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Planting By the Signs

Try It Yourself

The signs of the zodiac are a source of amusement for many, trivialized by the popular interest in astrology into pick-up lines in singles bars. But to rural families who have planted by the signs for generations, it's serious stuff tried and true.

You may try it yourself this spring. First consult a planting calendar or the planting table in the almanac, where each day is assigned a particular sign. These symbols dictate when such crops as corn, beans or potatoes are best planted and harvested.

Each sign is known for its qualities: for example, masculine, feminine, airy, dry, barren, fiery, earthy, moist, watery, fruitful or very fruitful. Planting should be done on one of the moist or fruitful days. Gardeners who consult a planting calendar or almanac will find that it is best to plant on one of the many favorable days that occur every month.

The fruitful signs are Scorpio, Pisces, Taurus or Cancer. Each sign appears at least two or three days each month.

All the signs of the zodiac have long been associated with parts of the human body, and the fruitful signs above are in the loins, feet, neck, and breast, respectively. Corn is best planted in the sign of the breast (Cancer) according to one table we consulted, but one gardener remembered that his father always tried to plant corn in the sign of the arms (Gemini). Flowers are best when planted in Libra (kidneys).

For gardening purposes, the astrological signs are closely interwoven with the phases of the moon. Rules for planting and harvesting take into account both the sign governing the day and the phase of the moon on that day. The almanac's outdoor planting table is based on the moon's phases and instructs gardeners to plant above-ground crops between the days the moon is new to the day it is full. Plant root crops from the day the moon is full to the day before it is new again.

The moon and the signs have provided guidance for other work as well. A common belief is that you don't nail shingles or boards on the "growing side" of the moon, or the ends will draw up and curl. People have butchered, cut hair, killed weeds, cut brush, or pulled teeth based on the signs. It's recommended to paint houses or cars in a dry sign like Leo or Aires, and lay a foundation in Capricorn.

Virginia Knapp, who lives at Mill Creek in Kanawha County, describes herself as "a country girl all my life." She learned about the signs from her parents and nowadays uses them mostly for working up sauerkraut or pickles. Don't try to make either when the signs are in any part of the stomach or feet, she advises, or "it'll stink you out of the house." As a young bride she decided to try it her own way, different from the way her mother had shown her. She made a gallon jar of kraut. "For five or six days, you couldn't stand to be close to it," she says.

Mrs. Knapp's gardening also benefits from her knowledge of the signs. She knows from experience that if you plant beans in the twins (Gemini), "they'll bloom to death, but not bear."

"I love my garden," she professes. "I've been at it a long time. Just read your signs, that's all it takes."

Debby Sonis Jackson

Debby is the Assistant Editor at Goldenseal magazine