Thinking About Garden Folklore

garden view

As I worked in the garden today I started thinking about all the garden folklore I’ve heard over the years. Some of it is kinda silly and other pieces are based in wisdom.

Here’s a few that came to mind.

  • 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 hang it in the nearest tree for good luck. It’s not as common to find horse shoes as it once was. We found a few in Pap’s big garden, but I hung them on my porch instead of a tree.
  • Finding a four leaf clover is good luck. My sister-n-law can walk outside and find a four leaf clover instantly. I don’t think I’ve found more than two in my whole life, but Chitter has inherited her aunt’s skill and can find them easily.
  • To keep crows from bothering your garden, kill one and hang it nearby. Every year I see a dead crow hanging in a garden down the road.
  • Trees that bloom twice in one year will have a bad crop. Pap told me he seen June apples bloom twice more than once.
  • If you spit in your hands when cutting wood you’ll have good luck. If you ask me holding on to the ax always = good luck.
  • Don’t plant your garden until the oak leaves are the size of mouse ears.
  • Always plant your potatoes on Good Friday.
  • Plant your green beans 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.
  • 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 is one of my favorite pieces of folklore.
  • A snowy winter portends a good year for crops.
  • After planting a hill of beans, press the soil with your foot for good luck. Pap always did this, but not in the hopes of having good luck. I always liked seeing his bootprints on top of all the mounds—somehow it seemed like the bootprints symbolized a job well done. The Deer Hunter does it too so I still get to see those meaningful bootprints.
  • Planting peppers when you’re mad, makes the peppers grow hotter.
  • If two people’s hoes hit together, they will work in the same field next year. I always try to get the girls to hit hoes with me cause I sure want to be working with them from now on.

If any other gardening folklore comes to mind please leave a comment and share it.

Last night’s video: Wild Orange Azaleas Talk to Me Every Spring!


Subscribe for FREE and get a daily dose of Appalachia in your inbox

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Glenda G. Page
    May 6, 2022 at 11:10 am

    Your blogs and narratives are so informative and I love to listen and learn. I love the sayings as I have seen a lot of the sayings be true. Thanks again and can’t wait for Friday’s reading. God Bless you guys.

  • Reply
    Darlene Harbour Boyd
    May 6, 2022 at 7:13 am

    Kinda goes with gardening. My father and his father always said you can’t go barefoot until the dogwoods bloom out white.

  • Reply
    May 5, 2022 at 5:55 pm

    I’ve heard most of these in my life time. I don’t do the dead crow but I do hang old CDs and DVDs that are scratched and won’t play. They work pretty well.

    That one about the hydrangeas and nails is true. The rusting iron helps turn them blue.That one about the hydrangeas and nails is true. The rusting iron helps turn them blue.

    If I take the time I can find a lot of 4, 5, 6 leaf clovers. I like to pray for a good, cold, snowy winter because it kills off the insects that like to chew my plants up.

  • Reply
    May 5, 2022 at 4:52 pm

    Omg I think I need new glasses. I thought it said hang a dead cow from a tree. Then I read on and it said every year I see some hanging in the garden. I had to go back to read the post again to find out it was crows. Whee I thought maybe it was an Appalachia custom to hang cows.

  • Reply
    Osage Bluff Quilter
    May 5, 2022 at 12:07 pm

    If someone thanked my momma for plants, she’d quickly say TAKE IT BACK!
    We are floating here, poor tomato plants are muddled sideways in the garden. In the last 20 hours we’ve had over 2 inches of rain and more coming.

  • Reply
    Ron Bass
    May 5, 2022 at 12:04 pm

    I plant corn when the dogwoods bloom or when the oak leaves are the size of a squirrels ear, depending on the signs.
    I have never found a four leaf clover, my grandkids can. They laugh at me for not being able to see them. When they do I remind them “I taught you how to use a spoon” .

  • Reply
    Rita F Speers
    May 5, 2022 at 11:49 am

    Growing up, I’d get frustrated with hearing old sayings. I’d think “That’s not scientific!” One that really raised my ire was one that said that a woman shouldn’t pick beans while she was on her monthly, or the plants would die. The sheer ignorance of that statement infuriated me! (until I pondered on it). A very smart woman must have started that one in order to dodge a little work!

    Now, in my old age, I’m truly curious as to the origins of the various sayings. I’m sure many have a basis in facts, or at least in the facts possessed at the time they were started. Some have roots in science, such as planting by the signs. However, I will ALWAYS be thankful and say so to the ones who give me plants because being appreciative and giving thanks is Scriptural. My plants always live!

