A miscellany of planting and weather lore
There are endless resources on the web for forecasting weather and guiding gardening, reliably reflecting the wealth of folk material developed and held over many centuries and in every part of the world in oral traditions. As with medical lore, these materials represent a mixture of hard-won empirical knowledge and scientifically meaningless but socially and psychologically useful methods for coping with uncertainty and segmenting the continuous, undifferentiated stream of time.
Matthew Walker [matthewwalker1973 at sbcglobal.net] wrote in April, 2010:
I don’t know if this fits your list – I found your list looking for more things like this – little mnemonic bits of natural.agrarian folklore – “Frogs will look through ice, twice”. It is supposed to remind you that there will be two more frosts after you first hear frogs in the spring.
My boss at work said he always heard that when he was a kid – he was born and raised in Caldwell County Missouri. Born in the late 50s or early 60s. I know his family had been on the same farm since his grandfather at least and probably a lot farther back, but I don’t know where they might have come from before that – but generally speaking aside from the Mormons, most of the settlers here came from Kentucky and Tennessee.
For planting corn, beans, and peas: “One for the rook, one for the crow, one to rot, and one to grow.”
For planting parsley, a plant thought to be linked to the devil: “Plant parsley only on Good Friday, for only on that day is the devil without power. Planting parsley on any other day puts your life in danger.”
For planting by the moon, which was thought to have the power to draw things out of the earth: “Sow seed when the moon is waxing (growing larger). Sow root crops when the moon is waning.”
For planting peas: “Plant peas on St. Patrick’s Day for the blessing of the saint himself on your entire garden.”
For planting beans: “Plant beans when the elms leaves are as big as a penny.”
Signs (from the Joplin Globe):
Red in the morning, sailors take warning. Red at night, sailors delight.
When the sun goes to bed red, ‘twill rain tomorrow, it’s said. When peach and plum trees bloom, plant hardy crops. (asparagus, rhubarb, horseradish, strawberries)
When you see growth on green ash, grapes and oaks, it is safe to plant tender vines, annuals and perennials.
When elm leaves are the size of a penny, plant green beans.
Trees are easier to fell when the moon is on the wane.
When wasps build their nests in exposed areas, expect a dry season.
When daffodils begin to bloom, it is time to plant peas.
When the blossoms of the apple tree begin to fall, plant your corn seeds.
When oak leaves are the size of squirrel’s ears, plant corn.
When dandelions are blooming, plant beets, lettuce, spinach and carrots.
Plant morning glory seeds when the maple leaves are full size.
Crabgrass seed germinates when the forsythias are in bloom.
Silver maples show the lining of their leaves before a storm.
Slugs will come out in droves prior to rainfall.
Dandelion blossoms close before there will be a rain.
Don’t plant root vegetables on a moon lit night, always plant root vegetables on dark nights. Otherwise, you will have all leaves and no potatoes, turnips, etc.
Plant beans on Good Friday
Never plant anything on Sunday, it won’t grow
Plant your beans with corn so the vines will grow up the corn stalks, and plant squash between the beans and corn, to keep the ground moist and you won’t have to weed! (American history refers to this as the three sisters)
Dogwood Winter – Every year when the Dogwood trees bloom, it gets real cold.
Blackberry Winter – Every year when the blackberries bloom, it gets real cold.
If the wooly worm has a lot of wool, it will be a bad winter.
If the squirrels and birds are feeding in the winter, expect a bad snow storm
For every foggy morning in August, it will snow that many days that following winter.
No weather is ill, if the wind be still.
When the swallow’s nest is high, summer is dry
When the swallow’s nest is low, you can safely reap and sow.
Rain before seven, fine before eleven.
Infallible signs of Rainy Weather, from the Observations of divers Animals!
