Appalachia Gardening Rhymes

Four Seeds In A Row

Four seeds all in a row 2

Four seeds in a row one for the rook, one for the crow, one to die, and one to grow.


Four seeds in a row, one for the rook, one for the crow, one will wither and one will grow.

or various other rhymes all the with the same gist!


A few weeks ago I had a piece of the rhyme going around in my head while we were planting beans. I decided to google around and see what I could discover about it.

Mud Cat Cafe-my favorite online forum for music information offered up the following details about the rhyme.

From: peregrina

How to sow Beans. ‘One for the mouse, One for the crow, One to rot, One to grow.’
[1850 Notes & Queries 1st Ser. II. 515]

‘Kernels,’ said Pa. ‘Four kernels. ‥One for the blackbird, One for the crow, And that will leave Just two to grow.’
[1941 L. I. Wilder Little Town on Prairie ii.]

Careful farmers‥sow their seed broadcast, saying: One for wind and one for crow one to die and one to grow.
[1961 N. Lofts House at Old Vine i. 34]

From: Jim Dixon

A few more:

From Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, Volume 11, 1874, page 299:

The number of kernels in a hill may be designated thus:
One for the blackbird, one for the crow,
One for the cut-worm, and one to grow.

Monthly Packet of Evening Readings, Volume 19, (London: Mozley and Smith, 1875), page 213:

—and the rule for sowing is,
‘One for the mouse, one for the crow,
One to rot, and one to grow’

Annual Report of the Secretary of the State Board of Agriculture …, Volume 19 (Lansing: State of Michigan, 1880), page 148:

I do not believe in the old rhyme—
“One for the black bird,
One for the crow,
One to get mouldy
And one to grow.”

Work and Leisure: The Englishwoman’s Advertiser, Reporter and Gazette, Vol. 7 (London: Hatchards, 1882), page 211:

The old farming adage—
‘One for the mouse, one for the crow,
One to rot, and one to grow,’
is true of fruits as well as of seeds.

Gardeners’ Chronicle, Vol. 8 (London: Haymarket Pub., 1890), page 686

There is an old country saying—
“Sow four beans as you make your row,
One to rot, and one to grow,
One for the pigeon, and one for the crow.”


Easy to see the rhyme is old and prolific. I jumped at the quote from the Little House book thinking that’s where I remembered it from…but what I had in my head was closer to some of the others so who knows where I heard it.

Have you ever heard the rhyme?



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  • Reply
    May 14, 2021 at 9:35 pm

    One for the widow
    One for the crow
    One for the orphans
    And one to grow.
    I guess my family was more optimistic

  • Reply
    Richard Cottle
    October 26, 2020 at 6:25 am

    My father said he had heard his grandmother say this. She was born in the 1850’s. She told him it was already as old as the hills. Being from Combe Down, near Bath, she would have spoken it thus.

    ‘Pu⟨ʔ⟩* vore zeeds down in a ‘ole, one vor the roo⟨ʔ⟩* and one for the craw, one a ro⟨ʔ⟩* and one a graw. Good
    ahr⟨ʔ⟩ernoon. The ⟨ʔ⟩ is a glottal stop. You sort of swallow the letter (or in Combe Down dialect ledder).

  • Reply
    Allen Douglas
    June 4, 2020 at 3:38 pm

    Heard my Kentuckian father say it thusly: “One for the blackbird, one for the crow, one for the groundhog, and one to grow.”

  • Reply
    Winfield Coleman
    December 28, 2019 at 3:44 pm

    My mother had a close variant, which she used only when planting corn (maize): “One for the weather/ One for the crow/ One to wither/ And one to grow.” She thought it came from the American Indians, who taught the pilgrims how to plant corn in hills, with beans and squash at the base of the cornstalks; only the hills needed weeding. The English did not usually, it seems, plant crops in hills, but rather in plowed furrows. (Native Americans had hoes, dibblers, shovels and picks, but no plows or draft animals.) Also, four is a sacred number very typical of most Native Americans, whereas Europeans usually tend to group things in threes, perhaps in allusion to the Trinity.

