Alabama Communtiy Gardening
- Subject: [cg] Alabama Communtiy Gardening
- From: email@example.com
- Date: Sat, 26 Mar 2005 10:10:19 -0500
Good Friday good day for community gardening
East Avondale neighbors till soil, sow seeds
Saturday, March 26, 2005
News staff writer
Every Good Friday down in Marengo County, Adam Thrash's grandparents would start their garden, just as generations of Southerners before them.
Now, Thrash is following the tradition. But rather than sowing a rural acreage, Thrash, 67, spent this Good Friday helping his neighbors plant vegetables at a community garden near his home in Birmingham's East Avondale neighborhood.
"My daddy did it and my wife's daddy did it," he said, although he doesn't know why. "It's just a tradition to plant on Good Friday."
Explanations for the custom range from Scripture to science to plain old superstition. But one thing's certain: People across central Alabama spent a warm, sunny day sowing seeds and planting flowers.
"A lot of my customers plant on Good Friday," said Jason Powell, owner of Petals From the Past, a Jemison nursery specializing in old-fashioned plants. He said it's one of many long-standing beliefs, such as pruning roses on Valentine's Day.
"Gardeners are superstitious," he said. "If something works once, they're going to keep doing it that way."
The initial selection of the day may have had something to do with the phases of the moon, which guide the dates for Easter and directed agricultural calendars, said Sally Lee, a horticultural agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extensive Service in Jefferson County. There also are biblical references to Jesus planting seeds, she said.
It's not just a Southern tradition. English farmers traditionally planted potatoes on Good Friday and the Pennsylvania Dutch believe seeds sown on that day will result in bountiful produce.
In Alabama's warm climate, Easter usually arrives after the soil has warmed and frost danger is past. The holiday comes early this year, but temperatures should stay above 32 degrees in the coming week.
"We're probably pretty safe," said Rocky Bare, hydrometeorologist for the National Weather Service in Birmingham.
All those factors have helped convert some new Southern gardeners, such as John Vanover, who moved to Birmingham last year and learned about the Good Friday tradition from colleagues. The California native took the day off to work on his vegetable garden.
"You hear these little Southern traditions and it kind of sweeps you away in it," Vanover said as he took a break from planting. "It seems like it may bring some luck to plant on Good Friday."
It can also help keep idle hands busy, said Maggie Jenkins, vice president of the East Avondale Neighborhood Association and one of the organizers of the planting party.
"My grandparents, my great-grandparents all said that's the day," she said. "It's just a way of keeping you working."
East Avondale has scheduled its planting on Good Friday since it started the garden in 2003. The organic garden, which turned a vacant lot into a sort of outdoor community center, won a national award last year from Neighborhoods USA.
As the temperature warmed Friday, neighborhood kids attacked the garden with rakes and shovels, clearing around the remains of an abandoned foundation and pulling out clods of clay. As they worked, police sirens roared by on the main street that borders the small neighborhood.
Thrash, a tall thin man in denim overalls and a blue-striped engineer's cap, guided a motorized tiller through the still-damp earth. Then he turned to old-fashioned tools, tying a string between two stakes and tracing its line with a small plow to make furrows. The first bed will hold turnip greens and then, after an early harvest, collards, okra and tomatoes. Other crops include beans, melons and herbs.
"It's a renewal," said Thrash. "It just does something good to have your friends and neighbors come out. I really can't explain it. It does something to the inner part of you and it more or less brings people together."
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