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