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.
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.
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.
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.
Autumn is my favorite time in the garden. A time to enjoy the slowing down, the stasis, the last active gasp before winter approaches. A quiet time, to bask in the sun’s warmth and to appreciate the last of the slow harvesting and flowering crops. The now slanting sun and its ‘alternative spring’ – where soils are still warm and the perennials … Continue reading April 2016 Notes
Autumn (usually) sees the last of the fruit producers like figs and quinces and olives and grapes, though this year they’ve been quite early, even summer-ready. It’s a very busy time to renew and make anew in the garden – grafting, propagating, seeding. I think this is actually the busiest time of the year. You are trying to do lots … Continue reading March 2016
May is greens, and hopefully, green. As in ‘autumn break’ and the growth thereafter. We finally got the ‘break’, or a current version of it – late, but very welcome. Over the last couple of days, up to an inch (25mm) in places. Because there’s been no frost, little rain, and the temperatures seasonally high, the summer … Continue reading May 2016
This week has been a cold awakening; our first frosts for the year! Late, in late May, so it has meant that summer veggies like zuchinni and capsicum, eggplants, have kept producing through the past month. Growth has slowed, but with some warm, sunny days bookended by the cold nights and mornings, leafy greens are revelling in the … Continue reading June 2016
Rain = growth. And weeds. Weeding will be a task for this month, even though growth is slowed, especially if you are growing garlic and other crops which don’t compete well with other plants. Especially garlic, because over winter garlic bulbs set their cloves – growing conditions (moisture, competition, etc) will determine the number. In spring, plants will use … Continue reading July 2016
After a good (or at least average) winter, the soil should be holding some moisture, so it’ll be easy weeding and also perfect conditions for a BD500 spray this month (probably the last one you’ll get in before the warm weather). It’s also the time to get ready for the heat, believe it or not. Check your … Continue reading August 2016
Time is of the essence this September. We are still likely to have more frosts this month, but it’s also important to get your seedlings underway now, to have enough growing season for them to bear fully and productively. Given that soil temperature needs to be at least 20 degrees Celcius for summer crops to germinate … Continue reading September 2016
What a Spring! The community garden is leafy and lush, with enough broadbeans coming on to feed a small island nation, let alone Newstead, the renovated strawberry runners are starting to fruit (they like that bed!) and the espalier pears showing every sign of a first, very good (may need thinning) crop, fingers crossed. Only downer is the leaf … Continue reading November 2016
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 2016
Here’s to a happy new year of gardening adventures. Thanks to Brian Keats for providing his constant and informative astro-calendars each year. I use his calendar to guide my gardening and to produce these planting dates. See his website for more info and to order yours. His calendars contain a wealth of info on natural phenomena according to … Continue reading January 2017
Getting trees and food plants through the heat is the priority at the moment. It’s hard to be thinking about planting food for autumn and winter 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 now) so if you … Continue reading February 2014
Autumn has been here for a little while – or is it a ‘Sumtumn’? The lower angle of the sun makes things feel heaps hotter, earlier, and the air is very dry. Good luck to those early autumn and winter planted things! I constantly find that theory about crop scheduling and planting crop types doesn’t … Continue reading March 2017
Autumn is my favorite time in the garden. But after a hot start to autumn and no sign of frost yet (touch wood!) things feel a bit out of whack, with tomatoes, pumpkins and zukes still flowering. Normally I’d have a crop of greens in, a green manure, and even garlic and broad beans planted. No … Continue reading April 2017
A brilliant start to autumn and not many frosts yet; all our birthdays have come at once! Expect more cold nights and mornings from now on in though. The impact of frost maybe tempered by all this water-filled soil (water is the best thermal mass there is). But unless you have microclimates in the garden (north facing, … Continue reading May 2017
Winter is here, this last week. While root veges like carrots, beets and parsnips revel in the cold and will taste sweeter than ever, that is if if you planted them much earlier, most other plants from now on in will be simply holding out for longer days and sunshine. However, onions can be planted now, … Continue reading June 2017
Make hay, etc. There’s less likelihood of frosts from now on in because our soils are quite moist, even wet. Sodden soil will mitigate the effect of freezing cold temperatures overnight and early morning (water is the best thermal mass there is). The weeding is easy, almost enjoyable. Admire the growth. This is a season out … Continue reading October 2016
Here’s where you will find previous planting notes and tips for seasonal and lunar gardening.
Don’t let the last day of January (cool, wet) fool you into thinking that summer could be waning, (even though I’m writing this with my down-filled jacket on!). We still have the – traditionally – hottest month of the year to get through. So, don’t put away that shade cloth yet, and if your fruit … Continue reading February 2016
Welcome to a new year of gardening. If December has been anything to go by, the rest of the summer will prove a challenge for gardens and humans alike. Whilst most warm season crops thrive with days in the low 30s and enough rainfall or irrigation, when faced with heatwave conditions for days on end and … Continue reading January 2016