Phenology - planting by nature's signs

dottile46 Posts: 437 ✭✭✭

I've heard and read what was called old wives tales about planting corn when the elm leaf is the size of a squirrel's ear but didn't know the origin. Looking back, I believe that I have observed the signs more than I realized. Anyone else make some connections with their planting habits?


  • Ferg
    Ferg Posts: 285 ✭✭✭

    @dottile46 Being aware of our surroundings and making decisions based on them is, to me, something that we do as growers or artists or whatnot. There is something called 'degree days', which is an observational database and prediction system based on the temperatures in an area and when the insects start to come out. Planting certain things within certain gaps can help avoid insect infestations. I think this is an example of phenology (:

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,519 admin

    @dottile46 My grandpa said similar about the time to plant his fields.

    "Plant when the oak leaf is the size of a squirrel's ear."

    We have observed when we are around oak laden areas, and this is accurate.

  • judsoncarroll4
    judsoncarroll4 Posts: 5,461 admin

    My great grandparents always planted by the signs, and always had amazing crops. I don't see it as superstition at all... just a folk wisdom based on generations of observation. If you haven't read them already, you may enjoy "Sleeping With a Sunflower" by Louise Riottie, Foxfire Book #2 and some of the Biodynamic books. The Old Farmer's Almanac also has such info and lore.

  • Grounded
    Grounded Posts: 153 ✭✭✭

    My great-grandparents on my mother's side were farmers and thrived on what they observed and learned about the seasons, the land and the crop they wanted to grow. My grand-parents migrated into town and did not live off the land. While my mother stayed with her grand-parents every summer while she was young, she was more of a town girl. My mother never shared any of her grand-parent's wisdom with us as kids and, while I didn't realize it at the time, by not sharing that wisdom with us, when she died, parts of the story of her life, her parent's lives and her great-grandparent's lives died with her. Now I find myself trying to learn about what I had right at my fingertips for all those years, but was too blind to ask about.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,519 admin

    @attydennis1 I totally understand! I am so glad that you have recognized this and are in pursuit of what was lost. May you find everything and more. 👏

  • KimWilson
    KimWilson Posts: 197 ✭✭✭

    In our area it seems best to wait until Memorial Day to plant crops. This year we had an unseasonably warm April and May. We were actually able to plant a few weeks prior to Memorial Day and only had to cover to protect from frost once. Hopefully the harvest will be great because of being able to plant earlier. I know that this is all date based rather than looking for particular signs, but prior to the Memorial Day clue -- I never knew when to plant. Memorial Day works for me with an awareness for freezing.

  • erikawinterton
    erikawinterton Posts: 98 ✭✭✭

    There is definitely something to this! It is just taking the natural cycles of things and using them as guide posts. I imagine they are things that have been passed down for generations. Lots of wisdom in this. I also try to plant to the lunar, solar, and planetary cycles. I have had alot of fun trying different things. One book that was mentioned in the Biodynamic source presentation in the last grow your own food summit was Agreculture by Rudalf Stiner. I have yet to read it, but I did plant by the moon this season. The plants that I planted in the waxing phase of the moon are doing better than the ones I planted in the waning.

  • tomandcara
    tomandcara Posts: 712 ✭✭✭✭

    It makes sense to look for correlations of nature with gardening. Nature does not follow a stick calendar. I wouldn't recommend looking at apple or peach blossoming here in Denver area of Colorado as a cue.. So many times there is a frost or snow that takes out any hopes of a fruit harvest from these for a season.

  • John
    John Posts: 163 ✭✭✭

    The signs are out there, and are worth studying and paying attention too! Be alert and the outcomes will generally be better. :)

  • Nancy A.Maurelli
    Nancy A.Maurelli Posts: 44 ✭✭✭

    This reminds me of the permaculture principle: Observe and interact. AND this lovely quote attributed to Comenius, in GREAT DIDACTICS (1632):

    "As far as possible, men are to be taught to become wise not only by books, but by the heavens, the earth, oaks and beeches."

