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Old Wisdom

March 15th, 2014

As I look out my window and more snow and ice that fell on Wed/Thurs, I’m thankful that I waited a little later than usual to start my seedlings.  I had a feeling that spring would be long in coming.
snow (1)
I’ve been thinking a lot about the old wisdom that told you to plant things when other natural elements were at a certain stage (aka phenology). This is much better than the current “8 weeks before last frost” that most gardening books and seed packets give.
A few that I have heard are:
“Sow corn when the oak leaves are the size of mouse’s ears”
“Once the forsythia are in bloom, it’s time to direct sow your cool-season crops in the vegetable garden. These include: spinach, lettuce, peas, carrots, chard, beets, and radishes.”
“Plant potatoes when the first dandelions bloom”
“Plant tomatoes when lily-of-the-valley are in full bloom”

What planting wisdom have you heard?

12 Comments to “Old Wisdom”
  1. Michael on March 15, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    My friend Hal told me that his grandmother, who lived into her nineties here in Dallas County, wouldn’t ever plant tomatoes or peppers until the bois d’arc trees leafed out. She had seen a lot of other trees and bushes get tricked by a late frost – but the bois d’arc had never gotten fooled. I’ve followed that ever since, and haven’t been disappointed.

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  2. Joan on March 15, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    I’ve been wanting to learn more about these old pieces of wisdom for a while – they seem much more accurate than just a date. Unfortunately I don’t know many – the oak leaves/mouse ears one is the only one I hear consistently. Now you’ve made me curious and I’m going to have to search for more and write them down so I remember them!

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  3. bonnie k. on March 15, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    I’ve heard a similar bit of wisdom for corn–oak leaves the size of a squirrel’s ear. Also my folks usually planted potatoes on Good Friday and dug them on the 4th of July. Even though the date of Good Friday could vary quite a bit, this seemed to work out for them.

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    • Myra S. on March 16, 2014 at 9:50 am

      I’ve always heard potatoes on Good Friday too, and St. Patrick’s as well. My grandmother planted by moon phases but I’m not sure what seeds when. It must have worked out, they always had a good harvest.

      Reply to Myra S.'s comment

    • kristin @ going country on March 16, 2014 at 4:32 pm

      Planting corn when the ash leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear was in “Farmer Boy.” Remember that? When Almanzo and Alice argue about if a baby squirrel is a squirrel?

      I perhaps have read those books a time too many . . .

      Reply to kristin @ going country's comment

  4. Angie on March 15, 2014 at 11:36 pm

    These are the first I’ve heard. You’ve certainly piqued my curiosity. Older adages have a lot of wisdom and truth to them.

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  5. Nebraska Dave on March 16, 2014 at 8:48 am

    Susy, I’m currently reading through the Foxfire series that I found while cleaning out my basement. The first book is loaded with information about when to plant from gardeners that were in their 70s and 80s in the early 1970s. So they had been gardening more years than I am alive and I’m pretty old. :0)

    Yeah, we woke up this morning to a nice white blanket of snow on the ground, temperature of 23, and a tree pollen alert. Welcome to Spring in Nebraska. I expect the snow won’t last long as the prediction is 43 degrees high today and 63 for tomorrow.

    The soil temps were middle 40s at six inches and middle 50s at three to four inches. I hope to be planting cold weather crops by the end of the week.

    Have a great pre garden planning day.

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  6. Liz J on March 16, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Love that planting wisdom ~ I think I’ll give it a try this year. I was just setting up to start seeds next weekend and thinking how awfully frozen everything is. You never can count too much on mother nature…Here’s to hoping we all have a great growing season!

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  7. Greg on March 17, 2014 at 7:56 am

    I really liked this post, Susy. I don’t have much worth saying in response, just wanted to let you know! Sometimes old wisdom is much more trustworthy than new technologies/concepts/etc.

    Reply to Greg's comment

  8. Songbirdtiff on March 17, 2014 at 8:48 am

    I love these, my grandpa often uses these phrases when planting. Here we say sow corn when the oak leaves are the size of a squirrels ears. We also plant potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day.

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  9. Chris on March 17, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    Sow lettuce seeds right out on the last snow…but who knows when the last snow is? :)

    Reply to Chris's comment

  10. mandie on April 27, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    I made a new friend last year by stopping in his driveway to tell him how much I always admired his landscaping…..he told me when lilacs bloom, it’s safe to plant.

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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