Across the United States, particularly in the warmer zones, gardeners swear by planting on Good Friday — or at least during the week of the holiday. Our readers, especially those in the South, comment on our web site each year that their ancestors have been following this tradition for years with great success, and passed down the practice to them.
Even in cooler climates, people use Good Friday as a time to plant root crops and cool season veggies. According to this bit of folklore, plants grow better and bear more fruit. But is there any truth to this?
Examining the Good Friday Garden Tradition
When you look deeper into the tradition of Good Friday gardening, the first thing you’ll notice is that the tradition varies widely depending on your region. And it seems it may have originated in Ireland.
In the 1600s, potatoes were just arriving in Europe and Europeans were suspicious of the tuber, believing that it might be evil. To try and safeguard themselves against potential misfortune, they started planting potatoes on Good Friday, but only after sprinkling their gardens with Holy Water.
Nowadays, Good Friday potato planting persists in some areas, especially in cooler zones of the United States where potatoes are one of the few crops that can go into the ground so early. In other areas, especially in the South, it is common to plant as much as possible on Good Friday — both cool and warm season crops. Many believe this stems from the symbolism of Good Friday and Easter. Easter represents the resurrection of Christ and in ancient times, the holiday was known to many cultures as a symbol of fertility and rebirth.
More Gardening By Folklore
If you spend enough time immersed in gardening folklore, you’ll find all kinds of advice concerning planting times.
- It is said that you should plant peas when the daffodils bloom and that corn goes in the ground when “oak leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear.”
- Farmers often say field corn should be “knee high by the Fourth of July” as an indication that it is growing well. It could very well be that Good Friday just so happens to align with the start of spring in many climates, which makes it a good date for gardeners to remember.
It is also interesting to note that among some cultures, Good Friday planting is not a good thing. The Creoles of Louisiana taught that you should never garden or work the soil on this day. According to their traditions, if one cuts open the ground on Good Friday, then Christ’s blood will flow into the tilled soil.
Good Friday Gardening: Does it Work?
Certainly, there is no scientific evidence that planting on Good Friday makes seeds grow better or plants produce more fruit, especially given the differences between climates and how the date changes from year to year. Good Friday can fall anywhere between March 20 and April 23 in a given year only serves to complicate matters. If you live in colder zones and you’re timing your seed starting with the last frost dates and germination times, you may find that Good Friday is too early to put anything in the ground. For example, if you live anywhere between USDA Zones 5 through 7, the average last frost date is April 15. For gardeners in these zones, an early Good Friday is risky but one that falls in mid-April would be a better planting time.
If it is warm enough to plant on Good Friday in your area, then it certainly can’t hurt to give it a try! (Be sure to tell us how your garden does too!)