What to grow in May 2017

It’s currently pleasant weather for gardening, and it’s time to plant garlic in non-tropical warm and temperate climates. Also sow garden peas in frost-free areas directly into a garden bed with a trellis to support the plants. Contrary to some garden guru advice, legumes do need compost or complete organic fertiliser added to the bed before sowing here as Australian soils do not naturally contain the rhizobia that fixes nitrogen in these plants. If you live in a frost-prone climate, remember that peas take about 14 weeks from sowing to harvest, and time the sowing of peas so that they will not be flowering during frost periods. The plants are frost hardy but the flowers are not. Don’t cut back asparagus plant until the foliage yellows, which is a sign that plants have withdrawn nutrients into the crowns for growth next spring.
The following gardening advice is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be planted in May in Australia and New Zealand. A comprehensive monthly guide that includes planting times for the entire garden, as well as when to fertilise, prune, weed, take cuttings or divide plants plus individual cultivation notes can be found in my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting (Scribe Publications, 2006, 2009, 2012) – also available as an e-book.
* For gardeners who do not use moon planting: sow or plant out any of the following list at any time this month, although you may find germination is weaker when the Moon is in Last Quarter phase.

WARM CLIMATE South of Rockhampton
Before the Full Moon, bulb fennel, open-headed Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, radicchio, rocket, silver beet (pre-soak seed), spinach, tatsoi, chamomile and coriander can be sown directly into beds, also a green manure crop of barley, cereal rye, chick pea, white clover, faba bean, field pea, cereal rye, Japanese millet, oats, triticale, or wheat. Leek and spring onions can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, broad beans, and peas can be sown directly into beds.
During Full Moon phase, radish, turnip and garlic can be sown directly into beds, also potato north of Brisbane. Early season onion and watercress can be sown or planted out. Olive trees can be planted.

WARM CLIMATE Rockhampton and northwards
Before the Full Moon, bulb fennel, open-headed Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, radicchio, rocket, silver beet (pre-soak seed), spinach, tatsoi and coriander can be sown directly into beds, also a green manure crop of barley, cereal rye, lablab, oats, or triticale. Fast-maturing celery, headed Chinese cabbage, leek, silver beet, spring onions, parsley, and chamomile can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans and peas and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and pumpkin, rock melon, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot (pre-soak seed), carrot, radish and swede can be sown directly into beds, and evergreen trees, shrubs, and vines can be planted.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, open headed Chinese cabbage, lettuce, mizuna, spinach and tatsoi can be sown directly into beds, also a green manure crop of faba (broad) bean, field pea, barley or oats. (Cereal rye can be sown in frost-free areas.) In frost-free areas, grain crops, lettuce, radicchio and spring onions can also be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, fast-maturing broccoli, broad beans, peas and chamomile can be sown directly into beds in frost-free areas. In frost areas, delay sowing broad beans and peas until June. Although the plants are frost-hardy, the flowers are not.
During Full Moon phase, radish, turnip, and garlic can be sown direct, and early season onion can be sown or planted out. In frost-free areas, strawberries can be planted out.

COOL CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, suitable lettuce and spinach can be sown directly into beds, also a green manure crop of faba (broad) bean or field pea, oats, or triticale. Spring onions can be planted out.
First Quarter phase: broad beans and peas can be sown directly into beds in late May. Avoid sowing broad beans and peas too early in frost areas. Although the plants are frost-hardy, the flowers are not.
During Full Moon phase, radish can be sown directly into beds, and early and mid season onion can be sown or planted out. Garlic can be sown in warmer areas, and raspberry and currants can be planted from mid May.

