Folklore Gardening

Garden Folklore From Appalachia

Folklore For Gardeners

A comment left by B. Ruth got me to thinking about all the old folklore I’ve heard about the garden and about the outdoors in general.

  • Never plant vegetables that sound alike together. Think potato and tomato. (Pap told me that one)
  • Never say thank you if someone shares their flowers or plant cuttings with you-if you do they will die. (I’ve heard this one my whole life-and man is it hard not to automatically say thank you when someone gives you plants)
  • If you find a horse shoe-you should hang it in the nearest tree for good luck. (It’s not as common to find horse shoes now-as it once was. I have found a few in the big garden-but I hung them on my porch instead of a tree)
  • Finding a 4 leaf clover is good luck. (My sister-n-law can walk outside and find a 4 leaf clover instantly-I don’t think I’ve found more than 2 in my whole life)
  • To keep crows from bothering your garden, kill one and hang it nearby.
  • Trees that bloom twice in one year will have a bad crop. (Pap says he’s seen June apples bloom twice more than once)
  • If you spit in your hands when cutting wood-you’ll have good luck. (Pap said-the spit just helps you hold on better. Holding on to the ax always = good luck)
  • Don’t plant your garden until the oak leaves are the size of mouse ears. (from B. Ruth)
  • Always plant your potatoes on Good Friday.
  • Plant your greenbeans on Good Friday.
  • Anything planted on the first day of Spring will live.
  • Bury nails around the roots of Hydrangea to make the blooms blue.

These last few are courtesy of Scott Nicholson:

  • Grass won’t grow where human blood has been spilled.
  • Flowers which bloom out of season are evil. (I’m not sure why-but this one is my favorite)
  • Dreaming of thorns is bad luck.
  • Tomatoes should be planted on Memorial Day.
  • It’s good luck to steal herbs. (what?)
  • A snowy winter portends a good year for crops. (most of the US should do well this year)
  • After planting a hill of beans, press the soil with your foot for good luck. (Pap always does this-who knew it was lucky-I always liked seeing his bootprints on top of all the mounds-somehow it seemed like the bootprints symbolized a job well done)
  • Planting peppers when you’re mad, makes the peppers grow hotter.
  • If 2 people’s hoes hit together, they will work in the same field next year.

Makes me wonder who started the sayings and why. Have you heard any of these before? Do you have any to add?



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  • Reply
    s thorson
    March 9, 2016 at 7:47 pm

    Never give a knife to a friend it will cut the friendship or maybe it’s a girlfriend

  • Reply
    Brian Blake
    August 28, 2011 at 11:44 am

    “Planting peppers when you’re mad makes them grow hotter.” On the night before a battle in the Civil War, Great-grandfather John Y.F. Blake’s good-natured Rebel brothers worked themselves up into ferocious killers with helpings of “Hellfire Stew.” Here’s a link to the receipe:

  • Reply
    March 20, 2011 at 8:56 am

    You can tell its going to rain by tasting it on your upper lip, or by watching the maple leaves turn upside down to catch a drink. I’ve only felt the moisture on my upper lip when I was near a large body of water, but I can’t tell you how many times I compared the weather man to the maple leaves. The maples always win!

  • Reply
    March 20, 2011 at 12:12 am

    My Mother (from Georgia) had a few she was pretty serious about… NEVER give an empty purse or wallet – it MUST have a coin in it… NEVER place your purse on the floor (or you will forever be broke)…a woman in labor MUST have a knife placed under the mattress (to cut the pain)…My mother always planted something in the yard – usually shrub, tree, rosebush – when anyone died (anyone, meaning person, or pet). The dogwood flower has “the sign of the cross” on it…Oleander will “Kill you dead” if you touch it’s leaf… Garlic planted by the door promotes health…Geraniums were grown all over because they keep insects and snakes (?) away, but no geraniums could ever be in the house or it was “Bad Luck”…..

