Tell Me a Story about … the Moon!

Who else had parents wake them overnight on July 20, 1969, to get up and sit sleepy-eyed and wondering what the big deal was? I remember sitting on the stairs in view on our black and white television in the living room. Dad and Mom seemed excited. I don’t recall how my two younger brothers felt.

But as for me, I thought the idea of getting up after I’d fallen asleep to watch some Moon 1astronaut walk on the moon a bit over-dramatized. At nine years old, I was only interested in playing house and taking our cat for walks in my baby carriage. I let the space stuff to others. Even today, my interest in space lies in whether or not I’ll get to see the full moon this month and for the day I’ll share a moonlit walk with our grandchildren.

However, there was one time, over 25 years ago, I learned an important lesson concerning the moon. It happened the year I planted potatoes for the first time in my life.

During my childhood, my parents put in a small garden every year. They always planted Moon 2the same plants. My dad planted his spring onions as soon as the ground warmed enough. Next came the sugar peas and radishes. Then, carrots (which never amounted to much), green beans (which amounted to too much), and cucumbers (which amounted to more than all the others put together). They also planted marigolds as a border to ward off the rabbits. (Disclosure: don’t bother. The rabbits ate them!) And finally, they added tomato plants: red, yellow, and cherry.

What does this have to do with the moon? Well, the year I had my first large garden as a married woman with a young family to teach about gardening and canning, I decided to try a few new varieties of plants. Since our plot was much bigger, I planted mounds of melons, rows of sweet corn, and a section of … potatoes.Moon 3

I’d let a bag of potatoes sit until they sprouted, cut each individual eye apart from the others, and planted them at one end of my garden. I watered and weeded and watched my garden, being especially vigilant of my potato bed. The spring onions tasted wonderful slathered with butter; the cucumbers did the usual never-ending growing season; and the corn … well, the corn fed the deer.

Moon 6But the potatoes … oh, the potatoes! I never saw more luscious, vibrant plants. From the moment they broke through the soil, the leaves turned a deep forest green, and as they grew, they took on the look of mini-landscaping bushes. I was proud and excited, imagining the harvest of potatoes from such amazing plants.

When the time came, I grabbed my gloves, a dull spade (so as to not cut into any of my robust potatoes), and an extra-large tub to put all the spuds in. I began digging carefully, an inch at a time. One inch, two inches, three … hmm, no potatoes yet. After digging quite a few inches, I hit pay-dirt. My first potato! I didn’t care that it was only the size of a quarter in diameter. I’d grown a potato!

However, that elation deflated after digging many inches under ALL the plants and Moon 7having only a literal handful of itty-bitty potatoes. I could not understand it. Those gorgeous specimens of plants produced only this pitiful harvest? Why?

That’s exactly what I asked my grandparents when I next saw them, the ones who had plentiful harvests from gardens grown in the postage-stamp backyards of inner-city Harrisburg, PA.

Get ready for it … because their answer is why this blog post is about the moon. According to my grandparents (and The Farmer’s Almanac and a few scientific websites), if you want a high harvest from root vegetables, they should be planted on the “down-side of the moon,” as they called it. And if the veggies grow above ground, then plant them on the “up-side.” When looking to verify what seemed to me an “old wives’ tale,” even though I trusted my grandparents’ wisdom, I discovered the “down-side” means when the moon is waning (going from full to a new moon), and the “up-side” is when it’s waxing from new to full. Down to grow down, up to grow up!Moon 5

Look it up for yourselves! Think about the tides in reference to the waxing and waning moons, as well as a host of other physical and psychological issues. It makes sense. I never had the chance to test my grandparents’ advice, though; so, if you’ve never planted your potatoes according to the moon and try it for yourselves this year (though it’s a tad late for many areas), and you grow potatoes so large that one will feed a family of four, PLEASE let me know! Thanks! Happy gardening!


Time for your moon stories … at least the ones you can share on a Rated “G” blog! And in case you didn’t know, the next full moon isn’t until July 5th.