For twenty years I’ve been trying to decide whether the lunar calendar is a bit of superstition – an old wives tale that seems to work only because you see what you are looking for – or whether it is folk wisdom accumulated by generations of gardeners with a lot more to lose by getting it wrong than we spoiled Westerners with a supermarket in reserve
And I still can’t decide.
In the end I have come to think that it doesn’t much matter. I find the calendar works just to keep a nice rhythm to my planting, and that’s enough. Anything else is icing.
There are two traps that the lunar calendar helps to neatly sidestep. The first is the boom-bust cycle of crops. One of the secrets of eating really well out of a garden is to plant very small quantities of a very big variety, and plant them sequentially.
Obtain a yield is the permaculture principle, but twenty lettuces ready at once is a problem, not a yield. It will have you trying to think up recipes for lettuce soup, and there is a good reason why lettuce soup has never become a culinary staple! You really only need two or three loose leaf lettuces bearing at once, but you need another two or three coming on to replace them, and another two or three seedlings nearly ready to plant out, and another two or three of the strongest just germinated babies selected for potting up. Even so, it’s a total of four or five in the garden and four or five in the shadehouse. You need rocket and aragula and mustard cress and mizuna and baby beets and celery and parsley and shallots to go with them, but you only need the same tiny quantities of all of them. You can eat very well out of a very small garden if you can get this right.
The other trap is the way the seasons have a habit of changing before you know it. The fashion industry has got the concept, that you need to be running sales on jackets and ordering stocks of bikinis before the feast of Candlemas (or Imbolc) which marks the still hidden start of spring. In just a couple of weeks now the days will begin to lengthen at an exponential rate. I’m still getting used to the idea of putting socks on before I go out to the garden in the morning, and already it is nearly time to start planting eggplants and capsicums again.
Time has a way of slipping away. The lunar planting calendar creates a little automatic reminder: what’s the season, what can be planted now, plant another round.
For the last few months the shadehouse has been full of leafy greens, but it is coming to the end of their season now. Seeds I plant now will need to cope with the long days, heat, dryness and wind of our usual October weather. They will need to resist the temptation to bolt to seed in the lengthening days, and most of all, they’ll need to warrant their spot in the garden when there will be eggplants and okra and capsicums and button squash all barracking for a spot.
So, this is a long way round to saying, today and tomorrow are leafy planting days according to the lunar calendar, and I’m planting out the advanced seedlings of silver beet, spinach, broccoli, kale, celery, parsley, and pak choi. But I’m planting a new round of seed of only amaranth and oakleaf lettuce, silverbeet and rocket, and saving the rest of the space for the summer crops that are just around the corner now.