  • Reply
    March 22, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    Loved all of the folklore. It is so true, that usually something happened to cause someone to make a statement and it stuck in someone’s mind to keep it going.
    I love gardening and every year hope for a better harvest, thus I listen to those who had success in the years before.

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    March 18, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Hi Tipper, cool list. Here’s one: Don’t plant your mild and hot peppers in the same area or you could be in for a surprise. This actually happened to me.

  • Reply
    G. Jackson
    March 18, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    I’ve heard that if it rains too hard the spinach will wrinkle. That’s how you can tell if the ground is too soaked.
    Thanks for the fun post!

  • Reply
    Catherine Seiberling Pond
    March 18, 2010 at 9:45 am

    What a wonderful blog post–I’ve been enjoying hearing the elder wisdom around here about gardening. Our neighbors on the next ridge swear by the moon phases and almanac.
    Thanks for your continued fine blogging!
    PS And my husband just said, after I said I wanted to get roto-tilling, we should burn the garden first!

  • Reply
    March 18, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Mom always said never let anyone give you a knife unless you pay them. Even a penny will work. Otherwise you will have bad luck.
    As for the birds flying into the window, they do that daily here into our patio door, most survive the hit. Now I will be worried next time.

  • Reply
    March 18, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Tipper, my grandmother always said never thank her for plants. That was bad luck.
    I haven’t really heard many of the others but enjoyed reading them a lot.

  • Reply
    March 17, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    Wow—-alot of interest in all of these, Tipper… I love reading them —and like alot of things we learn from the ‘pioneers’, many of them are TRUE….
    I haven’t read all of these before, but I do keep up with what the old folks say about the weather… Weather lore is of interest to me.
    Thanks for the post.. I enjoyed it very much.

  • Reply
    March 17, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    My grandma and I used to sit and look for 4 leaf clovers all the time,she was very good at finding them. And, I never thank anyone for flowers, I have heard that all my life, just say “I appreciate them.”

  • Reply
    March 17, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Mom has always said never to say thank you for gifts of plants because the plant will die. She also told me the nail around the hydrangeas trick-but neither of us have ever done it.
    I almost planted some pepper seeds indoors today. Good thing I didn’t because I’m not angry.
    Happy planting!

  • Reply
    kay keen
    March 17, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    I have always heard these old saying, hay! nothing is wrong with this, my mother always said if you hear a dog howl, it was a sign of death.if a bird trys to get in your window, thats a sign of a death.and if the moon is laying on its back, it was going to rain, I could go all day, But I love your blog, please keep them coming. Thanks Kay

  • Reply
    March 17, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    I’ve always planted my second set of cucumbers on July 4th. And I have no idea why. Learned it from some old timers.

  • Reply
    March 17, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    i love hearing all the folklore, and dont know if anyone has heard these ..
    if you hold an empty wallet up on a full moon, it will soon be full
    and one that scared the beegeebies out of me,
    ( when i was hanging up baby diapers (who does that anymore lol ) she told me that if you put your arms over your head when youre pregnant, the cord will wrap around the babys neck.. eeek

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    March 17, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Happy St. Patricks Day Tipper,
    My husbands Great Aunt used to taste the dirt everyday without fail…(Alabama)..she said that it was good for you and she had done it all her life and she lived till late 90’s…and that some people test the soil that way! Imagine how long she would have lived if she hadn’t ate the dirt! LOL
    Have heard a lot of these sayin’s……I’m a four leaf clover finder…must have a zillion of them…but always hang my horseshoes on the tree in the up position or my luck will fall out..or you won’t have any luck at all!!….
    Scatter (dead) rabbit fur around the garden to keep the cotton-tailed little critters out of the garden…Would take a lot of dead little rabbits for some folks gardens, so that would pretty well get rid of the for the year! LOL….then of course save the hind-foot, dry it and keep it in a safe place for good luck!
    We have here in Roane Cty, Tn..
    Dogwood Winter, Whip-poor-will winter and Blackberry winter…
    After Blackberry winter, take off your shoes….

