Garden Notes

The synodal rhythm is the cycle of the moon as it orbits the earth, reflecting the sun’s light back to us. The moon waxes, from new moon to first quarter and onto full moon. Then it wanes, back to new moon again. Most gardeners are aware of this monthly cycle. Generally, there is lot of growth and activity towards the full moon. I try to avoid planting right on full moon because results can be unpredictable. You may end up with weak, lanky seedlings, or plant disease problems.


synodal rhythm of the moon

If you look at the night sky, you will also notice the moon is higher or lower in the sky during the month. This is the tropical rhythm – the ascending and descending phases of the moon as it crosses the equator every fortnight. It mirrors the sun’s movement – high in summer and low in winter – only a lot faster. The sun takes 6 months to reach the equator.

I think about the descending moon as a sort of in breath, when forces are contracting earthwards. This is a good time for ‘wintery’ activities such as transplanting, pruning, making compost and applying soil fertilisers. Ascending phases are the out breaths and I use them for ‘summery’ pursuits like grafting, applying foliar sprays and harvesting.

tropical rhythm of the moon

tropical rhythm of the moon

The sidereal rhythm is the cycle of the moon as it travels through each of the constellations of the zodiac. It takes 27.3 days to travel through each constellation and during that time the influence of that sign is brought to the earth. For example, on days when the Moon is in the earth signs – Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn – conditions are best for planting root crops.German Maria Thun pioneered this work in the 1950s. It’s widely known as the “Thun Effect”. Biodynamic calendars refer to these Moon-constellation phases as root days, leaf days, flower days and fruit days, as linked to the respective elements of earth, water, air and fire.Even though you may have to wait for the auspicious date to plant, the rapid seed germination more than compensates.

sidereal rhythm

sidereal rhythm

In August, I sowed a mix of rocket, mustard and lettuce seeds on a ‘leaf’ day. In only four days they had germinated en masse.I find working with the sidereal cycles helps me to spread out the harvest. So by planting lettuces on every third ‘leaf’ phase, I can usually avoid a salad glut. There’s less feast or famine in the garden. I try to harvest in a ‘fruit’ sign for better keeping qualities and for seed saving.

I also organise my seed collection to reflect the planting rhythms. I sort plants according to the four elements. That way when it’s a ‘leaf’ day, I can easily work out what to plant.Crop rotations can also be managed in this way. ‘Flower’ plants, such as broccoli and cauliflower are lighter feeders. ‘Fruit’ plants like pumpkin, tomatoes, peas and beans, tend to be heavier. It’s good practice to rotate your garden beds through the four signs. Follow ‘flower’ crops with ‘leaf’, ‘root’ and then ‘fruit’ crops. But be sure to apply compost before the ‘fire’ plants and include a green manure in the rotation. 

If you garden using biodynamics: BD500 is put out in a descending phase, when the moon is waning and also in a ‘root’ sign. It’s applied as a soil spray in late autumn or winter, as the day draws to a close.  BD501 is an atmospheric spray, applied first thing in the morning, in spring or summer. Preferably the moon will be ascending, waxing, and in a flower sign.

Visit the monthly Garden Notes pages for auspicious planting dates and garden activities.

Read more about the Biodynamic Methods.

Happy gardening!

February 2018

Getting trees and food plants through the heat has been the focus right now. It’s hard to be thinking ahead to autumn and winter eating right now, but this month you need to start, else you’ll go hungry. In Newstead, the frosts can hit early in autumn (hard to believe  when it’s 38 in the … Continue reading February 2018

March Notes 2018

After a humid past couple of weeks, we are certainly into autumn, though the humidity continues. Brian Keats warns of cyclone triggers associated with equatorial crossings, and it’s not just the sun this month, with mercury and venus also transiting. More on Kelvin and Gita’s heels? Anyway, watch out for Weather around the first and third … Continue reading March Notes 2018

April Notes

Autumn is my favorite time in the garden and easter is no exception. But after a hot start to autumn and not much sign of a frost (touch wood!) things still feel a bit out of whack with tomatoes, pumpkins and zukes still flowering and trying to fruit. However, a crop of leafy greens, a green … Continue reading April Notes

May 2018

Make May whilst the sun shines. Yes, it’s been a (seasonally?) unseasonal start to autumn – hot, dry, windy – but the still-warm soil means sown seed or planted seedlings will leap out of the ground and provide early pickings, given enough water. Move quickly if you haven’t planted your greens and winter veges to take … Continue reading May 2018

June 2018

A warm start to winter. It feels like I should just cut and paste the autumn planting notes here. We haven’t had the cool nights, frosts and still days that preface the real cold (and wet). Growth hasn’t really slowed yet.  You should be enjoying the many pickings from greens and ‘leafys’ if you have … Continue reading June 2018

July 2018

July usually means dormancy, for plants and people alike. Many plants – and people – need a period of dormancy to be fully productive. It’s often called “chill factor” or “chilling requirement”. Almonds (300 hours below 7degreesC), apples (1000 – 2000 hours below 10degreesC), raspberries (800 – 1700 hours below 10degreesC) and bulbs like jonquils, … Continue reading July 2018

