When planting a vegetable garden happens to come up in conversation, I immediately think of the manual work involved. If I had to solely depend on my efforts alone to feed my family, I don’t think I would grow enough food to sustain us. But, maybe after several attempts, I would be successful just as our ancestors were. Today, we all have the pleasure of purchasing our foods with ease. Stocking our shelves is as simple as visiting the local grocery store. But, during the colonial period, things were very much different. The seasons were linked to two of the most valuable food sources, vegetables and grains. Success was measured by the harvest yield. The more land that could be cleared for planting equaled the likelihood of survival. Stop and consider the number of vegetables every family purchases monthly. Now, think about the work involved if you grew those items yourself.
How many of you grew up in a home that canned vegetables the old-fashioned way? My Grandmother canned pickles and marmalade. My Great Aunt canned sausage, and my Mom froze our fresh vegetables. Harvesting the crop was not the final step. The main idea was to enjoy the items through the winter months ahead. Both sets of my Grandparents knew the common-sense rules. Whenever I asked a question like, why are you planting beans today? The answer was typically the same, Because its common-sense. I once told one of my Grandmothers that I couldn’t wait until I grew up and got me some of that common sense. She laughed and said, “Honey, what do you want to know so bad?” That day, she shared a small sampling of common-sense. For instance, when leaves turn over, it will soon rain. Another one is if it rains on Sunday, it will rain during the week too. If the sun comes out while its raining, it will rain the next day. If squirrels chatter, then winter will be mild. She would recite them as fast as I could hear them. So, I asked once again, “Why did you have to plant the green beans on a certain day?” “Plants that grow above ground are planted in the new moon”. Grandma said it so matter of fact, like everyone knew this. It was news to me, but I learned more from her over the years since I was in dire need of this priceless common-sense.
How many of you plant your flowers and trees by the signs of the moon? Nature’s harmony is what my Mom would classify it as. A time for every season as nature cycles from one day to the next. Each month has a different moon. January has the Winter Moon. October has the Harvest Moon, and April has the Planter’s Moon. Another of the common-sense rules, if a person makes a wish on a new moon and doesn’t reveal it to anyone, the wish will come true. I might have to try that one. Two full moons in one month brings good luck. I’m grabbing the calendar right now. The next full moon will be July 13th, and there is only one full moon for each month this year. Better luck next year.
For plants that grow underground such as carrots, plant those in the old moon with a fruitful zodiac sign. You do know the zodiac signs, right? More common-sense. The fruitful signs are Pisces, Taurus, Cancer, Libra, and Scorpio. So, if you wanted to win a blue ribbon for the biggest watermelon at the state fair, when do you plant your seeds? April 20th through May 21st during the new moon. Oh yeah, don’t forget to make your wish.
For our colonial families, they first had to clear the land. The next step was to plow the field. Then it was time to plant their seeds. While tending the crops, they would pay careful attention to the weather. By season’s end, they would harvest the ripe vegetables and finally preserve them for winter.
Colonial vegetable gardens varied in size. It greatly depended on the size of the family. The gardens were primarily closer to the house, while the larger crops were contained in open fields.
I dare each of you to discover the past by experiencing it firsthand. We have a fruitful sign coming up from June 21st through July 23rd. Look for the new moon and plant a few seeds of your favorite vegetable. You still have time to tend its growth and harvest your crop just like your ancestors. Remember, its common-sense know-how, and a wish wouldn’t hurt.