  • Reply
    December 13, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    Johnny-thank you for the comment! A rook is a bird-so the line means you’re planting one for the bird : )

  • Reply
    Johnny R
    December 13, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    What does one for the rook mean?

    • Reply
      royal frazierl
      April 24, 2018 at 2:17 pm

      That one actually confuses me, because i’ve always know a rook to be a type of crow, specifically Corvus frugilegus. Rookery was meant to describe nesting colonies of crows. I guess in someplaces it generalized to be any type of bird. I thought I read one for the rabbit, one for the crow somewhere… but I guess the first animal is whatever is a pest in the region and crow one of , maybe the only common pest, that rhymes with grow.

  • Reply
    May 28, 2015 at 7:46 am

    I think of this rhyme every time I plant! I remember it as “One for the rook, one for the crow, one to rot and one to grow.” I learned it as a child, but not from anyone saying it – I read it a book, now forgotten.
    We finally got some rain last night, after a spell of EXTREMELY hot and dry weather for this time of year. Now the beans and corn will be planted at last! I feel so far behind you folks with gardens already growing and producing, but it’s not for laziness – it’s been a strange Spring. If there weren’t baby goats bouncing around, I wouldn’t have known it was Spring at all!

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    May 28, 2015 at 1:04 am

    I remember the saying, but I don’t remember what Dad said about it cause also remember, we only planted 3 seeds/beans/etc. together, with the wee piles of three spaced appropriately apart – giving the plant 3 chances to grow.
    I remember one time our city cousin (Rick) came out to help with the planting. As he got to the end of a row planting green bean seeds, our Dad told him he’d have to do it over because the plant comes from the little black dot on the top side of the bean seed, and that has to be at the top or the plant will grow down instead of up. He went back the row and fixed them all, then stood up and saw our sister Pattie’s row with seeds planted all helter skelter, pointed and tried to rat her out, and Dad started to laugh. That’s when the city kid realized he’d been had. LOL
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    May 27, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    Among the various lessons of this rhyme are; (1) there is always a significant degree of risk when dealing with living things and weather, (2) don’t count your chickens before they hatch, and (3) have 4 times the amount of seed you think you will need. Regarding #2, what gardener has not over-estimated their prospective harvest.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    May 27, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    and Ken….we finally got our beans planted…The better half has already made him some teepees for them to run up to the sky…If’n they grow like you say, then we will have to string the teepees together and let’um run acrost and twixt and tween…
    He went down to the garden and come back with a bean report…”Not up yet!”, says he!
    Why of course not, they’ve just been in a couple of days…But it has been muggy hot and lots of rain…I know the signs weren’t right but we just couldn’t wait any longer…Between sickness, a rock and a hard place, it’s a wonder anything got in the garden!
    Critters have been eatin’ the leeks…Salvia…and dug up the gourd seed. Then the ones that came up…made them a salad with those…so I guess I’ll be lucky to get me one of those large apple gourds this year…
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…Hope Pap is getting better!

  • Reply
    May 27, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    I ain’t never heard of these rhymes
    before, but I did like the one B.
    Ruth quoted.
    Soon I’ll know if what I planted
    comes up. Just as the beans peek
    thru, holding up the seed, reaching
    for the sky, I spray them boogers
    to keep the rabbits at bay. And a
    neighbor brought me a bunch of
    tommy toes and stripes to plant
    yesterday evening. Lordy, I
    thought I was done with tomatoes

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 27, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    I always plant my beans in hills so I have something to compare myself to.
    Tell Pap if he don’t get up and out of that wheelchair soon we are going to hook a cultivator behind it.

  • Reply
    May 27, 2015 at 11:22 am

    From my early years in the North country, from which I escaped long, long ago:
    “One for the cut-worm, one for the crow, one to rot and one to grow.”