    Plants evolved long before mammals, and we can learn a vast amount by paying attention to the way they behave and interrelate with other species and the environment.

  • ltwickey
    ltwickey Posts: 369 ✭✭✭

    Native Americans were well adapted to this type of planting, if you will. Living, observing, and interacting with all things nature ensured not only survivability but thrivability (not a word I know)!!

    As a kid on the ranch we were able to predict the weather based on the cows behavior! You knew the blizzard was coming when they were all headed to the tree grove close to the barn!

    It would be great to not have "life get in the way" and be able to live with and in nature!

  • seeker.nancy - Central Texas
    seeker.nancy - Central Texas Posts: 795 ✭✭✭✭

    My dad's family were farmers and he did pass along some of the info., such as you've had your last freeze if the mesquite trees are leafing out. There were other things but I can't think of them off the top of my head lol.

  • Bryce Langebartels
    Bryce Langebartels Posts: 47 ✭✭✭

    This is a fun thread! I am learning to observe more and more and have been enjoying learning the importance of observation. I'll find myself just staring at my garden or the chickens or goats and it's kind of like reading a good book...the first time through it you catch a lot of things. Go back and read it again and you'll likely notice something that you didn't before but was there all along. So fun!

  • dottile46
    dottile46 Posts: 437 ✭✭✭

    @Bryce Langebartels there's wisdom in your words.

  • AngelaOston
    AngelaOston Posts: 249 ✭✭✭

    I’m experimenting with it after seeing the presentation on biodynamic ranching during the home grownfood summit. I found a very basic app aot of England for five dollars that keeps track of if u are in a flower fruit root or leaf time. Only been working with it since the food summit in this last spring, so really don’t know yet. But im intrigued by biodynamic agriculture and some of the original studies done with it.

    its called BD Gardens.

  • dottile46
    dottile46 Posts: 437 ✭✭✭

    @AngelaOston cool! I will have to look that one up. Thanks for sharing.

  • OhiohillsLouise
    OhiohillsLouise Posts: 120 ✭✭✭ this is science that we can use. Check out this website, you will be glad you did.

  • dianne.misspooz
    dianne.misspooz Posts: 105 ✭✭✭

    Thank you for sharing the link! Awesome info.

  • bcabrobin
    bcabrobin Posts: 251 ✭✭✭

    My dad always said "Don't plant stuff you don't want to cover till after the last full moon in May". This year my oldest son was after me to get the garden in. I reminded him of grandpa's saying, I did plant seeds but know they wouldn't be up till that last moon. He had everything in telling how big it's getting etc. We hit 18' or below every night leading up to that full moon. I didn't have to cover anything, he last stuff the covers blow off of. Maybe next year he'll remember what grandpa used to say!

    we need to learn when they are still alive! Pass it on to our grandkids!

    COWLOVINGIRL Posts: 954 ✭✭✭✭

    This thread is so cool! I have learned a lot. I think I am going to start being more alert, and paying attention to things. dottile46 Thank you for starting this thread!

  • OhiohillsLouise
    OhiohillsLouise Posts: 120 ✭✭✭

    Make your own phenology observations by writing in your own calendar things such as: when the lilacs bloom, when the forsythia bloom, when you see the first migrating birds, etc. You can also see or contribute to the phenology calendar for your area at

    Eventually you will see a trend that is useful to you. I found this chart from

    Soil Temperatures and Phenology Chart

    Apr 10, 2019

  • Voodoo Flóra
    Voodoo Flóra Posts: 258 ✭✭✭

    @dottile46 gardening is a subconscious art. I garden stoned. With stones. Yes. Also, stoned. I let the fairies lead me as to when to plant, water, etc. The difficulties are trying to make good on arbitrary migration patterns due to humanoid weaknesses and malfunctions. For example, my current traveling homestead is a challenge as it is caused by stupidity of the two-legged variety. There is really nothing like this kind of dumb. But still the fairies are leading us full (electric earth) charge ahead. Happy blooming where ya'll planted.