What to grow in April 2017

Torrential rain along much of the east coast means a lot of soil is water-logged as April begins. In areas not affected by wet soil, April is a good time to plant out evergreen trees and shrubs where winters are frost-free. See Planting trees, shrubs and vines
Plant spring bulbs in temperate areas and give almond, cherry, nectarine, peach, and pear trees a drink of seaweed extract tea.
If pests bother your broccoli and other brassicas, sow some dill seed between plants. The smell of dill foliage confuses the butterflies and moths that like to lay their eggs on the leaves of the cabbage family. Also check the soil pH around these plants.
The following gardening advice is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be planted in April in Australia and New Zealand. A comprehensive monthly guide that includes planting times for the entire garden, as well as when to fertilise, prune, weed, take cuttings or divide plants, can be found in my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting (Scribe Publications, 2006, 2009, 2012, also now available as an e-book).

* For gardeners who do not use moon planting: sow or plant out any of the following list at any time this month, although you may find germination is weaker when the Moon is in Last Quarter phase.

WARM CLIMATE South of Rockhampton
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, headed and open Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, radicchio, rocket, silver beet (pre-soak seed), spinach, tatsoi, coriander, and nasturtium can be sown directly into beds, also a green manure crop of, chick pea, white clover faba bean, field pea, cereal rye, Japanese millet, oats, triticale, or wheat. Celery, leek, spring onions, parsley, bulb fennel and chamomile can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, broad beans, fast maturing broccoli, peas and nasturtium can be sown directly into beds.
During Full Moon phase, carrot, garlic, radish, swede and turnip can be sown directly into beds, and early-season onion, mint, rosemary, thyme and watercress can be sown or planted out. Globe artichoke suckers, lemon grass, strawberries, pineapple, and evergreen trees, shrubs, and vines can be planted.

WARM CLIMATE Rockhampton and northwards
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, headed and open Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, radicchio, rocket, silver beet (pre-soak seed), spinach, tatsoi, coriander, and nasturtium can be sown directly into beds, also a green manure crop of cereal rye, lablab, Japanese millet, oats, or triticale. Celery, leek, spring onions and parsley can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, fast maturing broccoli, peas, and nasturtium can be sown directly into beds, and cucumber, pumpkin, rock melon, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot (pre-soak seed), carrot, parsnip, potato, radish and swede can be sown directly into beds, and lemon grass, strawberries, pineapple, dandelion and oregano can be sown or planted out. Evergreen trees, shrubs, and vines can be planted.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, bulb fennel, cabbage, headed and open Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, radicchio, rocket, spinach, tatsoi and coriander can be sown directly into beds, also a green manure crop of faba (broad) bean, field pea, barley, cereal rye, oats, triticale, or wheat. Chickpea can be sown in frost-free areas. Leek, spring onions, chamomile and parsley can be sown or planted out, also silver beet (pre-soak seed) in frost-free areas.
During First Quarter phase, broccoli can be sown directly into beds, also broad beans and peas in frost-free areas.
During Full Moon phase, radish, swede turnip, turnip, and garlic can be sown directly into beds, and early season onion can be sown or planted out. Globe artichoke suckers, strawberries and lemon grass can be planted, also evergreen trees, shrubs, and vines in frost-free areas.

COOL CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, grain crops, lettuce, spinach can be sown directly into beds, also a green manure crop of faba (broad) bean, field pea, oats, or triticale. Leek can be planted out.
Avoid sowing broad beans and peas too early in frost areas. Although the plants are frost-hardy, the flowers are not.
During Full Moon phase, radish and turnip can be sown directly into beds, and early season onion can be sown or planted out. Swede and garlic can be sown in warmer areas, and raspberry and currants can be planted in cold areas.

What to grow in March 2017

  Australia has experienced the hottest summer on record and, in NSW and Queensland, we have a repeat of the end of summer’s very wet weather. Avoid gardening in water-logged soil, as it will only damage the soil structure and make it easier to spread soil-borne diseases.
Nutrient deficiencies often appear on citrus trees in early autumn, particularly magnesium (yellowing in older leaves) or iron (yellowing starts in young leaves) deficiencies, and these deficiencies will affect the quality of your crop. To correct any problems, see: Pale citrus leaves
Passionfruit vines that have produced a good summer crop will benefit from a light application of complete organic fertiliser tucked under the outer edges of the mulch.
It is also time to select your spring-flowering bulbs for planting through autumn.
The following gardening advice is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be planted during March in Australia and New Zealand. A comprehensive monthly guide that includes planting times for the entire garden, as well as when to fertilise, prune, weed, take cuttings or divide plants, can be found in my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting (Scribe Publications, 2006, 2009, 2012, also now available as an e-book).

