The time for seed sowing is upon us! Why not try Lunar Planting this year?
Lunar Planting, or Moon Gardening, is a agricultural schedule that uses the phase of the moon to determine when the best time to sow, transplant, cultivate and harvest plants, and has been practiced across generations throughout the world. There is evidence of Celtic and Maori communities gardening by the moon, and Roman historian Pliny the Elder even offers advice on it. Philosopher, social reformer and esoterist Rudolf Steiner (b. 1861) put the modern era of lunar planting into motion, as well as other biodynamic theories around organic gardening and organic agriculture. Yet was a student of his, Lilly Kolisko (b.1889) who demonstrated that plants grown by the moon did actually grow and taste better. Her findings have been difficult to duplicate however, with subsequent research either supporting or undermining her claims. The horticulturalists amongst us know that growing is an art-form – perhaps a reason for investigatory inconsistency? Some dismiss the synchronisation of horticultural activity with the moon as myth, but there are countless farmers, gardeners and growers who swear by its method.
It is an idea based on the concept of ‘geotrophism’ (the effect that gravity has on plants), in that the same gravitational effect the moon has on the tides also has an impact on the sap found in seeds and plants. When it’s nearly a full moon, for example, moisture in the soil is pulled upwards to the surface, encouraging seeds to swell, burst and sprout.
Across the monthly(ish) lunar cycle, the moon travels through four main phases; New, Full, and two quarter phases. The moon waxes (grows in light) for the first half of its cycle, as it moves from a New Moon to a Full Moon, before waning (diminishes in light) for the second half, as it moves from being a Full Moon to a New Moon. The quarter phases are simply the mid-way point between a waxing and a waning moon.
As the moon increases illumination and the gravitational pull it has on the Earth, you work with plants that need moisture and energy above-ground – your leafy or flowering/fruiting annuals. As it wanes, you work with plants that need energy below ground – your root vegetables, or periennials that need a strong root system to survive the winter.
New Moon: Rest during this transition period.
First quarter / waxing crescent: Leafy, above ground annuals (and cereals)
When the moonlight is low, and growing. Think lettuces, cabbages, spinach, chard and herbs. Also a good time to mow lawns, graft and prune, and apply liquid fertiliser.
Second quarter / waxing gibbous: Fruiting or flowering above ground annuals (and cereals)
When the moonlight is high, and growing. Think tomatoes, peas, squashes, and all your flowers. Also a good time to mow lawns, and graft and prune.
Full Moon: Rest during this transition period. Some believe that now is the time to harvest above ground plants, as fruits will be swollen, whereas other schools of thought believe no activity should happen on this day!
Third quarter / waning gibbous: Root plants, and perennials
When the moonlight is high, and diminishing. Think carrots, parsnips, garlic, bulbs, trees and shrubs. Also a good time to harvest (as water is sent back down the plant for non-harvestable parts to use), use soil based fertilisers, mow lawns and prune.
Last quarter / waning crescent: The ‘barren’ period
When the moonlight is low, and diminishing. This is known as the ‘barren’ period as the Earth’s water table is receding out of reach. A good time to harvest and store crops, use soil based fertilisers, transport things, destroy weeds and prune. Or, simply allow your soil to rest.
New Moon: Rest during this transition period.
There is also another associated theory called Astrological Agriculture. This is an approach put forth by Maria Thun (b. 1922) in which the signs of the zodiac influence the growth of plants. In this theory, when the moon is in a constellation associated with water (such as Pisces) leafy crops will do better, whereas root crops ought to be planted when the moon is in an earthy constellation (such as Taurus). This is not as popular as standard lunar planting, but there’s no harm in trying to do your gardening on the right astrological days within the lunar quarters… just in case!
You can find plenty of lunar planting calculators online. Or, use my one! Simply click to enlarge the image.
I have decided that I’ll be lunar planting this growing season (between March and October) as part of my current drawing practice. Wait, what? How is gardening related to drawing? Well, I’ve been exploring Geopoetics (an interdisciplinary practice concerned with meaningful expressions of the Earth) and learning what that means to me and my artistic practice.
Artist Timo Jokela writes about the creative importance of nature-based space:time interactions (e.g. foraging, hunting, fishing) for artists who work with the Land…. the most prominent space:time interaction, for me, is growing. Poet and academic Eric Magrane writes about the philosophical implications of creative human:non-human collaborations. What is a collaboration? What could that look like? What natural processes can I harness, or contribute creatively to? Isn’t the cultivation of land a collaborative practice? How can I understand, connect to, or intervene with nature in a way that enhances it? And where’s the line between ecological enhancement and exploitation? I’m consciously exploring seasonality, cycles, balance, and chance over the coming months… and growing is one such way that I’m getting hands-on direct experience with all of those things.
And I get food at the end of it too!