If Ducks or Drakes their Wings do flutter high
Or tender Colts upon their Backs do lie,
If Sheep do bleat, or play, or skip about,
Or Swine hide Straw by bearing on their Snout,
If Oxen lick themselves against the Hair,
Or grazing Kine to feed apace appear,
If Cattle bellow, grazine from below,
Or if Dogs Entrails rumble to and fro,
If Doves or Pigeons in the Evening come
Later than usual to their Dove-House Home,
If Crows and Daws do oft themselves be-wet,
Or Ants and Pismires Home a-pace do get,
If in the dust Hens do their Pinions shake,
Or by their flocking a great Number make,
If Swallows fly upon the Water low,
Or Wood-Lice seem in Armies for to go,
If Flies or Gnats, or Fleas infest and bite,
Or sting more than they’re wont by Day or Night,
If Toads hie Home, or Frogs do croak amain,
Or Peacocks cry
Soon after look for Rain!
A cow with its tail to the West makes the weather best,
A cow with its tail to the East makes the weather least
Submitted by Jamie, (firstname.lastname@example.org)
If the cat eats hay, then wait because on the next day, it will rain like a dog’s day!
Submitted by Mona Haverman
Apples watered by St Swithin’s tears are the most luscious.
Submitted by Christopher Koceja
Mackerel skies and mares tails make ships carry lowered sails.
Submitted by Lake Cottage
The louder the frog, the more the rain.
Mares tales, storms and gales. Mackerel sky, not 24 hours dry
-More sayings, traditional and otherwise, from the Weather Station
-A scientific explanation of certain traditional weather signs
-The Anglo-Saxon “Nine Herbs Charm”:
This version is taken from G. Storms’ “Anglo-Saxon Magic”, Martinus Nijhoff: The Hague, 1948, pp187-197.
The charm was found in the 11th century manuscript known as Harley 585, called “Lacnunga” by one of its translators in the 19th century. This manuscript is in the British Museum.
Remember, Mugwort, what you made known,
What you arranged at the Great proclamation.
You were called Una, the oldest of herbs,
you have power against three and against thirty,
you have power against poison and against infection,
you have power against the loathsome foe roving through the land.
And you, Plantain, mother of herbs,
Open from the east, mighty inside.
over you chariots creaked, over you queens rode,
over you brides cried out, over you bulls snorted.
You withstood all of them, you dashed against them.
May you likewise withstand poison and infection
and the loathsome foe roving through the land.
‘Stune’ is the name of this herb, it grew on a stone,
it stands up against poison, it dashes against poison,
it drives out the hostile one, it casts out poison.
This is the herb that fought against the snake,
it has power against poison, it has power against infection,
it has power against the loathsome foe roving through the land.
Put to flight now, Venom-loather, the greater poisons,
though you are the lesser,
you the mightier, conquer the lesser poisons, until he is cured of both.
Remember, Chamomile, what you made known,
what you accomplished at Alorford,
that never a man should lose his life from infection
after Chamomile was prepared for his food.
This is the herb that is called ‘Wergulu’.
A seal sent it across the sea-right,
a vexation to poison, a help to others.
it stands against pain, it dashes against poison,
it has power against three and against thirty,
against the hand of a fiend and against mighty devices,
against the spell of mean creatures.
There the Apple accomplished it against poison
that she [the loathsome serpent] would never dwell in the house.
Chervil and Fennell, two very mighty one.
They were created by the wise Lord,
holy in heaven as He hung;
He set and sent them to the seven worlds,
to the wretched and the fortunate, as a help to all.
These nine have power against nine poisons.
A worm came crawling, it killed nothing.
For Woden took nine glory-twigs,
he smote the the adder that it flew apart into nine parts.
Now there nine herbs have power against nine evil spirits,
against nine poisons and against nine infections:
Against the red poison, against the foul poison.
against the yellow poison, against the green poison,
against the black poison, against the blue poison,
against the brown poison, against the crimson poison.
Against worm-blister, against water-blister,
against thorn-blister, against thistle-blister,
against ice-blister, against poison-blister.
Against harmfulness of the air, against harmfulness of the ground,
against harmfulness of the sea.
If any poison comes flying from the east,
or any from the north, [or any from the south,]
or any from the west among the people.
Christ stood over diseases of every kind.
I alone know a running stream,
and the nine adders beware of it.
May all the weeds spring up from their roots,
the seas slip apart, all salt water,
when I blow this poison from you.