* For gardeners who do not use moon planting: sow or plant out any of the following list at any time this month, although you may find germination is weaker when the Moon is in Last Quarter phase.

WARM CLIMATESouth of Rockhampton
Before the Full Moon, bulb fennel, cabbage, headed and open Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, radicchio, rocket, silver beet (pre-soak seed), tatsoi, chamomile, coriander, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of strawberry or white clover, Japanese millet, oats, field pea or triticale. Celery, leek, spring onion, sweet basil and parsley can be sown or transplanted.
During First Quarter phase, broccoli, bush and climbing beans and peas can be sown directly into beds, and tomato and zucchini and can be sown or transplanted.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot (pre-soak seed), carrot, parsnip, and radish can be sown directly into beds, and cauliflower, early season onion, swede turnip, turnip, lemon balm, lemon grass, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, thyme and watercress can be sown or transplanted. Globe artichoke suckers, strawberries, avocado, citrus, olive and pineapple can be planted.

WARM CLIMATE Rockhampton and northwards
Before the Full Moon, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of Japanese millet, lablab, oats or triticale. Cabbage, leek, silver beet (pre-soak seed), spring onion and chamomile can be sown or transplanted.
During First Quarter phase, broccoli, and bush and climbing beans can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, cucumber, egg plant, pumpkin, rock melon, summer squash, sweet corn, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or transplanted.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot (pre-soak seed), carrot, parsnip and radish can be sown directly into beds, and lemon grass and oregano can be sown or transplanted. Citrus, pineapple and strawberries can be planted.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, bulb fennel, cabbage, headed and open Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, radicchio, rocket, silver beet (pre-soak seed), tatsoi and coriander can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of red or strawberry clover, faba bean, field pea, barley, cereal rye, oats, triticale or wheat. Leek, silver beet , spring onion, chamomile and parsley can be sown or transplanted. In warmer areas, celery and chickpea can also be sown. In colder areas, also sow English spinach and sow Brussels sprouts directly into beds.
During First Quarter phase, cauliflower can be sown directly into beds, and broccoli can be sown or transplanted. In warmer areas, peas can also be sown directly into beds.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot (pre-soak seed), carrot, radish, swede turnip and turnip can be sown directly into beds, and early season onion, globe artichoke, lemon balm, marjoram, rosemary, thyme and watercress can be sown or transplanted. Globe artichoke suckers, strawberries, avocado, citrus and olive can be planted. In warmer areas, parsnip, mango, and pineapple and oregano can also be sown or planted.

COOL CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, headed and open Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, English spinach and tatsoi can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of clover, faba bean, field pea, cereal rye, oats, triticale or wheat. Leek and spring onion can be sown or transplanted. In warmer areas, cabbage, radicchio, coriander and rocket can also be sown.
During First Quarter phase, suitable broccoli can be sown or transplanted in warmer areas.
During Full Moon phase, radish, swede turnip, turnip and garlic can be sown directly into beds, and strawberries, mint and watercress planted.

For moon planters

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Colour-coded Calendars now available

In response to readers’ requests, Aussie Organic Gardening now has easy-to-follow, colour-coded, moon planting calendars for gardeners. Colours indicate suitable moon phases for certain garden activities and the best days within each phase. Weeks begin on a Monday, so that weekend gardeners can see at a glance which activities are suitable for coming weekends.
Our planting by the moon calendars are suitable for all gardeners in Australia, New Zealand and other countries in the southern hemisphere. The practice of sowing and planting by the moon, also known as lunar planting, has been used by farmers and gardeners around the world for many centuries.

