Appalachia Appalachian Dialect Gardening

It’s Lay By Time

packsaddles hide in the corn and sting you

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


We didn’t plant any corn this year, but Granny has more than made up for it. She’s planted corn at pretty much every corner of her garden and yard. Every time I think she’s through with her corn planting she’ll tell me she planted a few more little rows. None of her corn patches get enough sun so it’s doubtful any of it will actually make, but she sure does like planting it and hoping it will.



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  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    July 14, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    Tipper: All your posts were so meaningful! You talk about ‘laying by’ NOW that is an expression we so looked forward to hearing Daddy say! Lake Chatuge was perfect and already for a half-dozen kids to jump into as a reward for hoeing that corn – row after row! Eva Nell

  • Reply
    July 13, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    For some reason, this post just struck a chord within me. I can just see my grandparents, aunts , uncles , children picking up bags full of weeds and toteting them away- babies on quilts being tended by youngʻuns under the shade of trees – all laboring in the hot summer sun amidst the churrr of cicadas- bringing up the food for then and the winter.
    The photo of the corn and beans tells me of the beauty of green- Godʻs favorite color, for He made so many shades of it !
    This brings me so much peace, Tipper. Thank you for this lovely mosaic of our people and the hard won bounty of this land!

  • Reply
    July 13, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    My garden has been “laying by” for over two years, but if things go well, next year I may plant a few things. I Miss having a garden! My favorite is the home-grown tomato and hickory cane corn, but I can’t leave out the Nantahala White Runners that grow so well here.
    Yesterday I was going thru some things at home and found nearly a box of White Runners. I thought this year I was going to have to eat green beans out of a metal can. But what a nice find! …Ken

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 13, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    The other posts got me to re-looking and re-thinking.
    Miss Cindy got me re-looking at the picture. She is so right, there is a lot to notice. There are so many shades of green; silver-green, jade green, yellow green, hunter green, grass green …… And you got such a tremendous depth of field. It makes it look like one could just walk into that green promise.
    The comment about “lay up” reminded me that the parable of the rich man in the 1611 KJV uses “laid up” in just that sense of ‘saved’ or ‘stored’. It’s really too bad Michael Montgomery didn’t use the KJV as a source. I suppose the argument could be made that such usage would have been what he calls ‘general’ thus with no particular relationship to the Smokies.

  • Reply
    July 13, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    This term was in regular coversation when I was a younger sprout but don’t hear it anymore, our corn rows have turn to pasture or thickets.

  • Reply
    harry adams
    July 13, 2017 at 11:03 am

    As I finished plowing and hoeing my corn, I thought of my father who always said his corn was laid by after his last plowing.
    He always went through and put Bull Dog soda by hand at the base of the stalks before the last plowing. It was 50% nitrogen. I use 27% lawn fertilizer and it does make the corn grow.
    In my corn, I found that by pulling dirt around the base of the stalks when laying by provided more roots to try and keep the corn upright when the thunder storms came through.

  • Reply
    Paul Certo
    July 13, 2017 at 10:23 am

    Here’s a song about it. The phrase “by July he laid it by” was unfamiliar to me, but clear from the title and the rest of the story.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 13, 2017 at 10:11 am

    You know I think that’s whats been amatter with me. I got laid by too quick and the weeds has done took me over.

  • Reply
    July 13, 2017 at 10:00 am

    We use “layed by” to me “put aside for the future” as in:
    1) I have enough jelly layed by to last us ’til next year.
    2) My Granny has enough receiving blankets layed by for 6 more grandbabies!
    Where I grew up crops were (and still are) planted and tended year ’round – there really isn’t much “lay by” time – seems land is always being prepped or worked for cover crops or the next crop or being harvested. I don’t ever recall going to revival although I heard about a few when my folks were growing up in Kansas – maybe there, the association of the timing of revivals and “laying by” would have been apparent. However, I was repeatedly reminded that spring break had agrarian roots and I was expected to help around the house and make good use of my “spring vacation”. Dad constantly shakes his head at the stories of Spring Break shenanigans told over the news each March. “Idle hands are the devil’s tool!”

  • Reply
    wanda Devers
    July 13, 2017 at 9:25 am

    Love this post! Brings back so many memories. Think how grateful the farmers must have been to see this time come! It also reminds me of Mama saying< "Come on down, sweet drops of rest!" when it would begin to rain. Not many people today would survive working so hard.

  • Reply
    Pam Danner
    July 13, 2017 at 8:59 am

    Oh, I so hope Granny gets some corn for all her effort. I just picked a bunch of tomatoes. I have been picking cucumbers and zucchini too. Our daughter, son-in-law and grand-baby just visited from Florida and my grand-baby loved picking the cherry tomatoes from the vine and just eating them right there. Happy Harvest!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 13, 2017 at 8:36 am

    The tradition of holding a revival in August is still alive and well, even though its basis was laying by time on the farmstead and most people no longer live that way. Sadly, I expect the tradition will fade when people no longer remember its reason.
    I checked out “The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English” from the library. I’m finding all kinds of interesting tidbits in it, including that the native speakers consulted would have the same trouble I do of being uncertain whether they were remembering speech or actually used it themselves. Something else he mentions is that outlander writers could deliberately distort speech beyond what was common. And he mentions something I had never thought of, that – except for placenames – very few (perhaps no) Cherokee words were Anglicized and adopted into everyday speech.
    It is certainly a monumental work, about 70 years in the making.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    July 13, 2017 at 7:51 am

    I believe Granny just loves to see corn grow! I used to plant a few seeds in my big whiskey barrels and then flowers in the front as fillers…That corn always was so pretty n’ green growing…Once in a while I got an ear or three.
    We haven’t planted the deer any corn in years. We thought that would help send them to other green pastures…Nope, they decided they liked green beans, peppers and my gourds even bettern’ corn!
    Thanks for this post…so interesting.
    No crops laid by just yet….well, weeds and rain are about forcing us to lay them by! Barely can keep up with the mowing…Too dry and drought last year…this year too wet and soggy! I have been buying my corn and it has been delicious every time….so a few farmers are reaping the benefits of a good garden year!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 13, 2017 at 6:50 am

    Tip, that’s a beautiful picture with the sun on the beans and corn making then glow that rich green color. That picture represents the primary food source of the mountain people. The corn was dried and ground for cornbread and the beans were canned and dried. supplying the staples of diet.
    Life was hard work but so simple compared to our current mechanized/computerized world.

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