  • Reply
    " Rick" Richard Given
    May 5, 2022 at 10:50 am

    Tipper, sounds like you “Murder” that Crow!

  • Reply
    Patricia Wilson
    May 5, 2022 at 10:41 am

    I have a skill similar to four leaf clover spotting- poison oak spotting. I can look at a sea of green weeds of all shapes and sizes and it almost like the poison oak leaves glow neon green. It literally stands out to me. I’m sure there is a logical neurological explanation for both lucky clover spotting and poison oak spotting. Since I walk daily in a wooded area and poison oak is everywhere, it comes in handy. Around here, we don’t have poison ivy. If a vine is climbing, it’s going to be my mortal enemy, Virginia creeper, or less commonly wild grape. In my Kentucky childhood, I had poison ivy several times so I have good reason to avoid this pesky plant. If only my visual superpower extended to rattle snakes – which is why my eyes are always on the ground as I walk.

  • Reply
    May 5, 2022 at 10:39 am

    I’ve heard some of the folk lore you mentioned and I must say my parents and grandparents knew how to grow a garden and put up the fruits of their labor. My son usually plants my little garden for Mother’s Day now and it supplies me with a wonderful bounty of vegetables I love all through the summer. You can’t beat fresh vegetables!
    Loved your video on the Flame Azaleas! I have seen them here in SC PA, they are stunning but are hybrids. I have seen them in NE MS but those are native Orange Flame and are just as stunning. I am an old soul but seems I have always been because I have always felt the ties to land and homes of those who came before me. I remember the sweet stories of families and I cannot visit the old places without remembering the fun times I had as a young child, later as a teen, then a wife and mother bringing my children to see the old places.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 5, 2022 at 10:27 am

    I love this time of year it is so full of plans and hopes and we mountain people always have a few superstitions to go along with it! That’s just the way we are. Gardens are really, or used to be, dependent on the crops to provide food for the winter and a lot of superstitions have grown up around the garden.
    If you listen closely some of them are just good sense for planting, and others, well, not so much but they are all entertaining!

  • Reply
    May 5, 2022 at 10:26 am

    I have heard some of these. When growing up, a lot of the older neighbors thought you should plant a lot of your garden on Good Friday. I think I am right about this one, if you hang a dead snake over a limb or fence it will rain. My daddy always said your were never safe from frost until the blackberry vines bloom. The blackberries are in full bloom now in my area.

    Just a few days ago, I was reading an article from one of the catalog seed companies telling what should and should not be planted close together. I think it was called companion gardening.

  • Reply
    May 5, 2022 at 9:47 am

    I have heard most of the folklore you mentioned above. My garden is plowed with absolutely nothing planted in it. We have not had enough dry or warm weather to work in the garden this spring. It stormed early Tuesday and was still cold and wet yesterday. We expect strong to severe storms today and tomorrow with a 50/50 chance of rain on Saturday. A master gardener in Louisville once said we should not plant our flower or vegetable garden until after derby day.

  • Reply
    May 5, 2022 at 9:20 am

    My husband kills a crow and hangs it in our garden every year. It works. The ground will be black with crows pulling up his corn until he hangs one up. You never see another one in the garden after that.

    I never walk through grass without seeing several four leaf clovers. Sometimes more than four leaves.

  • Reply
    Margaret Carter
    May 5, 2022 at 9:15 am

    Very good reading Interesting And yes the older family and their large gardens are disappearing from us The younger generation is missing so much good stuff even like just smelling the freshly tilled dirt Your girls are blessed having you and the Deer Hunter as life examples I will always be a country girl Thanks for the reading

    • Reply
      Patty Hansen
      May 6, 2022 at 6:43 am

      Did you know that natural antibiotics live in the dirt – so that when your bare hands/feet/knees come into contact with soil you are actually doing your body good. This day in age, we spend way too much time “cleaning” things & wonder why everyone is sick all the time. Also, they did a study on the Amish. They have almost non-existent levels of asthma in their population. The reason: there is some microbe that lives on cows in their hides, and by living in close contact with animals daily it makes them not likely to have asthma. There is so much in gardening & raising animals that helps us & some of it we aren’t even aware of. Isn’t the Lord amazing?