  • Reply
    Wanda in Northwest Alabama
    March 17, 2010 at 10:56 am

    One that is always followed here is that “Blackberry Winter” is the last cold of the season, and it is safe to plant anything after that. The blackberries are usually in full bloom around May 10. We almost always have some cool weather then. My parents wouldn’t take down the wood heater until after May 10.

  • Reply
    March 17, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Tipper! I guess I am a city girl cuz I’d not heard of any of yours. My favorite is the one about the crows. Ha! That’ll show ’em! 🙂

  • Reply
    March 17, 2010 at 10:43 am

    I have heard daddy say about 2/3s of these and he always planted NAILS around mothers hydrangeas, the rusted metal makes their color beautiful. I can’t think of any you have missed, i am sure there are lots more. these were fun to read.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull WIke, Ph.D.
    March 17, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Hey: I think these ‘sayings’ have survived through the years because we did not have READING MATERIALS to depend on in the mountains. My sister, Eddie Lee, is such a strong believer in planting by the ‘signs’ – which I can never remember! She got her learning from my mama and her mama! They were smart women – as survivors!
    Eva Nell – from the Cove
    p.s. Today Terry Kay – the great Georgia writer – is coming over here to Oak Ridge, TN! Tomorrow we’ll attend a LITERACY LUNCHEON where he will be the guest of honor! I can’t wait!

  • Reply
    Donna W
    March 17, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Many of these are new to me. My daddy liked to plant potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day or Good Friday, but he said if you plant by the signs, Good Friday is always the right moon sign. I like to plant some on St. Pat’s and some on Good Friday, but it’s muddy here today. So I’ll wait until Good Friday. At least Easter is early this year; it won’t be too long a wait.

  • Reply
    March 17, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Lanny-the flower dies-not the person. LOL you’re right that would make a HUGE difference in remembering not to say thank you!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at

  • Reply
    March 17, 2010 at 9:56 am

    I’m such a ninny or really tired, closed the tab before I posted my comment! So lets see… what did I say…. oh yah:
    So who dies, the giver or the plant? This could be a big difference on how well I remember to not say thank you!
    Oak leaves/mouse ears – phenological signs are a sure bet in my book, there are lots of them that connect to different things to plant.

  • Reply
    March 17, 2010 at 9:44 am

    I love this old folklore–but I don’t think I’ve heard any of them! Thanks for clueing me in — I’ll try a few of them this spring!

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    March 17, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Most of these are familiar. I was also told that women ought not to work in the cucumbers (or make kraut or pickles) ‘when they had their period on them.’
    Never work in the garden on Sunday. “If you can’t make a crop six days of the week, you’ll not make it on the seventh.”

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    March 17, 2010 at 9:17 am

    I have heard of most of these over the years, but it’s always good to re-read them and keep them in mind.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 17, 2010 at 8:49 am

    Yes, I know some of them:
    *Never say thank you—(makes no sense to me)
    * Steal a cutting (also makes no sense)
    * Hang a horseshoe
    *Luck of the four leaf clover ( I think this one just means you have a sharp eye!)
    * Hang a dead crow (ewww!)
    * Don’t plant anything till after May 15th (This is one I’ve heard that is not mentioned here)
    Isn’t it interesting how these thoughts come into being. I’m sure there was a cause behind each of these traditions. Wouldn’t you like to know where they came from?
    There is another interesting little story about this post. Wonder what influenced you to select the top picture for this post. The child on the right was my cousin, Frank. He has been dead for about 15 years now. He moved across the country in his late teens and seldom returned even for short visits. I have not thought of him in many years…until three days ago. Something brought him to mind and I told the Deer Hunter his story. The Deer Hunter had never heard of him before.
    Wonder if you were in my mind or if I was in yours!!

  • Reply
    March 17, 2010 at 8:30 am

    “Holding on to the ax always = good luck.” lol:)

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