August 2018

Almost spring … well the wattles are showing signs of flowering, the sun is setting later … and it’s wishful thinking and still bitterly cold outside! August is a good time to start sorting out your seed collection, perusing new catalogues and thinking to warmer season crops (whilst you sit in front of the fire). … Continue reading August 2018

September 2018

Hello Spring! By the calendar, at any rate – the plants heralded it at bit earlier. Our peaches have unfurled and the buds on the nectarines are not far behind. Movement in the garden, after the long cold winter. Days are lengthening and things are about to burst forth – at least once some weeding is done and beds prepared … Continue reading September 2018

October 2018

Plenty of planetary action this month, let alone down here in the garden. The October night sky is worth paying a bit of attention to –  Venus is very bright in the west all month, plus there’s Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury all dancing before us. Brian Keats suggests looking up around 11th – 15th to see … Continue reading October 2018

November 2018

It’s been a cool start to spring; brisk winds from the southeast and southwest and even a few touches of frost last week (and yes, I was far too keen to plant out my beans, poor things). If you go by the common gardeners wisdom “plant your tomatoes on/after Melbourne Cup Day” then next week … Continue reading November 2018

December 2018

November – and spring generally – has been quite mild, but we’ll soon forget that gentle lead into summer! The cool start for our Newstead garden means that seedlings have been slow to get away, even raised under cover or glass because the soil is still warming. Tomatoes in particular seem slow to grow this … Continue reading December 2018

January 2019

Another new year of gardening beckons, and with that a sense of hope and expectation – that it will rain when needed, that the season will be kind, that we will have a little win with all the pests and weeds, and that the garden will continue to grow and thrive and be enjoyed and … Continue reading January 2019

February 2019

I’m tempted just to say “repeat as for January” for this month. More watering, mulching, shading. hopefully some harvesting. Our stonefruit are a bit late this year, apart from the fabulous Anzac peaches. The China Flats are finally starting to color up but are still firm, the nectarines ditto. Our Gravenstein apple is loaded and … Continue reading February 2019

March 2019

Autumn (usually) sees the last of the fruit producers like figs and quinces and olives and grapes, though this year everything is late, because of the extreme heat we’ve had. The tomatoes are late, ditto the capsicums. Good luck getting pumpkins and watermelons before the first frost!  In my plot, the beans that finally made it through slater … Continue reading March 2019

April Notes

Normally, we would have had some decent rain and less days of intense warmth by now. Just this past weekend the temperature certainly dropped, mostly thanks to wind temperature, but things are still very dry. Normally, we would be struggling and striving to get those winter veges in, have done late summer pruning, been taking … Continue reading April Notes

May 2019

Into May, and I have both tomatoes and broad beans in flower. Hmmm.  Well, so far the days and nights are still relatively mild. Finding room to plant is the challenge! Good idea to segment your plot if you don’t have rotating beds, so that you can avoid this problem and also ensure that some … Continue reading May 2019

June 2019

Wonderful wet May. After the long, hot dry spell and then the mild dry spell, our June soils should finally be absorbing and replenishing. At least down to annual plant root depths. You might still be enjoying the flush of autumn growth from planted greens and ‘leafys’, plus the last of the summer crops. Now’s … Continue reading June 2019

July 2019

After the rain comes the green. And weeds. Weeding will be a task for this month, especially if you are growing garlic and other shallow rooted, slow growth crops. Garlic in particular doesn’t like to compete with other plants for food and moisture.  In winter garlic bulbs set their cloves – the growing conditions (moisture, competition, nutrition, etc) … Continue reading July 2019

August 2019

Just about the best time to be in the garden. The cold is departing, the heat hasn’t arrived, the soil is moist and easy weeding/digging, the days are getting longer, the bees are buzzing on the rosemary. If you are a fair weather gardener in Central Victoria, try August! And it’s not all weeding, feeding, … Continue reading August 2019

September Notes

September. Spring, by the calendar, but nature signs heralded it much earlier in the garden (plus we have more than four seasons here, as discussed by Tim Entwhistle many years ago). Hard to find the time to do all that needs doing at once in this part of the world. Getting seeds sown under protection, so … Continue reading September Notes

October 2019

The garden is flowering and flourishing, even with low September rainfall. Watering will be on the October agenda if the dry continues, so make sure you have your systems sorted. Raise your seeds indoors or under protection – beans, tomatoes, zukes, cukes. etc. Or plant them out as seeds now and keep fingers crossed (soil … Continue reading October 2019

Archived Garden Notes

Here’s where you will find previous planting notes and tips for seasonal and lunar gardening.

January 2018

Here’s cheers to a new year of gardening. The early mornings and evenings of summer are the best times to garden now. You will have mulched well around plants and established a regular, consistent watering regime, so now’s the time to sit back with a book in the shade, right? Well, if you want to … Continue reading January 2018

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