Every year, the Spring Equinox brings back memories of Grandaddy’s garden and the care he put into it. It is around this time of year that the garden would be prepped for a bountiful summer harvest.
Each morning after Grandmommie had prepared a hearty breakfast of biscuits, sweet milk gravy, and a strong cup of coffee, Granddaddy would strike out, ready to begin the day, but never before checking the Bennett-May Funeral Home calendar.
It held keys to daily tasks. Granddaddy was a firm believer in the information found on that calendar, which noted, along with other activities, tips on “planting by the signs.”
The calendar signaled him to plant crops at different times in the monthly astrological cycle. He followed the signs, not by their astrological names but by the corresponding body parts that were associated with them. For example, Aries is the head; Taurus is the neck; Gemini (the twins) is the arms; Pisces is the feet; and Leo is the heart. In all of these signs, there are certain characteristics associated with planting.
The head and neck, Aries and Taurus, are considered to be the only fair signs for planting. Virgo, the bowels, is a bad sign for planting any fruits and vegetables; plants begun in this sign produce blooms but no fruit. On the other hand, Leo is a good sign since the heart is often associated with love and all things good. Still at the same time, the heart has been considered the worst of times to plant, but a good time to kill weeds or bugs.
The phases of the moon were also found on the Bennett-May calendar. Planting by the moon is how the lunar cycle affects plant growth. Just as the moon’s gravitational pull creates the tides of the ocean, it also creates more moisture in the soil, which encourages germination and growth.
One would plant flowering bulbs and perennial flowers, onions, carrots and potatoes (vegetables that bear crops below ground) during the dark or waning of the moon. This is the day after the moon is full to the day before it is new again.
Planting annual flowers, corn, tomatoes and zucchini (fruits and vegetables that bear crops above ground) would be during the light or waxing of the moon. This is the day when the moon is new until the day it is full.
The combination method of astrological signs and the phases of the moon created perfect times to do all farming chores. The care and maintenance of the garden was no easy task. In early spring when the signs were just right, Granddaddy would plow, disk and rake the garden and then lay it off in rows. The garden would be left until after the last frost around May 1st when the signs were just right; a signal that it was time to plant.
I can remember Granddaddy looking at the calendar and saying, “This is the day to sow the corn and bean seeds because the sign is in the arm.” Over time, I became more aware of these signs as family members and friends made use of them.
Daddy recalls a time when Grandma and Papa Rose were discussing when to kill hogs. I can hear my Papa say, “Now, Ethel, it is too warm, and the flies will take over this place.” Grandma was following the signs and replied that the next day would be “the day.” As it turned out, the next morning was indeed very cold and perfect for killing hogs. Grandma followed the signs in all that she did.
A friend of the family, Mrs. Parker was knowledgeable of the signs and would not even get her hair cut unless the signs were indicating the correct time. Many would say it was devilish to believe in the signs, but both the Johnsons and the Roses were faithful believers and took this information passed on to them as the gospel. They knew there was a higher power.
What may sound strange to this generation has been practiced since ancient times. I am thankful for the knowledge my grandparents passed along to me and believe that it might not hurt to consult The Old Farmer’s Almanac occasionally.