Should We Plant Our Gardens On Good Friday?
Planting on Good Friday is a long-held custom among Southern gardeners. The elders in my family, starting with my grandfather and my husband’s grandfather, upheld this tradition and passed it down to us. Though multiple generations in my family have observed the custom, my dad always resisted planting on Good Friday, choosing instead to wait until the second or third week in April. I’ve often wondered why he waited past Good Friday. That’s when you’re “supposed” to get your garden in the ground, according to tradition. So it raises the question: does planting on Good Friday bring you good luck and fortune, or is it just plain folly, the stuff of folklore?
How Did the Good Friday Planting Tradition Begin?
It’s been said that the tradition of planting on Good Friday originated in Ireland. Interestingly, my dad is of Irish descent. I’ll tell you all the reasons why he doesn’t plant on Good Friday in a little bit.
The Irish weren’t so sure that potatoes were good for them to eat, since they weren’t mentioned in the Bible. The idea of planting on a holy day such as Good Friday grew out of an attempt to “redeem” the potato, by bringing it closer in association with that holiness. In the South, we follow this tradition in hopes of bringing forth a blessing upon our gardens. Southerners are known to plant their entire gardens on Good Friday.
I only know of a few Southerners who exclude themselves from this tradition – mainly gardeners in Louisiana. I’ve heard it told that they believe blood will seep out through the soil if you till it on Good Friday.
Does Planting on Good Friday Work?
It depends on when Easter falls and where you live. Easter’s exact date changes from year to year, but it’s always determined to be on the first Sunday after the first full moon in spring. This may be anytime from March 23rd to April 15th. And Good Friday, of course, is always observed on the Friday before Easter Sunday. The weather will vary in great degrees during this range of time, even among the Southern states.
Planting potatoes on Good Friday is really tricky and depends heavily on climate. They may not have enough time to reach maturity before the ground gets too hot. That happens pretty quickly here in the South, so you had better gotten them in the ground well before Good Friday (sometime between February and March). By May the ground will be too hot for the potatoes.
As I mentioned earlier, my dad waits several weeks after Good Friday and never plants before Easter, EVER. He’s told me that every time he plants before Easter, his garden never comes up.
Summer crops should not be planted until the ground stays between 60 to 70 degrees for several days. Many vegetables will not tolerate anything lower than 65 degrees. Squash, tomatoes, eggplant, and cucumbers need very warm soil. For okra, the soil needs to be even warmer than that.
My family plants from seed indoors to give the plant a head start. We relocate them to the garden as soon as there’s no longer a risk of frost and the ground has been over 65 degrees for several days. Around midsummer, we plant straight from seed into the garden to get a second harvest out of the season. I cover a lot of this info in my Harvest Cookbook, which also has many tips and recipes, so you check it out to learn all about the best gardening practices!
To answer the question, my friends that plant on Good Friday run the risk of the losing their crop due to excess moisture in the ground, which will cause the roots to rot. This could also end up preventing seed germination because the ground is too cool. At least 50% of the time, I end up hearing them complain that they had to replant their garden.
If you are tempted (as I am every year) to get the garden in the ground quick and early, check to see if the dirt crumbles like cake and the temperature of the ground is around 65 degrees. If it is, and has been for a while, then by all means, plant your garden on Good Friday. If not, I’d advise waiting until after Easter and if you live in central Alabama, wait until mid-April.
I Love Southern Traditions, But…
I love Southern traditions and would love to keep this one, but I fear I would be keeping a tradition at the risk of losing my garden. I love fresh garden vegetables and don’t want anything to get in the way of the harvest!