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Lunar Gardening - An Introduction

posted in Lunar Planting |

What is Lunar Gardening

The idea that the Moon exerts a determinable influence on plant and crop growth may be as old as agriculture. The idea is found embedded in the folklore of many ancient societies, ranging from the Celts in early Britain to the Maoris in New Zealand. As far as recorded comments on the subject are concerned, Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79), the Roman historian, in his Natural History gives many instructions on how to regulate agricultural activities according to the cycles of the Moon.

The light of the sun, moon, planets and stars reaches plants in regular rhythms. Each contributes to the life, growth and form of the plant. By understanding the gesture and effect of each rhythm, we can time our ground preparation, sowing, cultivating and harvesting to the advantage of the crops we are raising. Just like a sailor sets sail according to the right tide, so too gardeners can garden according to lunar rhythms.

In many countries today lunar calendars are available for farmers and gardeners. There is now considerable evidence that crops can benefit from the right use of a lunar gardening guide. However present-day lunar gardening guides disagree with each other on just about every recommendation they make. Old traditions on the subject have grown confused with the passage of time and a new start has appeared within the twentieth century organic farming/gardening movement known as Bio-Dynamics.

During the twentieth century, systematic experiments began to determine how the various lunar cycles played a part in plant metabolism, growth and development. Certain keys to understanding the relationship of plant response to lunar influence have now emerged and can be incorporated into a gardener’s or farmer’s plans as to when best to carry out various tasks, in particular sowing, planting and harvesting.

There are rhythms of energy that pulse, or ebb and flow, in approximately nine-day cycles which should resonate with the sympathetic worker; and there are specific moments, celestial events, which lunar planting calendars endeavour to catch.

Support Evidence

There is evidence in fields of both agriculture and animal husbandry to suggest that the moon does have an influence.

In recent decades experiments have shown that the metabolism of plants, indicated by such things as their water absorption or oxygen metabolism, responds considerably to the monthly lunar cycle. Two researchers at the University of Paris have shown that plant DNA changes in tune to this cycle. Trees have electric fields around them, measurable by the potential gradient up the trunk, and Ralph Markson in the US monitored this for years and showed how fortnightly and monthly lunar rhythms were present.

Animal oestrus i.e. coming on heat is cyclic, and yet traditions link their fertility to the lunar cycle. In the 2nd century AD, the astronomer Claudius Ptolemy reported of the practical, hard-headed farmers of the Roman Empire that they ‘notice the espects of the Moon, when at full, in order to direct the copulation of their herds and flocks, and the setting of plants or sowing of seeds; and there is not an individual who considers these general precautions as impossible or unprofitable.’

There is also evidence to suggest that the phases of the moon affect the water table, which seems obvious given the gravitational effect that the moon has on our oceans.

Applying the Theories

Do seeds germinate better at some point of the lunar cycle? Experiments with seeds grown at constant temperature tended to confirm the results published by Kolisko in the late 1930s, namely that seeds would usually germinate better if sown around the Full Moon, and especially on the day or two prior to it.

The vital question of how final crop yield is affected by sowing date has been thoroughly investigated within the Bio-dynamic movement. However, deep disagreement exists amongst experts in this area. For some decades now, Maria Thun has been reporting her results in her yearly Moon-calendar, which apparently show weight-yields in accord with the elements of the sidereal or star-zodiac.

At its simplest, lunar planting is easy;

  • the waxing moon, which is the growing moon from new to full. That’s when the moisture level in the soil is at it’s highest and when you should do your planting.
  • the waning moon which is from full to last quarter. That’s when the moisture content is at its lowest and there’s less sap rising in your trees and shrubs so it’s when you should do your pruning.

Or you can get a bit more refined if you try and envisage four steps of crop growth:

  1. first the root (Earth)
  2. the leafy shoots (Water)
  3. the flowers with their airy fragrance (Air)
  4. lastly the summer’s heat dries up the crop, maturing the seed (Fire)

Crops can be viewed as belonging to one of these elements, depending on whether they are a root, leaf, flower or fruit/seed crop; and from this it follows that there is a proper lunar timetable appropriate for each crop. For instance, potatoes, as a root-crop, grow best when they are sown as the Moon is passing in front of earth-element constellations.

Three Moon planting methods

There are three methods for planting by the moon. The Synodic, or waxing and waning cycle, the Sidereal, and the Biodynamic cycle.

Synodic (waxing and waning) cycle

This is a simple form of Moon planting which divides the Luna cycle into four phases or quarters. It then groups plants into categories, Root Crops, Foliage, Crops with seeds on the outside, and crops with seeds on the inside. Then it assigns plants to the phases of the moon which best suits there growing characteristics.

Biodynamic cycle

The more detailed method using the 12 Zodiac signs as a method of position the moon, for more accurate planting. This method was developed by Rudolf Steiner in 1928, and the Zodiac signs used where the actual positioning of the signs in the sky, when the moon passed through them.

Sidereal cycle

The Sidereal cycle is very similar to the Biodynamic cycle except the Zodiac signs used are the Tropical Zodiac representations. In the Biodynamic cycle the regions of the Zodiac can vary in size, where as in the Sidereal they are all allocated even space.

Folklore or Science?

As mentioned earlier there are disagreements with different lunar calendars, but there is evidence to suggest that planting by the phases of the moon(and possibly stars) can have an influence. Until humankind has the scientific ability to absolutely quantify the effects that planting by the moon has, then we are using only our empirical evidence. This empirical evidence seems to suggest that there is indeed something in lunar planting.

Thanks to Sheepish Gardener for her input.

Tags [gardening |garden |gardener |lunar planting]

This entry was posted on Sunday, June 3rd, 2007 at 11:07 am and is filed under Lunar Planting. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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