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Lunatic gardening

This week one of my main gardening tasks is to sit down with a lunar planting calendar and my garden diary and roughly map out the next month’s plan. I find a lunar planting calendar is a really useful gardening tool – and I’m a real sceptic about anything that doesn’t have some solid science behind it.

A lunar planting calendar is a calendar that sets out the dates and times for planting different things according to the phase of the moon and its relationship to the constellations. I first tried using it just as a way to get myself organised. Gardening, like writing or painting or composing music, is one of those occupations where time can just disappear on you.

But by the time I started using it I’d already figured out the importance of keeping a fairly detailed garden diary, and it seems, if I look at my diary, the planting calendar doesn’t just keep me organised – it also gives me consistently better strike rates in my seeds and cuttings, and consistently healthier and stronger growing seedlings.

How it works:

  • The first week of the waxing moon, as it goes from dark to half full, includes the times for planting crops from which the leaf is the bit you want – like lettuces, silver beet, spinach, cabbages, parsley and so on.
  • The week before the full moon includes the times for planting fruiting crops – like peas, beans, tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants, sweet corn. I count broccoli and cauliflowers as fruiting crops, because the part you harvest is actually the flower head, not the leaves.
  • The week after the full moon includes the times for root crops and perennials – onions, carrots, radishes, turnips, beetroot, any tree crops, and anything you propagate from cuttings.
  • The last week before the dark of the moon is a bad time for planting or transplanting anything, and the best time for weeding, because plants that are uprooted then don’t readily take root again.

There are several plausible theories that might explain why lunar planting should work. The most likely have to do with tidal forces on soil, plant, and animal borne water, since the phase of the moon affects tides, what’s happening with water levels is pretty important to plant growth. But there are also some interesting observations that have been made about the correlation between astrological phases and sunspot activity, which affects electromagnetic radiation. We know that earthworms and many other creatures can “see” electromagnetic radiation as clearly as we can see light. So its not too loopy to speculate about how it might (directly or indirectly) effect vegetables.

But even if it only achieved a solution to those very thorny problems of organisation and time management, it would be well and truly enough. It means there are days when my garden gets a turn at being a priority, and doesn’t constantly get trumped by things that have a deadline. By following the calendar, I plant a few varieties of seed nearly every week. I go back to the same vegetable to plant a new batch every month. Just as one batch of lettuces is starting to yield, another batch is being transplanted into the garden, and a third is being planted as seed, giving me a constant supply and helping avoid gluts.