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Folk Wisdom For Gardeners

Let's get some sage advice from Duncan Crosbie’s book Tips From the Old Gardeners...

Planting marigolds around tomato plants can help to repel various pests. (Taifighta/flickr)

Today, I am sharing some advice from Duncan Crosbie’s book Tips From the Old Gardeners.  He reminds us, “most garden pests hate marigolds because of excretions from their roots which deter pests.”

He also suggests that foxgloves are good neighbors for rhododendrons and azaleas.

Growing garlic, onions, and chives among your plants deters rabbits from nibbling. This also works for keeping greenfly off roses, as insects are deterred by the pungent smell of onions and garlic. Some old-time gardeners even boiled the leaves of wild garlic in water, let it cool, and then sprayed it on roses to repel scale and aphids.

Marjoram leaves boiled up in water, according to Gerard’s Herbal, also has been used to cure insomnia and indigestion.

Madwort was the common name for sweet alyssum, and it was chewed as a sedative to suppress bad temper.

Salvia was used as a wash for sore eyes. A tincture was made from boiling the leaves and seeds of the salvia in water.

Crosbie noted that the modern term “Clary Sage” comes from the ancient name that meant “clear eyes.”

But, the most amusing old wives’ tale for modern gardeners to know, but hopefully not to implement, is the folklore concerning the best way to measure soil temperature in the spring. It entails the gardener to sit, bare-bottomed, on the soil in order to judge when it is warm enough to plant their seeds.

Notes: Tips From the Old Gardeners by Duncan Crosbie, (Conari Press, 2005).

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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