Letter from Almond, NC published in the Bryson City Times (July 31, 1896).
“Most of our farmers are done laying by corn, those that are not done, the rain will lay it by for them and some will be glad of it, as the weather is getting most too hot to work know [sic] anyway, the rain and storms have destroyed several fine crops of oats in this section in the last few days. . . .”
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.
Having a summer garden is a lot of work. Every year as the days began to warm in early spring I can’t believe how busy we become. Most every weekend the weather cooperates we’re out from early morning till late evening trying to get everything ready for planting and then actually planting it. After the seeds spring forth there’s tomatoes to tie and stake, mulch to spread, and more. To say its a busy couple of months is an understatement.
Then suddenly one Saturday we realize there really isn’t much to do in the garden. The plants are all growing the mulch is holding down the weeds and things are beginning to produce. One of the two of us will look around slightly bewildered at the lack of work and say “Well I reckon it’s lay-by time.”
All the work of the garden is by no means totally over, but lay-by time gives the gardener a chance to breath before the putting up stars in earnest.