Venturing into the experience I thought I will be able to keep up with regular note taking on my experience. I was wrong, life had other plans. So you can read about it retrospectively and decide whether it is something that would fit into your plans.
Gardening by the moon helps to strech out the sowing season evenly.
As last year I planned to sow over one hundred plants and this system really helped me not to get overwhelmed. Most of the plants grow if you sow the seeds within a six to eight weeks period and it does not really matter which of those weeks you choose. Some plants need an earlier start (mid February to late March) and some plants require a later start (mid May to end of June) so combining their gap of sowing time with the phase of the moon gives you a good strategy, if that is what you want, to be able to work little and often.
I managed to sow only five to fifteen type of seeds per week. This meant to prepare the labels while my hands were still clean, pick the particular type of pot, sow the seeds, place the labels and make notes on a spread sheet of the amount and date of sowing at the end. This took only one to two hours once per week depending on how fidly the work was. I decided to do these on the evenings during the week.
During Saturdays I prepared the beds on the allotment and planted the vegetables in a similar fashion. So I did not need to dig up a huge area at once but could do only the area which would be occupied by those few type of plants. However this varied a lot. Planting two type of garlic occupied two times of 3×3 feet area and took around and hour and a half, planting three type of potatoes took pretty much the whole day. But still, it did not feel overwhelming throughout the season.
Gardening by the Moon opens the the door to Botany.
Planting around a certain quarter of the moon phase, depending on which part of the plant we eat, really made me think about what I actually eat. From the seed comes root, stem and leaves. When the plant matures, it flowers. The flowers get pollinated and they turn into fruit, which produces seeds. We eat the root of the parsnip, raddish or potato. We eat the stem of the rhubarb, the leaf of the lettuce or the flower of the cauliflower. We eat the fruit of the courgette, strawberry or tomato. We eat the seed of the pulses both in pods when they are still tender or in dried form when fully grown. Apparently you could eat also beetroot leaf, certain flower petals, pea shoots and pods, broccoli leaf and stem and so on.
Reading on about Botany also helps to understand how plants relate to each other and how a diseases affecting one would affect the other too. Tomatoes and potatoes are both belong to the Solanaceae family and Solanum genus, and the Solanum sensu stricto subgenus. However, they are classified under different sections, tomato comes under the Lycopersicon section, potato comes under the Petota section. They are in close relationship and partially fertile hybrid could be created of them. They are both affected by late blight (Phytophthora) which is a microorganism favouring moist, cool environment.
Last year we had a very wet and cool summer. I did not recognise the signs of the blight at the beginning. Then I was in denial for a while. In September I harvested still green tomatoes which usually turn to red after a few weeks on the window sill in an attempt that I might be able to save them. They all got rotten from the inside. I supposed to grow potatoes on the same place this year. Blight usually dies off with frost but it does happen that it survives on debris. So I won’t grow anything really on that strip this year. Maybe some green manure or flowers will ease the pain.
Gardening by the Moon makes you aware of sign, seasons, days and years.
Despite spring starts on the first of March in meteorological terms, in astronomical reckoning it starts on the vernal equinox. My eagerness pushed me to start at the beginning of March in previous years but I tried out last year how it would work out to start on the equinox. It seems it is either too cold or too wet beforehand so the soil would be still frozen or too cold or the seeds would rot in the waterlogged site. I also finished all the sowing and planting out just around the summer soltice, which marked the end of the preparation and hard work phase.
Aligning the moon phases with the phases of the sun makes it a wholesome experience.
- From Spring Equinox (Ostara) to Summer Soltice (Midsummer) is the planting season, where 1 May (Beltane) marks the beginning of the sowing of tender, frost sensitive plants under cover (cucumber, beans, squashes) as the last frost date for the Midlands falls to mid May.
- From 1 May (Beltane) to 31 October (Samhain) is the main harvesting season, which is divided into three parts. From 1 May (Beltane) to Summer Soltice (Midsummer) I harvest the early crop of spinach, raddish and strawberries. From the Summer Soltice (Midsummer) to 1 August (Lughnasadh) I harvest beetroot, some of the french beans, early potatoes and raspberries. From 1 August (Lughnasadh) to the Autumn Equinox (Mabon) I harvest the majority of the plants. From the Autumn Equinox (Mabon) to 31 October (Samhain) usually only winter squashes and pumpkins colour the field and wait for pick up, and this is the time also when I usually clear up the plot a bit.
- I find that from 31 October (Samhain) to Winter Soltice (Yule) there is not much to do as storms batter the island repeatedly leaving the soil saturated and unworkable.
- From Winter Soltice (Yule) to the Spring Equinox (Ostara) the way I see is the ‘green harvest’ time (brussel sprouts, winter or savoy cabbage, kale, broccoli). I find it mesmerizing to see crops live through all that rain and cold and frost and ready to be harvested in the coldest of months.
Would the plants grow better, quicker? Would they become healthier if we choose to apply the rules of gardening by the Moon? I won’t be able tell at this moment. The year was very rainy with heat waves. Some of the seeds germinated earlier, some later than expected. Some plants did well, some struggled. In any case, I forgot to plant the ‘control group’ so I cannot really have an opinion about it as I do not have the facts, the hard data behind it. I can only imagine it works.
It definitely has benefits for the gardener.
If you would like to use this year’s Calendar, you could just download the pdf file as follows.