OWENSBORO, KentuckyWhile most gardeners cast a wary eye to the sky before planting their gardens, some are as concerned about the moon as they are the rain clouds.
Wilbur Duncan, 81, cultivates his garden in the afternoons with help from his mule, Sid, and his dog, Hannah. He still consults his almanac for the moon's phases before planting his half-acre garden each spring.
"A lot of people don't believe it. That's because they don't watch," he said.
A few traditionalists think the phases of the moon are a critical influence on gardening and other activities.
"I never did know what the difference was," said Woody Abney, 89, a retired farmer from Calhoun, Kentucky, who spent decades timing his farm work by the moon and astrological signs. "We thought it was pretty good."
"My grandfather, he watched the signs," said Duncan, of Yelvington, Kentucky. "I've been watching for 40 years. There's really something to it."
Astrologers have been charting a relationship between heavenly bodies and human endeavor since at least 1300 B.C., according to The Foxfire Book, edited by Eliot Wigginton.
Ancient astronomers noticed that several bright constellations of stars were evenly spaced in a band along the sun's yearly path across the sky, the book says. The band can be divided into 12 constellations, called "signs."
Each day of the month is dominated by one of those 12 zodiac signs. Each sign is associated with a particular body part and an element of nature, such as air or fire.
The monthly waxing and waning of the moon make a difference, too, say followers of the signs. In their view, crops that produce above the ground should be planted on days leading up to the full moon.
Root crops should be planted on days, followers of the signs say, between the full moon and the new moon. "They claim if you plant by the dark of the moon, it makes more taters," Abney said. "If you plant in the light of the moon, it makes more vine."