A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from July 26, 2014
“The best fertilizer is the gardener’s shadow”

"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.


Wikiquote: Agriculture
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.

Google Books
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.

Google Books
The Wind Leaves No Shadow
By Ruth Laughlin
Caldwell, ID: Caxton
1951
Pg. 342:
“The foot of the master is the best fertilizer for the land,” Cuca quoted and nodded at these signs of returning life.

Google Books
To Make a Duck Happy
By Carol E. Lester
New York, NY: Harper & Row
1969
Pg. 147:
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.

Google Books
Collected Works of Erasmus
By Desiderius Erasmus
Edited by Richard J. Schoeck and Beatrice Corrigan
Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press
1982
Pg. 164:
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.

Google Books
The Concise Columbia Dictionary of Quotations
By Robert Andrews
New York, NY: Columbia University Press
1989
Pg. 107:
The master’s eye is the best fertilizer.
Pliny the Elder (c.23-79)
Roman Scholar

Google Books
Conversations of Socrates
By Xenophon
Translated by Hugh Tredennick and Robin Waterfield
New York, NY: Penguin Books
1990
Pg. ?:
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.’

Google Books
The Routledge Book of World Proverbs
By Jon R. Stone
New York, NY: Routledge
2006
Pg. ?:
The master’s eye is the best fertilizer. (Roman)

Chiot’s Run
Gardening Quote: Chinese Proverb
June 21st, 2009
“The best fertilizer is the gardener’s shadow”
Chinese Proverb

That sounds pretty organic to me, what do you think?

Twitter
Grow Guides
‏@GrowGuides
The best fertilizer is the gardener’s shadow. - Unknown http://www.growguides.net/
9:35 PM - 12 Jun 2014

Observer-Reporter (Washington, PA)
Soil testing
By Lee Reich
Associated Press
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.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Saturday, July 26, 2014 • Permalink