    • Reply
      Patty Hansen
      May 6, 2022 at 6:47 am

      Did you know that antibiotics live in the dirt – so that when your bare hands/feet/knees come into contact with soil you are actually doing your body good. This day in age, we spend way too much time “cleaning” things & wonder why everyone is sick all the time. Also, they did a study on the Amish. They have almost non-existent levels of asthma in their population. The reason: there is some microbe that lives on cows in their hides, and by living in close contact with animals daily it makes them not likely to have asthma. There is so much in gardening & raising animals that helps us & some of it we aren’t even aware of. Isn’t the Lord amazing?

  • Reply
    May 5, 2022 at 8:42 am

    I’ve heard a few of those from my mom when we helped her in the garden. One that I didn’t see is related to females. I’m guessing it’s because my PawPaw told this to my mom and her 9 siblings. If a female is in her time of month she could not plant cucumbers or go around them when they had blooms. It would prevent the cucumber plant from producing. I always thought that was the craziest thing I ever heard, but my oldest sister didn’t tell mom she had started her time when we were planting cucumbers one year and they grew, but never produced any fruit. When my mom found out she wouldn’t let my sister back in the garden, which was fine by her because she never liked gardening. I sometimes wonder if my sister did something to those cucumbers to prevent them from producing. I wouldn’t but it past her. Anyway, in all my years gardening I never wanted to risk it so I never planted cucumbers or really much of anything when it was my time. Now I’m way past that so I don’t have to worry about that anymore. Silly, I know, but aren’t some folklores silly or at least strange.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    May 5, 2022 at 8:17 am

    You have a bunch of good ones. And I am in trouble already because I plan to plant some tomatoes next to the potatoes today. When I was fixing the row, I had that thought about they probably shouldn’t be put side by side.

    There are sound reasons for a number of those you list.

    In Southern KY the saying about planting corn was “plant corn when white oak leaves are the size of a mouse’s ear.” That’s good advice because white oak leafs out last and the ground will be warm so seed corn won’t be wasted.

    Our ground here is acidic (as are most) and our hydrangea turns some shade of blue naturally. But if our ground was alkaline, I would need to acidity it somehow to get blue hydrangeas. And nails would work because of the iron. Otherwise they would be pink.

    Both rain and snow contain nitrogen and fertilize plants. That is one reason the grass needs cut right after rain. An old man I worked with years ago said lots of snow through the winter made for a really good hay year.

    When I plant seeds, I firm the dirt over them with the hoe or my hands. The purpose is to get air spaces out and have the seed in good contact with the dirt. That is also one reason to break up clods.

    I had forgotten the one about catching ties together but I did remember there was something about that. I don’t have anyone here to catch a hoe with. I’d have to go find somebody with a garden. And that would not be easy.

    • Reply
      May 5, 2022 at 9:19 am

      I believe dad did say white oaks, but he always said squirrel’s ear. Come to think of it, I doubt there is much difference in the size of a mouse ear and a squirrel ear, seeing as mice have big ears for their body size. LOL

  • Reply
    Mark Taylor
    May 5, 2022 at 8:06 am

    These are some great sayings and folklore. On the horse shoes, my grandfather always said to hang the shoe with the opening at the top, like a U. Otherwise, your luck will run out. He always had one above the door to his workshop. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s still there and he passed 40 years ago.

  • Reply
    May 5, 2022 at 7:49 am

    I’ve heard the one about not thanking someone when they share plants with you. I usually tell people I won’t thank you because of that old saying but it just doesn’t seem right not to thank them.
    I also have the same skill as your sister-in-law and Chitter. I have even found 5 and 6 leaf clovers on occasion.

  • Reply
    May 5, 2022 at 7:41 am

    Dad use to say one that was a little different than the one you quoted about the mouse ear. He said don’t plant your corn until the oak leaves are big as a squirrel’s ear.

  • Reply
    Patty Hansen
    May 5, 2022 at 7:00 am

    My father in law’s father always said if you didn’t have your oat crop in by May 1, you lost a bushel a day (in terms of productive harvest) until you got them in. If you haven’t got them in by May 9th, why, you better just not even bother. These things are so region specific, that I get a chuckle when I read your folk lore. If I tried to plant potatoes, In CNY, on Good Friday I’d often have to dig through a foot of snow to get to dirt. Very late spring this year. No apple tree blossoms yet, only just getting leaves now – often they’re blooming for mother’s day, because I go cut some for the vase. We are only now getting leaves opening on our trees. A lot of this knowledge has been lost where I live. The old folks have died & didn’t pass these skills on. My grandparents gardened, but my parents didn’t. & not many around here, have tried & true gardening ‘rules’. In fact, I think I am the only one on my whole road that has a vegetable garden!

  • Leave a Reply