In principle, lunar planting sounds like a great idea. Planting by the phases of the moon, such a planting process is theoretically sound too, with movements in the water table affecting root growth. Working with the moon’s monthly cycle, particular days are better than other’s for sowing, planting and harvesting. In periods when the moon draws the water table to the surface, gardeners are urged to plant, when the soil is moist and the best condition for germinating seeds. As the water table recedes back into the earth, it draws growing plant roots with it, making them more sustainably viable and creating stronger, healthy plants. That’s the theory anyway.
As some may know from my blog, I was rather taken with the lunar planting scheme this year, with its advantages far outweighing possible disadvantages. No watering, yet healthier plants with a better harvest? Yes please. Adhering to the advice provided on the Gardeners Calendar website I’ll admit, Mary and I became a little pagan about the whole thing. I was bought Nick Kollerstrom’s Gardening and Planting by the Moon 2010: Higher Yields in Vegetables and Flowers and soon the entire potato crop had been planted within the very specific guidelines.
However, whilst a typical British summer provided perfect growing conditions in June, July’s beating sun resulted in parched, cracked and sandy soil. But it was fine, potatoes were growing strong, their roots had been pulled down by the receding water table and watering was in no way needed. How wrong could I be?! Whilst much of the allotment harvest has continued as normal, the potatoes planted by the phases of the moon have been a dismal failure. The crop will in no way provide a years worth of delectable spuds, and though the ones we have are delicious, the harvest is pitiful.
So, lunar planting on this occasion has not worked in the slightest. Far from providing a sustainable and economically safe way of growing food, it has resulted in lacklustre spuds. Whilst I may have had to water more, at least the home grown harvest would have provided astonishingly good taste and reduced the food miles and supermarket consumption of the household. And based on its theoretically sound methods, the lunar planting principle should always work. I have to admit, I think I’m done trying. Lunar planting, friend or foe? You decide.
The 20th April, 2010, is a no planting, no tending, out of the garden day. The lunar bible says so, and beware any gardener who set foot into their leafy oasis. I kid, well, not entirely for, as set out in Nick Kollerstrom’s Gardening and Planting by the Moon 2010: Higher Yields in Vegetables and Flowers which Mary kindly bought me, today is that of an inauspicious node spelling unimaginable doom for any ignoring green fingered beings!
Of course, I don’t take the lunar calendar all that seriously as, until March, I’d never read anything on the subject and it was but a tendril of an idea in my mind. Of course, on one level it makes entirely sound sense. Lunar movement affects tides, therefore acting on the water table and thus have a direct affect on plants and their growing. The higher the water table, the less watering needing to be done. Sowing seeds when the water table is high will, in theory, take a plants roots down as the water table drops resulting in better plants which never need watering, and which produce better yields. However, the idea that today, with a south node competing with Gemini air in a 1st quarter moon (I know….what?!) should render a gardener completely useless is a little too much for my scientific mind. You certainly will not find my bearing gifts and praying to the moon any time yet.
That being said, Mary and I are trying to stick to the lunar cycle planting schedule in terms of planting and sowing seeds. Anything that negates the need to water is a positive step in my eyes, and every gardener could do with a better crop yield or bigger, blousier flowers. And so, though not staying out of the garden today, I certainly haven’t planted or tended any sun worshipping friends. With blue skies above, filled with the wisps of Iceland’s ash, and a gentle breeze in the air, the garden has been alive with movement. A medium swarm of Mason bee’s is now partying around the insect hotels, approximately 20 females so far who will happily pollinate my garden. The newly placed pond, with ample crevices around its base, has interested more than a few droning bumbles, their tiny wings whirring in a bid to keep their buxom bodies aloft. Birdsong certainly seems to have taken a precedent, now that the absent drone of aircraft has surprisingly quietened the skies, and a vivid pair of Great tits have been flitting back and forth all day.
My landscaping hands have set about finishing my low, flower bed bordering wall (building, not gardening to avoid bringing the moon’s wrath) and I’ve welcomed the warmth, watching plants grow, reading an early birthday present from my sister (The RHS Allotment Handbook: The Expert Guide for Every Fruit and Veg Grower) and berating myself for not labelling a host of ornamentals that are quickly bursting into life with me only having a vague recollection of what they may be.
Spring is here, officially, and though Britain’s winter has been harsh, the snowy blankets have ensured one thing….a vibrancy of colour as the sun warms and life explodes from millions of waiting blooms. Crocus, Daffodils, Snowdrops, are all flowering together. Late Hellebore’s are adding pastels to the mix and silently stirring Forsythia and Wisteria ensure that a spectacular is on the way. And whilst being the first day of Spring, March 21st is also a lunar root day, a time to plant root vegetables, a time to get cracking with this year’s crops.
With the Mediterranean temperature of 13 degree’s reached in sunny Redbridge, a blue inviting sky and a small bag of Foremost calling, Mary and I headed to the allotment intent on finally cultivating our land. Weeding, manuring, mowing is all well and good but with my entire house now overtaken by Triffid-like seedlings, I’m keen to actually get some growing in-situ happening for fear of being smothered to death by chlorophyll filled leaves. Peas, Leeks, Brussel Sprouts are growing at an astonishing rate but though a seeping warmth is spreading through the soil, our long spell of Narnian winter has dislodged cultivation plans a little this season, keeping seedlings in pots, and preventing instant sowing.
As gardening often involves crossing your fingers and learning from experience rather than following the rule book, Mary was intent on getting our first early potato’s in earlier this year after a dry spell in the crucial growing period spelt disaster last summer for our hoped huge treasure sized yield. And whilst there seemed some debate amongst fello allotmenteers as to when we should plant, the lunar calendar came to our rescue, our allotment head gleefully announcing that it was a root day! That we should all plant potato’s! With a few friends scurrying home to grab their bags of spuds so as to get in on the action, we set about planting our Foremost and within a few hours – beautiful pyramids of soil with hidden treasures. Planting spuds is rather easy….once you know how of course. Place each potato approximately 6 inches deep, 18 inches apart in a trench. Then back-fill and mound up the earth on top. It is of particular importance on plots such as ours (i.e. shady and somewhat boggy) because it means that resulting harvest is relatively near the surface, hidden in the mound, and away from the thick, wet soil that will be inclined to rot the precious yield.
With the spuds happily in, I now wait with anticipation to see how our lunar cycle works. Believed to ensure that watering is kept to a mimimum, largely due to the waxing and waning of the moon affecting the water table, it is with high hopes that if a dry spell ensues, the moon will comes to our rescue! If it works, along with being highly labour saving, its one of the best green living systems that we gardeners can get. And with another ‘Day of the Root’ on March 29th and 30th there’s still time to try it yourselves.