Click on the links on the right side of the home page to purchase a planting calendar for the rest of 2016 or a planting calendar for 2017.
For readers not familiar with moon planting or gardening by the moon, information can be found here All about moon planting:

All about moon planting


Several new readers have asked me about ‘moon planting’, and some are confused by the differences between a biodynamic method (leaf days, flower days etc.) and the traditional moon planting methods used in this blog.
I am re-posting the explanation on how moon planting works because the original was posted several years ago, and may not be easy for readers to find. – You can find the current moon phase and advice for what to sow in the “Aussie Organic Gardening Moon Phase” panel on the right hand side of my blog home page. 

Traditional Moon Planting is an ancient agricultural practice that has been used by farmers for several thousand years, as far back as the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians. It is based on the synodic period of the Moon from one New Moon to the next, an average period of 29.5 days.
Over time, farmers observed that all aspects of farming were affected by the interaction of the gravitational forces between the Sun, the Moon and Earth. These are the same gravitational forces that affect ocean tides around the world. Because the Moon is closer to Earth, its effects are more noticeable. Scientists have more recently confirmed that variations in sap flow, biological functions in plants, and subtle changes in Earth’s electro-magnetic fields, correspond to the Moon’s gravitational pull. After comparing the various methods of Moon Planting over ten years, I came to the conclusion that the traditional method, although the simplest, works best for us and is still used by many farmers and gardeners around the world. The basic rules, or principles, are described below.

The Lunation Cycle
Each lunar month the Moon passes through four phases – New Moon, First Quarter, Full Moon and Last Quarter. The number of days between each change of phase can vary from 6 3/4 to 8, so to make it easier for you, the current moon phase and its duration is shown on the right side of this page. Please note that Moon phases are given in Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST), which applies to gardeners in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania. Gardeners in South Australia and Northern Territory should subtract half an hour from the given times, and gardeners in Western Australia should subtract 2 hours. New Zealand gardeners should add 2 hours to the given times. Adjustments will have to be made for Daylight Saving when it applies.

1. Avoid sowing, planting or taking cuttings from 12 hours before to 12 hours after the exact change of moon phase.
The twelve hours immediately before and after the exact change of each phase is not a good time for sowing, planting, or taking cuttings. We have found that the increase or decrease of unfavourable energy is gradual and it will not have an obvious effect if you run an hour or so into this period when you have a lot of sowing or planting to do. While this is not a good period for sowing or planting, this time can be used to prepare beds, compost heaps, apply mulch, etc.

THE WAXING MOON
During the New Moon and First Quarter phases, the Moon is waxing or increasing in light. In these two phases, sap flow increases in the above ground parts of plants, and these are the most suitable phases for sowing and transplanting annuals (and biennials). Flowering annuals, grains, melons and spring onions do well if planted in either phase but, generally, New Moon phase is best for leafy annuals and First Quarter is best for fruiting annuals. Liquid fertilisers will take effect more quickly if applied during the waxing phases. Shrubs and trees can be pruned in First Quarter phase when you want to produce new growth quickly, such as pruning spring-flowering shrubs or summer pruning of roses. When pruned while sap flow is high, sap is quickly diverted to the lateral shoots. When sap flow is low, regrowth is slower and dieback is more likely to occur in some plants. The same principle applies to lawns. If you want to encourage fast regrowth, mow during the waxing phases. First Quarter phase is also good for grafting and budding because these require a high sap flow for successful results.

2. NEW MOON PHASE – the best time to sow or transplant leafy annuals (we eat the leaf or stem), and flowering annuals. Also sow annual grasses, green manures, and apply liquid fertilisers. Mow lawns to encourage growth. This is the second best phase to sow or transplant fruiting annuals.