  • Reply
    May 27, 2015 at 10:30 am

    I love the poem. At one time critters were taking up my seeds and eating everything tender. In exchange squirrel were planting black walnuts all over the place. I am a committed gardener so I declared war. I have rattle plates, plastic owls, and fake snakes all over the place. I spray deer repellant, plant Salvia (deer repellant plant). I quit planting corn, as the crows seemed to hang about in a big tree and taunt me. Plus, I do a daily walk through. Some of this is working. Whewww, I am tired already! This is a populated residential area, but still had deer coming through eating beet tops and tender beans.
    I can’t wait to see what you have planted! I used to get my Mom as involved as possible by carrying in loads of beans for her to snap. She was also excellent at saving seeds which was a very tedious process. I am reminded of Pap’s vigilance with all that you are involved in. I wish him a speedy recovery.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    May 27, 2015 at 10:00 am

    Oats, peas, beans…… my mother used to sing that rhyme to me. Thanks for triggering that memory.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    May 27, 2015 at 9:39 am

    Tipper–The little poem with its many variants is new to me. On the other hand, the concept isn’t. Grandpa and Daddy always planted four kernels of corn to the hill, and if all four came up they would thin to two when the shoots were a few inches high. I do the same. Indeed, for about anything planted in “hills,” four seeds are the norm for me. That would include all members of the squash family, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupe, etc. I don’t plant beans, field peas, okra, and the like in hills. Rather, I just drop seeds in the row (plowed with a push plow once pushed by Grandpa Joe and just as functional today as it was 75 years ago) and thin if needed. I seldom thin legumes, since they sort of “fix” their own fertilizer.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    May 27, 2015 at 9:13 am

    The rhyme I remember hearing about planting four beans in a row, went like your second verse.
    Your post stirred up this memory!
    Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley grow
    Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley grow
    Can you or I or anyone know how Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley grow?
    First the farmer sows his seed,
    Stands erect and takes his ease,
    He stamps his foot and claps his hands, and turns around to view his lands.
    Next the farmer waters the seeds,
    Stands erect and takes his ease,
    He stamps his foot and claps his
    hands, and turns around to view his lands.
    Next the farmer hoes the weeds,
    and stands erect and takes his ease,
    He stamps his foot and claps his hands, and turns around to view his lands.
    Last the farmer harvests his seed
    Stands erect and takes his ease,
    He stamps his foot and claps his hands, and turns around to view his lands…
    And that’s how Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley grows!
    Do you remember this children’s Nursery Rhyme that involved all the actions of the farmer planting?
    Tipper, your post today brought back this memory!

  • Reply
    May 27, 2015 at 8:47 am

    I have never heard the rhyme. As it swirls around in my head today, I will need to tweak it to fit my situation with disappearing bean seeds and plants. I have to plant two for the turkeys and two for the deer, leaving none to grow.

  • Reply
    May 27, 2015 at 8:36 am

    The rhyme is new for me! However, there might just be a bit of plant growing safety net. At least a farmer might get at least one viable plant.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    May 27, 2015 at 8:20 am

    I hadn’t heard that rhyme, but I strongly suspect that the squirrels that plant pecans in my flowerbeds and flowerpots use a similar rhyme!

  • Reply
    May 27, 2015 at 8:11 am

    All versions are new to me (somehow I missed it from Little House on the Prairie) but all versions make total sense! – for seed and for fruit – although we need to add another line for deer or raccoons or possums, whichever ate every single young peach off our trees!
    The old farming adage—
    ‘One for the mouse, one for the crow,
    One to rot, and one to grow,’
    is most ap now here in Central Texas.
    While chemicals applied to seed minimize the number of seeds taken from the farmers’ fields by mouse and crow these days, the amount of rain we’ve had lately has some corn “a mouldering” or rotting in the fields.
    Lots of winter wheat has been totally lost too.
    I imagine that after things dry out lots of farmers will reworking their drain ditches so the water doesn’t go into their fields instead of out of their fields and their contouring so less water is trapped by the old contouring and more is guided gently off the fields as it should be.
    After so many dry years, “who’d a thunk it”?

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    May 27, 2015 at 7:47 am

    The rhyme, whatever and wherever its origin, shows us clearly that the yield for seeds planted is 1/4, as something other than growth, development and bountiful harvest occurs from 3/4 of the seeds. No wonder being a gardener and farmer takes so much faith and persistence!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 27, 2015 at 7:13 am

    Tipper, I have no memory of any of these but that’s not surprising because I didn’t grow up around gardening.
    It’s the wisdom of the self sufficient, a way to remind that four equals one.
    I suppose we don’t have rhymes today. We just go to the internet.

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