Are You a Superstitious Gardener?

Do you plant your potatoes on Good Friday, or curse when you are sowing parsley to make it grow better? Do you throw the ninth pea over your shoulder when shelling for luck, and only plant chillis when you are in a bad mood to make them grow hotter?

If you do, you are following in the footsteps of gardeners over hundreds of years who have succumbed to garden superstitions. Many are without logical explanation, like bringing an axe to a barren fruit tree in early spring. The threat of being cut down will, apparently, shock the tree into producing abundant fruit at harvest time. Some have a basis in science, like never planting under a walnut tree as nothing will grow there. This has less to do with the evil spirits of the tree and is more explained by the fact that the roots of the walnut tree secrete a herbicide which fends off competition for nutrients and water.

Whether or not you garden with a mind on garden superstitions or not, they are absolutely fascinating, and we have delved into a few more for you!

The Elder Tree

The Elder tree was thought to be one that brought bad luck, with a resident witch living within! An elder, therefore, should never be planted by the front door for fear that each time you opened the door, a bad witch could jump inside your house! Similarly, elder should not be used for a baby’s cradle, since it would give witches access to harming the baby. Another superstition surrounding the elder tree was never to light a fire with elder for fear that the resident witch would become furious.

The Rowan Tree

The Rowan, on the other hand, was believed to be a force for good and planting a rowan tree by your door would ward off bad luck and black magic. Parents were advised to use rowan to build the cradle for their babies to grant protection from evil spirits and witches.

Knocking on Wood

Touching or knocking on wood for luck or to avoid tempting fate is a superstition that exists the world over. It is so common that many of us do it regularly without thinking about how this superstition originated. One explanation is that knocking on the trunk of a tree was thought to wake up kind fairies or protective tree spirits living inside to let them know that you were requesting help. The fairies or tree spirits would then grant you the luck or protection you were seeking.

Planting Potatoes on Good Friday

Many gardeners will still plant out their potatoes on Good Friday in a superstitious move to ensure a good crop. This superstition apparently comes from from the sixteenth century, when potatoes were first introduced to Britain. The belief arose that potatoes, because they grew underground, were the Devil’s food. So to keep the evil at bay, potatoes were planted on Good Friday and watered with holy water.

Finding a Four-Leaf Clover

We all know of the superstition that to find a four-leaf clover brings luck with each of the four leaves representing hope, faith, love, and luck. This one goes back to the biblical story of Adam and Eve, where Eve was cast out of the Garden of Eden. She, apparently, took with her a four-leaf clover so that she would still carry a tiny piece of paradise.

Fairy Foxgloves

Picking a foxglove flower and bringing it inside is said to be bad luck because the flowers belong to the fairies. The speckles on the petals are thought to indicate places on the flower that a fairy has touched and if you pick them for yourself, it will annoy the fairies and they will seek revenge on you.

The Protection of Rosemary

Rosemary was once widely held in superstition as a protective herb, thought to ward off evil spirits and witches in the Middle Ages. It was often dropped into graves so that a deceased loved one would not be forgotten.

Parsley for the Devil

Parsley can be a notoriously difficult herb to grow from seed. Gardeners are still often found making three sowings of parsley in order to generate success: two for the devil and one for the gardener. It is also said that the ability to grow parsley from seed is proof of a person’s honesty. To bring a parsley plant into a house, though, is reported to bring bad luck, as does giving it away to someone else.

Witches’ Fennel

Fennel was superstitiously hung over the front door to prevent the devil, or witches, gaining access to the home and keyholes were blocked up with fennel seeds for the same reason.

Giving and Receiving Plants

There is a widespread superstition among gardeners that if you say thank you for a plant that’s been given to you, it will not thrive and grow. The origin of this one is based on the belief that if you do something morally wrong like stealing a plant or not saying thank you when one is given to you, the plant will then grow prolifically to remind you of your misdeed and make you feel guilty! Thus some gardeners retain the superstition that plants will grow much more successfully if stolen so when they give someone a plant, they will put it down and turn their back on it so that the other person can steal it.

Step Inside the Fairy Ring

And finally, if you really want to escape the confines of our coronavirus restrictions, step inside a fairy ring or a circle of mushrooms. The rings are said to spring up where fairies dance in a circle and by entering the ring, you will see the fairies who would otherwise be invisible to the human eye. If you step inside the ring, the fairies can capture you there and if you eat any of the food they offer you, you will never be able to leave the fairy ring and come back into the human world. That may well sound like an appealing prospect!

In the meantime, just keep washing your face with the early morning dew to render your skin flawless, plant sage in the garden to bring prosperity, and keep talking to your plants to keep them healthy – nothing superstitious in that at all!

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