3. FIRST QUARTER PHASE – the best time to sow or transplant fruiting and flowering annuals (we eat the fruit or seed bearing part), and flowering annuals and grains. Also sow annual grasses, and green manures and apply liquid fertilisers. Prune to encourage growth and deadhead roses and flowering annuals. Carry out grafting and budding. Mow lawns to encourage growth. This is the second best phase to sow or transplant leafy annuals (we eat the leaf or stem).

THE WANING MOON
During the Full Moon and Last Quarter phases the Moon wanes or decreases in light and sap flow in plants is more concentrated in the root area. As sap flow gradually slows during these two phases, Full Moon phase is best for sowing and planting because germination is lower, and regrowth slower, during Last Quarter phase. Because sap flow is lower in the foliage part of plants, crops or seed harvested for storage or drying are less likely to rot if harvested during the Moon’s waning period.
Full Moon phase is best for the sowing and planting of both root crops and perennials (plants that live longer than two years). All trees, shrubs, vines (including fruit trees and vines), globe artichokes, asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, herbaceous perennials, bulbs and lawn grasses are perennials. The reason that these plants are planted (or sown) in the root vegetable phase is that perennials have a different type of root system to leafy and flowering annuals. Roots of perennial plants have, like root vegetables and garlic, the ability to store carbohydrates and nutrients through periods of dormancy, and this type of root system is important for the longevity of perennials.
Because Full Moon phase favours root growth, this is also an excellent phase for taking cuttings, or for aerial layering, because root growth must form to support new foliage growth. This is also the best phase for dividing plants for the same reason.
Prune dormant plants during Full Moon phase. Last Quarter phase is best for cutting back rampant shrubs and vines, – regrowth will be less vigorous.

4. FULL MOON PHASE – the best time to sow or plant out root crops and all fruiting and decorative perennials, including fruit trees. Also sow lawns or lay turf, harvest for storage, take cuttings, divide plants, prune dormant plants and apply solid fertilisers. Mow lawns to slow growth.

5. LAST QUARTER PHASE – no sowing or planting during this phase. This is a good phase for attending to your soil; weeding, applying mulch, making compost, preparing manure teas, applying solid fertilisers and digging or ploughing, if necessary Prune to restrain growth, and mow lawns to slow growth during this phase.

Fertile and Barren Days
These are a further refinement that has been added to moon planting principles through the ages. Traditional moon planting divides the zodiacal belt into 12 equal 30° segments, each named after the constellation closest to it. Although scientists have tended the disregard this part of moon planting, I believe it is related to the subtle changes in the Earth’s electro-magnetic field because seeds and plants can only absorb the minerals they need for growth as water-soluble, electrically-charged ions. Each 30° segment has been given a ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ rating, and these ratings used in traditional moon planting vary from those used in astrology.
Fertile days, i.e. when the Moon is in the fertile (negative) signs of Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces, or the semi-fertile days of Taurus, Libra and Capricorn, are considered to be of extra help for sowing, grafting, taking cuttings, pruning to encourage growth and planting bare-rooted perennials. Barren days, i.e. when the Moon is in the barren (positive) signs of Aries, Leo or Sagittarius, or the semi-barren signs Gemini, Virgo or Aquarius are considered to be of extra help for weeding or harvesting crops for storage. If digging is unavoidable outside Last Quarter phase, it is best to do it on barren days.

Watering your garden
Some moon planting guides will tell you to only water on barren days, while other guides will tell you to only water on fertile days. After keeping rain records for many years, I’ve noticed that Mother Nature does not comply with either of these rules. The truth is that you should water your plants when they need it.

Moon Planting Guides
A list of fertile and barren days is outside the scope of this post but a  lot more information on moon phases, eclipses and best gardening days to the end of 2017 can be found in my book, Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting – Revised Edition 2012 (with moon planting 2017–2022), so that Australian and New Zealand gardeners can plan ahead. This practical handbook contains a full moon planting guide advising what to do when in all sections of your garden each month for all Australian and New Zealand climate zones. Or, you can purchase a colour-coded moon planting calendar by clicking on the links on the right hand side of the Aussie Organic Gardening home page.

