Appalachia Appalachian Dialect Gardening

It’s Lay By Time at the Blind Pig House

bean bloom

Lay by verb phrase To leave a crop to mature after hoeing it for a final time late in the summer. When a farmer has the crop “laid by,” the labors of plowing, planting, and cultivating are over, and he can sit back until the crop is ripe. 1834 Crockett Narrative 154 Having laid by my crap, I went home, which was a distance of about a hundred and fifty miles. 1905 Cole Letters 80 Soon as crops is laid by if I live expecting to here from you soon I remain your son. 1953 Hall Coll. Bryson City NC The spring of the year come, why [Jake Welch, a neighbor] went to plowing and planting his corn, and beans, and potatoes, and things-cultivating that stuff at home. He’d take care of that ontil he got through and got his crop laid by. He’d generally get it done laying by corn in the latter part of July. (Granville Calhoun) 1955 Dykeman French Broad 322 The third or fourth week in August, when crops were “laid by” and “garden truck” was at its most plentiful, families within a radius of many miles put finishing touches on their arrangement to attend camp meetings. 1976 Carter Little Tree 90 “Laying -by” time was usually in August. That was the time of the year when farmers were done with plowing and hoeing weeds out of their crops four or five times, and the crops was big enough now that they “laid by,” that is, no hoeing or plowing while the crops ripened and they waited to do the gathering. 1979 Smith White Rock 47 All cornfields were hoed at least three times; the last time was called “laying it by.” 1995 Weber Rugged Hills 67 “Well,” someone will say, “the corn is ‘laid-by’ for this year.” What they mean is that there will be no more hoeing or cultivation. Crops are now tall enough so that they won’t be crowded out by weeds. Any weeds growing in the rows will be left where they are.

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

This time of the year the summer garden chores begin to lighten up. We go from day light to dark garden work on Saturdays to suddenly only having to work in the cool of the morning.

The last two Saturdays we’ve found ourselves sort of scratching our heads when we go in for dinner and know we don’t have anything left to accomplish after we eat. The Deer Hunter said “I reckon we’ve laid it by for this year.”

There’s still plenty of weeding to do, but most of the plants are large enough to hold their own against the weeds now.

Of course our slow down doesn’t mean all the garden work is over…next comes putting up all that goodness.

I canned pickled beets over the weekend and was sort of disappointed with our small beet harvest, but like a true gardener I thought “Well there’s always next year.”


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  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    July 12, 2020 at 10:53 pm

    A friend said that last year, and I asked him what it meant, to be sure I’d been understanding it correctly when I read or heard it. We laid by one of our gardens almost as soon as we planted it, since we mulched the whole thing. Now as things mature we’re replanting–beans are up, and more beets, kale, squash and corn. Larry even set out the last few tomato plants that were holding on to life in their greenhouse pots. Poor things. I don’t know if we’ll get anything from them but they deserved to be planted after soldiering on like that with no attention.

  • Reply
    July 9, 2020 at 6:02 pm

    I haven’t heard that phase. I’m surprised I hadn’t. Thats another one you got me on Tipper. Lol we’re doing good on cucumbers. Squash is bout gone. Tomatoes is doing ok. Not ripe yet except Tommy toes.

  • Reply
    July 9, 2020 at 1:25 pm

    We put 19 quarts of sweet corn in the freezer this week. My wife planted a full row of cucumbers when two hills would have been enough. She doesn’t eat them and I don’t need anywhere near that many. I took about 5 lbs to a couple of teenagers that like them yesterday. I thought she had seeds for yellow squash and zucchini. She had zucchini and acorn seeds. The cucumber and acorn vines are intermingling and make it hard to find the cukes before they turn yellow. I put a gallon of blackberries in the freezer and will pick blueberries 2-3 more times and let the birds have the rest. Figs will be getting ripe soon. We harvested our first tomatoes this week. I ran two deer out of the garden this AM.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    July 9, 2020 at 12:45 pm

    Laying bye was a time of relief to cotton country when I was growing up. Hoeing “chopping” thinned the plants and got rid of the weeds–took forever & was a backbreaking job. I was fortunately too young to do much of it but did when I got older–little ones could not be trusted to not chop down too much cotton. I am thinking it was done twice and maybe more if Johnson Grass got in the cotton. Picking by hand was just as hard. Some crawled on their knees for back relief. Some fortunate ones had knee pads. The heat was terrible as were the bugs and stickers on the cotton bolls. I was never a good picker–I never could figure it out as I worked hard all day. Others did the same and picked sometimes 200 or more pounds in a day. I could pick 100 in good cotton and working very hard. Many youngsters got a beating for not meeting the quota set by their fathers. My granny hit grandpa in the head with a chunk of lye soap for intending to do that. She told me about this as an old woman–her aim was great & it lhit him squarely in the head!

