes the peppers grow hotter.

·       For a good crop of watermelons, crawl to the patch backwards on the first day of May.

·       A five-leaf clover brings bad luck.

·       If you point your finger at a cucumber bloom, the bloom will fall off.

·       For a better cabbage crop, sow the seeds in your bedclothes on March 17th.

·       If onion bulbs are planted upside down, they will come out in China.

·       Plant watermelons before breakfast for best results.

·       If two people's hoes hit together, they will work in the same field next year.

·     Always plant your potatoes and green beans on Good Friday. Why? Because it was believed to be the only day of the year when the devil was thought to be powerless. 

  • Today, thanks to modern gardening knowledge of soil temperatures and seed germination, we know what is the best time to plant seeds. But old-time gardeners didn’t have our modern advantages. So how did they know when it was safe to plant? They followed this old saying: “If you can sit on the ground with your trousers down, it’s safe to sow your seed”.

What about you? Do you have a favorite bit of gardening lore that you follow?




  1. I haven't heard any of these before. What fun.

    1. Thanks, Mary. Sorry for the late reply. I've been out of town and just remembered I had a post.

  2. Oh! I loved reading these garden superstitions and I wasn't familiar with most if them. My husband and I farmed for many years and tobacco and dairy were our main money "crops" and very time consuming so planting my garden was done when time allowed. No planting by the signs for us But Now, my husband always checks to see if it us a good time to plant. I've said many times that I would never have had a garden if I had waited on the signs all those years.
    Thanks for this great post!

    1. I never waited on the signs either, despite my superstitious upbringing. Thanks. For dropping by.

  3. How interesting! I hadn't heard many of these. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I found the five leaf clover one interesting. We fertilized our weedy lawn once and a bumper crop of five-leaf clovers popped up. I picked several and added them to my four-leaf collection. Can't say that I got any bad luck.

  4. I had heard the ones your parents used, but not the others. The only thing I can remember this second is that you don't pick cucumbers in the evening for they will be bitter if you do.

  5. Oooh. I need to add that to the list. Thanks!