"the best fertilizer is the gardener’s shadow” is a popular gardening proverb that’s often said to come from China. However, a direct Chinese source is not known. “Our fathers used to say that the master’s eye was the best fertilizer” (Majores fertilissium in agro oculum domini esse dixerunt) is from Pliny the Elder (23-79 A.D.).
The best fertilizer was changed from the “eye of the master” to the “foot/heel of the master” by at least the 20th century. The Saturday Evening Post in 1905 even applied the proverb to other professions:
“Aristotle said: ‘The best fertilizer for the field is the heel of the farmer.’ And this is equally true of all the other fields of industry.”
“The best fertilizer is the shadow of the owner” was cited in print in 1949. “I once read that the shadow of the gardener is the best fertilizer for a garden” was cited in 1969.
Majores fertilissium in agro oculum domini esse dixerunt.
. Our fathers used to say that the master’s eye was the best fertilizer.
. Pliny the Elder, Historia Naturalis, XVIII. 84: Quoted in Hoyt’s New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), Lemma “Agriculture” p. 18-19.
6 May 1905, The Saturday Evening Post, “Where Are the Business Men?,” pg. 12, col. 1:
Aristotle said: “The best fertilizer for the field is the heel of the farmer.” And this is equally true of all the other fields of industry.
27 February 1949, Atchison (KS) Daily Globe, “Too Many Take Profit From Soil Without Future Plan,” pg. 12, col. 4:
The best fertilizer is the shadow of the owner.
The Wind Leaves No Shadow
By Ruth Laughlin
Caldwell, ID: Caxton
“The foot of the master is the best fertilizer for the land,” Cuca quoted and nodded at these signs of returning life.
To Make a Duck Happy
By Carol E. Lester
New York, NY: Harper & Row
I once read that the shadow of the gardener is the best fertilizer for a garden. I shouldn’t wonder if the presence of a beloved owner is the best tonic for a sick duck!
Google News Archive
12 July 1972, The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA), “Once Over Lightly” by Berta Whitehouse, pg. 4, col. 1:
Gardener’s shadow: There is a very old Chinese proverb which says: best fertilizer for a plant is the owner’s shadow.” Now I know why those ferns curled up and died. They didn’t get enough of my shadow.
Collected Works of Erasmus
By Desiderius Erasmus
Edited by Richard J. Schoeck and Beatrice Corrigan
Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press
Again in the same book, chapter 6: ‘And our forebears used to say that the master’s eye is the best fertilizer for his ground.’ Aristotle in his Economica, book 1, seems to trace this saying to a certain Persian, and connects with it a similar image once produced by a Libyan.
The Concise Columbia Dictionary of Quotations
By Robert Andrews
New York, NY: Columbia University Press
The master’s eye is the best fertilizer.
Pliny the Elder (c.23-79)
Conversations of Socrates
Translated by Hugh Tredennick and Robin Waterfield
New York, NY: Penguin Books
Pesudo-Aristotle, Oeconomica, 1345a4–5, tells the same story, but adds another nice one too: a Libyan, when asked what was the best fertilizer, replied, ‘The master’s footsteps.’
The Routledge Book of World Proverbs
By Jon R. Stone
New York, NY: Routledge
The master’s eye is the best fertilizer. (Roman)
Gardening Quote: Chinese Proverb
June 21st, 2009
“The best fertilizer is the gardener’s shadow”
That sounds pretty organic to me, what do you think?
The best fertilizer is the gardener’s shadow. - Unknown http://www.growguides.net/
9:35 PM - 12 Jun 2014
Observer-Reporter (Washington, PA)
By Lee Reich
published jul 26, 2014 at 10:05 pm (updated jul 26, 2014 at 10:05 pm)
There’s truth in the old saying that the best fertilizer is the gardener’s shadow.