  • Reply
    July 9, 2020 at 9:30 am

    I had heard that expression, but I did not use it. My older neighbor always used the old terms for his gardening ventures. He had once farmed until the deer took over. He then moved and had a smaller garden. Try as I might I cannot think of the term he used for the process of laying out rows neatly and evenly. I rarely did this, and I mostly used eyeballing the rows to keep them straight. The pride of my garden once was a row of onions my grandson planted and harvested. It looked much like the roads in WV.
    Actually, using my Mom’s old instruction, I always tried to hoe my garden three times. The second hoeing is when I tried to pinch off suckers, spray for blight, and add any fertilizer. My garden has shrunk, but not my care. I save eggshells and crush, add diatomaceous earth around the plants, and probably invest way too much time and money. I am an ole die hard, and guess I will be out there doing what we do best in Appalachia. We carry on the same traditions our ancestors did over a century ago.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 9, 2020 at 9:21 am

    Part of the laying by is laying by the anxiety about a crop “making”. By that time it can be judged as great, good, fair or poor (yet still reserving the notion it is never beyond extraordinary catastrophe). It is kinda a time to say to oneself, “Well, Lord, I leave it with you. I’ve done the best I can.

    As Miss Cindy mentions, it doesn’t have much meaning to anyone who hasn’t gardened at least one full year. Hope it is not destined to fade out entirely.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    July 9, 2020 at 9:17 am

    Back when I had a garden, I was plumb wore out and glad to have my garden laid-by. Tipper and Matt had brought me several bunches of Tomatoes grown in their Greenhouse. They were those yellow tear-drop kind that were so good. I put salt, pepper, and sugar on them (like Mama did), and they were so good in a salad. They brought several Cherokee Purple, but those Red ones were my Favorite. Heck, anything Free is worth it’s weight in Gold. Thank you Both! …Ken

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    July 9, 2020 at 9:09 am

    I never heard “laid it by” but it’s an interesting phrase to be certain. I got 2 cukes out of my containers yesterday and they were delicious and much more flavorful than a store purchased cuke from a greenhouse in Canada. Smh at the craziness. I’m sorry to hear about your beets but there’s next year and maybe a farmer around you looking to sell extra this year. Gardening and farming are very difficult on the physical body and the emotional mind. The growing veggies are somewhat like our babies and when they fail or are puny, it almost hurts the soul to watch. My tomatoes got the blossom end rot so far and I’m pulling the bad fruit off and smh in disgust…..

  • Reply
    July 9, 2020 at 9:04 am

    That is a phrase I have heard all my life but never said it myself. My garden has so many things running, it’s hard to even walk through, it makes tilling and hoeing impossible. Sweet potato, cushaw, watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew vines are about to start climbing the fence. I am cleaning my freezer today and getting ready for a promising bounty of corn, tomatoes and beans that could fill all my canning jars. I’m glad we both have our garden laid by and can catch a breather before the fun of preserving starts.

  • Reply
    gayle larson
    July 9, 2020 at 8:06 am

    I haven’t heard that phrase in many years. Made me smile. Thanks.

  • Reply
    harry adams
    July 9, 2020 at 7:32 am

    I laid by my last three rows of sweet corn this week after a good rain. I put 28% nitrogen in the row, hand plowed the middles, raked dirt around each stalk and then covered the middles with a thick layer of leaf mold.

    Any weeds that make it through will be hand pulled to keep reseeding down next year. I always called it” laying by” because that’s what I heard growing up. I’m not sure anyone I talked to here knew what I was talking about. Now I know I was right or at least following convention.

    We have the best beet crop we have ever had. It has been hot and dry so I have had to water every other day. I think the heat has been the key. Cucumbers, squash and zucchini are growing faster than they can be picked.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 9, 2020 at 7:31 am

    That’s an expression I’ve heard all my life. It’s associated with gardening but only to old time gardening. Newer “younger” folks do know or use it. The announcement of laying by is a major stage in country gardening. Where I walk every morning I pass by a garden that belongs to an older couple. I can tell that it is laid by. They are not hoeing it any more. It is a typical garden of older people consisting of corn, beans, and potatoes. They will store the potatoes and probably can the corn and green beans and eat them all winter. That’s the way of it.

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