Old-Time Planting Signs and Garden Wisdom

Near Amana, Iowa
We're starting to see a little Spring in southern Iowa...our lawn was actually mowed last weekend, forsythia are starting to bloom, magnolias are starting to show a little color, Myrna has a potted rhubarb up!  Never mind that it got below freezing last night!!
I found an old tattered clipping in one of my garden books – and looking around the neighborhood this week, I thought it might be interesting. The clipping talks about watching plants around us to let nature tell us  when to plant our own seeds and bedding plants, called phenology.

Here are some of the plant signs to watch for:
• Forsythia and daffodils blooming – plant peas, prune roses, fertilize the lawn the first time
• When regular lilacs are in first leaf – plant beets, carrots, cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, lettuce and spinach.
• When regular Lilacs are in full bloom – plant beans, cucumbers and squash
• When lily of the valley are in full bloom – set out tomato plants
• When regular daylilies start to bloom, plant tomatoes and peppers
• When irises (regular ones, I think) bloom – transplant melon and pepper plants
• Plant potatoes when the first dandelion blooms (obviously, this isn’t usually Good Friday!)

John reminded me that even the trees can be fooled by the weather, but I think these hints would keep you pretty close to the mark in Iowa.

A couple of other old sayings that older gardeners swear by, including my mother-in-law, the goddess of the garden (she brought my “dead” houseplants back to life!)
• Silver maples show the lining of their leaves before a storm
• Plant aboveground crop vegetables on a waxing moon (from new to full). Plant underground crop vegetables and flowering bulbs on a waning moon (from full to new).
• Potatoes should be planted on Good Friday (never mind that the holiday varies almost a month)

I only wish my mother-in-law had lived long enough to see me finally “get it” about gardening.


  1. I really enjoyed this post! We've been to Amana. Spent the day there, ate till we were absolutely stuffed, seemed like it was called The Brick Oven??? We had gone up to go to the flea market at What Cheer and some people that were lined up with us told us they were having a Beerfest in Amana, and how to get there. It was all such fun! And so much history there. I didn't remember seeing those barrel horses. Wouldn't I love to have some of those for my front yard!

    1. Well, Ilene, my husband's folks used to live in What Cheer, so we also enjoy the big flea market at the fair grounds there.


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