Different time zones

The times for Moon phase changes on the right hand panel of this blog are Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST), which only applies to the east coast of Australia, and the phase will change at a different time in central or western Australia, or in other southern hemisphere countries.
As converting AEST to local time zones can be confusing for gardeners, I have added a link to a Time Converter to the Moon Planting widget to make it easier. Just follow the instructions in the Moon Planting widget.

Try it out here: Time Converter

Spring equinox 2010

What is an equinox? It is a time when day and night are of equal length, and tomorrow (23rd of September) is the Spring Equinox in the southern hemisphere. Our equinoxes are the opposite of those in the northern hemisphere.
There are two equinoxes each year – one around the 23rd or 24th of September and the other on 21st of March – our Fall Equinox. After the Spring Equinox the days get longer until around our Summer Solstice on, or around the 22nd of December, then days become gradually shorter.
Some cultures think that the Spring Equinox has a special significance for planting. However, at least a third of the time the spring equinox occurs when the Moon is in a ‘barren sign’, or at New or Full Moon, which are not good times for sowing seeds.
Tomorrow’s equinox occurs on a Full Moon, so wait until after 7:20 am AEST on 24th before you sow root crops or plant perennials.

When to sow seed

Ian, lIke many other gardeners, is unsure whether he should sow and transplant in the correct moon phase, or sow seeds by the moon phase and transplant anytime, or sow seeds anytime and transplant by the moon.

Over many years of experimenting with moon planting, we’ve found that it is more important to sow seed during the correct phase, than it is to plant out during the correct phase. Seedlings of some varieties of annuals are large enough for transplanting by the time the next correct phase comes around, so it is easy to sow and transplant in the same phase. Others varieties take a shorter, or longer, time to reach transplanting stage, and my advice is that these should be planted out when they are ready, and when climate conditions are suitable, whatever the moon phase. Seedlings sown in a tray will suffer some transplant shock because they often have to be teased apart for transplanting, and these will require some TLC until they become established. However, annual seedlings sown in segmented punnets or individual tubes suffer very little transplant shock and it does not seem to matter when they are transplanted because their root balls are buffered by surrounding mix.

Planting out during the correct phase is important for perennials as strong establishment of the root system is essential for vigorous growth of these plants. This group includes fruit trees and crowns of asparagus, artichokes, herbacous perennials, strawberries, etc., as well as all trees, shrubs and vines.
Most root crop annuals are best sown direct where they are to grow as many don’t perform well when transplanted. If you have to transplant these because mice or ants steal seeds sown in beds, and they are ready to transplant in an incorrect moon phase, just give them some extra TLC. Moon planting gives some extra help in getting plants growing, it is not essential to their survival.

Traditional moon planting is based on observations of farmers for many centuries but very little scientific research has been carried out on why, exactly, certain seeds germinate faster, and grow quickly when sown at particular times, and why cuttings form roots more quickly when taken during Full Moon phase. A brief coverage of this subject on a David Suzuki TV program some years ago stated that fluctuations in sap flow and plant hormones corresponded with the Moon’s gravitation pull, as did subtle variations in Earth’s electro-magnetic field. I think the changes in the electro-magnetic field might be the key to why moon planting works, as plants can only absorb nutrients as water soluble, electrically–charged particles. A serious scientific study of this subject would be most interesting.

Does moon planting work?

