Planting traditions run strong in Eastern Kentucky. I remember my granny, Marvolene Cornett, grew a huge garden every year. One of my fondest memories of her is sitting at her kitchen table eating green beans and cornbread with sliced tomatoes and cucumbers. A meal she had grown from her garden.
Unfortunately, she died before I was old enough to learn the gardening traditions from her; but she left behind a legacy in my father, Marvin Cornett, now 74 and his brother, Harold. The two planting traditions my granny passed down was planting peas on Valentine’s Day and green beans on Good Friday.
When granny couldn’t plant on planting day, she would wrap her seeds in cheesecloth, dig six inches under the soil and bury them. Then, when conditions were more favorable for planting, she would dig up the seeds. Sometimes the seeds would have already begun to sprout.
So, attempting to follow the tradition of my granny, I planted my peas in February. Mixing old traditions with new ideas, I planted my bush peas in two 4 x 8 beds.
According to square foot gardening experts, you should plant eight pea seeds per square foot. Because my seeds are leftovers, I planted them a little heavier and will just thin it to the strongest eight plants per square foot. Using this method of planting, there will be less weeding and no tilling with larger yields per garden space. Because I have very little area to garden, space is important.
These planting traditions aren’t exclusive to my family. My first in-laws, Hayes and Lola Cornett Partin from Letcher County, Kentucky followed these same traditions. Hayes shared a few more traditions that he guaranteed would help me produce a good garden this summer.
Potatoes: Hayes said you need to plant potatoes in March or April during the old moon, or dark of the moon. If you do not do this they will rot in the ground. You also need to harvest the potatoes during the old moon. When planting potatoes you need to turn the “eyes” up. Lola would get on her hands and knees and crawl along the trench and turn each eye up. You also need to plant each one an inch apart. They call this drilling. When covering the potatoes, place only two inches of dirt on top. Then once they begin to come up, you “hill” the dirt up on them. Prior to planting, you need to spread fertilize through the trench and drag a chain through. This will mix the fertilizer with the soil. Then you fertilize down the side later. This keeps the fertilizer from “burning up” the seed potatoes.
Dad said that if your potatoes do well on top and grow thick, they are not doing well underground and you won’t get a good crop. On the contrary, if the plants don’t grow large and full, you will get a huge yield.
Cucumbers: Hayes said they always planted Cucumbers on the 7th day of May. They would plant seven hills (or mounds) of cucumbers with seven seeds per hill. If they couldn’t plant on the 7th, they would plant on the 9th day of May and would plant nine hills with nine seeds to each hill. He said they always had good luck with planting cucumbers following this tradition.
Dad said that granny always hilled her cucumbers. She would dig a hole and fill it with cow manure, fresh from the field. Then she would pull the dirt up over it and plant the seeds in the hill and wait for the vines to emerge.
Cabbage: Hayes said they used Flat Dutch Cabbage because it is a good frost-proof cabbage. You place them two feet apart. As they grow, you need to pull the bottom leaves off and “hoop” the dirt up on them. They call this “priming the cabbage”. This will cause the heads to grow large.
Mustard Greens: Hayes said to plant mustard on the 15th of August when the days and nights are cooler so the greens won’t “burn up” from the sun.
The tradition Hayes says is most important is to gather around what you have just planted, hold hands and pray for Heavenly Father to the bless garden. This is a tradition that my father handed down to me too. ~ Melanie, Laurel County