Sherman's Wisdom

Thursday, August 25, 2011
There is much to be said for folklore and often the seemingly crazy things people say to do in their gardens really do work. When they do, there’s most always a solid scientific reason for it, which leads some folks to believe all such remedies will work. Truth is, the ineffective get passed on and so do not get put to the test.
August 28, 2011, is the dark of the moon. Sherman’s exhortation was to cut down woody plants and bamboo in the dark of the moon in August to prevent resprouting. He said that the sap is down in them at that time of year and it can’t get back up. Nothing’s 100%, but I’ve used this one many times and it does work. I don’t know about the sap, exactly, but the ebb and flow of liquids inside plants does vary, like the tides. Plus, by August, most plants are stressed by heat and drought and growth is naturally suppressed.
Sherman taught that if you dig a hole, as for a fence post, when the moon is full, and then refill that same hole with the diggings, there will be dirt left over. The reverse is true, too, so when you dig that hole at the new moon, there won’t be enough dirt to refill the hole. Try this one yourself – I’ve had mixed results.
I won’t go into more of the lore around moon phases as it has been well covered elsewhere. But there are more. For instance, my grandmother put rusty nails in the ground around hydrangeas, the flowers will be purple or pink. The rust has iron and its availability does affect their colors. A more effective way to maintain pink or mauve tones is to add lime to the soil regularly, which changes its pH, makes iron available and causes color change.
Epsom salts are much heralded as a spray or soil drench to bring on better bell peppers and longer-lasting roses. The ingredients in Epsom salts are primarily sulfur and magnesium. The sulfur has an effect on the soil’s pH and can assist in the efficient uptake of fertilizers in general. If you’re spraying, the sulfur can also act as a fungicide. Magnesium has a more specific action in the absorption of phosphorus, which is essential for strong cell walls. That’s why the peppers and roses are so sturdy. Both of these elements are present to an acceptable degree in our soils, but those who love this approach swear by it.
I’ll be collecting these stories and occasionally blogging about them, so why don’t you write yours in the comments section here and we’ll see how many can be explained.
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