Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Gardeners rely on zodiac

Some still trust in moon's phases

By Karen Owen

        OWENSBORO, Ky. — While most gardeners cast a wary eye to the sky before planting their gardens, some are as concerned about the moon as they are the rain clouds.

        That's because a few traditionalists believe the phases of the moon are a critical influence on gardening and other activities.

        “My grandfather, he watched the signs,” said Wilbur Duncan, 81, of Yelvington. “I've been watching for 40 years. There's really something to it.”

        Mr. Duncan consults his trusty almanac for the moon's phases before planting his half-acre garden each spring. “A lot of people don't believe it. That's because they don't watch.”

        Each day is dominated by one of the 12 zodiac signs, and each sign is associated with a particular body part and an element of nature, such as earth, wind or fire.

        These signs, along with the monthly waxing and waning of the moon, can make a difference, some farmers say. Crops that produce above ground, followers of the signs say, should be planted on days leading up to the full moon. Root crops should be planted between the full moon and the new moon.

        “They claim if you plant by the dark of the moon, it makes more taters,” said Woody Abney, an 89- year-old retired farmer from Calhoun who spent decades timing his farm work by the moon and astrological signs. “If you plant in the light of the moon, it makes more vine.”

        The signs are also used to figure out the best days to cut weeds or set out flowers, pick apples, can vegetables, cut timber, set fence posts, wean infants, castrate animals, bake or even lay foundations.

        Charlie Ward, of Philpot, doesn't garden by the signs but does consult the moon when it comes to weaning calves. “If you wean them in the right moon, they'll never bawl,” Mr. Ward said.

        Many gardeners and farmers don't buy this.

        “I'm a horticulturist,” said Ray Russell, who was in charge of beautification for the city of Owensboro before he retired. “I don't plant by the moon. I plant by the sun.”

        Even when the signs were supposedly right, “I've seen it when it was 35 degrees outside and the garden was so wet it wouldn't do you any good,” said Billy Reid, owner of Reid's Orchard, another producer who is not convinced the moon's phases play a role in agriculture.

        His family has been in the orchard business for 130 years and has never planted by the moon, Mr. Reid said. “We plant everything by the weather. It's all got to do with the right weather.”

        “I would say the weather is most important,” acknowledged Mr. Duncan, but when the weather has forced him to plant his crops on the wrong day astrologically, though, “I know I didn't get as good results.”


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