Mugwort, plantain open form the east, lamb’s cress, venom-loather, camomile, nettle, crab-apple, chevil and fennel, old soap; pound the herbs to a powder, mix them with the soap and the juice oaf the apple.
Then prepare a paste of water and of ashes, take fennel, boil it with the paste and wash it with a beaten egg when you apply the salve, both before and after.
Sing this charm three times on each of the herbs before you (he) prepare them, and likewise on the apple. And sing the same charm into the mouth of the man and into both his ears, and on the wound, before you (he) apply the salve.
Indian Weather Sayings from Southern Ohio:
When dew is on the grass in the morning, it will not rain during the day.
When dew is not on the grass when darkness has fallen, it will rain before morning.
When birds fly low and silently, a bad storm is coming.
When a dove sits close to the trunk of a sapling during the daytime, a great wind will soon blow.
When the leaves of the maples turn over to show their undersides, thunder and lightning will come soon.
When the blackbirds flock together and start south when late summer is still with us, there will be much snow during the winter.
When the swamp muskrat builds a low house of reeds and mud, the winter will be mild.
The larger and higher the house a muskrat builds, the worse the winter.
When the muskrat builds no house, but burrows beneath the ground, prepare for severe cold for the ponds and small streams will freeze to the bottom and even the Ohio River will freeze so a horse may walk upon it.
Copyright 2000 by Amos Hawkins
Some of the more reliable signs,
according to compiler David Phillips (Senior Climatologist, Environment Canada — August, 1997 )
The moon and the weather may change together,
But a change of the moon, will not change the weather.
A ring around the sun or moon, means rain or snow coming soon.
When grass is dry at morning light
Look for rain before the night.
Dew on the grass, rain won’t come to pass.
Sea gull, sea gull, sit on the sand,
It’s never good weather while you’re on the land.
When sea-gulls fly to land, a storm is at hand.
Rain before seven, fine before eleven.
Evening red and morning grey, two sure signs of one fine day.
The sudden storm lasts not three hours
The sharper the blast, the sooner ’tis past.
The higher the clouds the better the weather.
Cold is the night when the stars shine bright.
Sound travelling far and wide, a stormy day betide.
When the forest murmurs and the mountain roars,
Then close your windows and shut your doors.
When leaves show their undersides, be very sure that rain betides.
Chimney smoke descends, our nice weather ends.
When the night goes to bed with a fever, it will awake with a wet head.
When stars shine clear and bright,
We will have a very cold night.
When the ditch and pond offend the nose,
Then look out for rain and stormy blows.
Three days rain will empty any sky.
The farther the sight, the nearer the rain.
Rain long foretold, long last,
Short notice, soon will pass.
The sharper the blast, the sooner ’tis past.
If bees stay at home, rain will soon come,
If they flay away, fine will be the day.
The first and last frosts are the worst.
When clouds look like black smoke a wise man will put on his cloak.
A rainbow afternoon,
Good weather coming soon.
A rainbow in the morning, is the shepherd’s warning
A rainbow at night is the shepherd’s delight.
When the chairs squeak, it’s of rain they speak.
Catchy drawer and sticky door,
Coming rain will pour and pour.
The winds of the daytime wrestle and fight,
Longer and stronger than those of the night.
Dust rising in dry weather is a sign of approaching change.
Sun sets Friday clear as bell,
Rain on Monday sure as hell.
No weather’s ill if the wind be still.
The squeak of the snow will the temperature show.
When smoke hovers close to the ground, there will be a weather change.
When down the chimney falls the soot
Mud will soon be underfoot.
When the sun shines while raining,
it will rain the same time again tomorrow.
When the wind blows from the west, fish bite best.
When it blows from the east, fish bite least.
If salt is sticky,
And gains in weight;
It will rain
Before too late.
Red sky at night, sailor’s delight;
Red sky in morning, sailor take warning.
When clouds appear like rocks and towers,
The Earth’s refreshed by frequent showers.
When the wind is in the east, ’tis neither good for man nor beast.
-The Old Farmer’s Almanac website
-The lore of love and common garden plants
-Planting by the signs in Appalachia — from the Foxfire folks
-Planting by the moon — this treatment attempts a scientific approach