Renewed interest in organic gardening has also stimulated curiosity about moon planting. People are asking does it have a scientific basis? Is it all about astrology and spiritualism? How does it work?
Is it Scientific?
As I said in my post on the rules of moon planting, traditional moon planting uses the gravitational interaction between the Sun, the Moon and Earth. These are the same gravitational forces that affect ocean tides around the world, and the variations in high tides that occur when the Sun is in a direct line with the Earth and Moon, or at right angles to them. These variations occur at each change of moon phase.
Scientists have spent little time studying this practice, but have recently confirmed that subtle changes in Earth’s electromagnetic fields and variations in sap flow and biological functions in plants do correspond to the Moon’s gravitational pull. Scientists have also confirmed that the Moon has an influence on breeding and feeding cycles of many life forms on this planet. It makes sense to me that plants, which contain a high proportion of water, would not be immune to the effects of a gravitational force strong enough to move large bodies of water.
The science behind traditional moon planting is the observations by farmers since Babylonian times of improved germination and growth when seeds are sown at certain times of the lunar month, and better results when plants are harvested, or pruned during particular moon phases. Over a period of eight years, I have compared different forms of moon planting against detailed records of sowing, germination, growth, harvesting and pruning. I found that traditional moon planting methods worked best for us, and this is the method I have included in my book, “Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting”, and perhaps science’s failure to find is a failure to look. Scientists are now beginning to apply serious study some practices that were previously dismissed as merely folklore.
Is it all about astrology and spiritualism?
This question arises from the inclusion of fertile or barren moon signs that are named after constellations in the zodiacal belt that stretches either side of the ecliptic, which marks the apparent path of the Sun. “Fertile” days are considered better for some gardening activities and “barren” days better for others.
In relation to traditional moon planting, I think that fertile and barren signs have more to do with the subtle changes in Earth’s electromagnetic fields than with the actual position of the constellations as related to astrology. Traditional moon planting uses the tropical zodiac that divides the celestial belt into twelve equal parts of 30 degrees, named after the constellations that were closest to them in the second century B.C., and ignores that fact that the actual constellations vary widely in size. The twelve segments were also given alternate labels of “positive” or “negative”. The equal divisions were basically markers for degrees of tension from the major permanent points of reference, which occur within 24 hours of the same days each year.
The first two points are the spring and autumnal equinoxes that mark the intersection of the ecliptic and the celestial equator (a projection of the Earth’s equator into space). These points are at right angles to the polar inclination. The two other points of reference occur half way between the equinoxes and mark the summer and winter solstices. The equinoxes move backwards very, very slowly, and the position of the segment marked Aries is now in the constellation of Pisces. The designation, by moon planting farmers, of “barren” (to most of the positive signs) or “fertile” (to most of the negative signs), varies slightly from the fertile/negative and barren/positive labels applied in astrology, and I feel there had to be a reason for this variation to remain constant through the centuries.
There has been no scientific study into this part of moon planting, and I do not know for sure why this part of moon planting works but it has been quite helpful to me, particularly pruning and taking cuttings on fertile days, and harvesting seeds and crops for storage or drying on barren days. However, watering only on fertile days (or only on barren days as some guides advise) makes no sense to me, at all.
In contrast to traditional moon planting, the biodynamic method of moon planting, which was developed some 50 years ago, uses the actual positions of the constellations and planets, and does include a spiritual element. I found the biodynamic method of moon planting more complicated to follow, and it didn’t seem to work as well as the simpler, traditional moon planting in our conditions, but I have no problem with gardeners who prefer the biodynamic method.
It is not necessary to use any form of moon planting (with or without fertile and barren signs) to garden organically, but it is considered by many farmers and gardeners to provide a little extra help, and assists in establishing a routine in the garden.

Manure tea

As it is Full Moon phase, later this week I will have to brew up some manure tea as a supplementary fertiliser for my lettuce, silverbeet, and spinach seedlings because they have a high nitrogen requirement. Manure tea can also be applied to flowering annuals, cabbage, celery, leeks, also Brussels sprouts that were planted out in February, or earlier.
I usually brew this up during Last Quarter phase as it only takes about a week in warm weather. As the weather has been much cooler than usual for April, the brew will take a good twelve to fourteen days to mature.
Manure tea gets its name from the fact it is applied to soil around plants at weak black tea strength, and around young seedlings as very weak black tea strength because strong fertiliser solutions can burn delicate roots. As it coats the foliage when applied to very small plants, I always water the seedlings after application because it is better to feed the soil than the plant.
Manure, and other fertiliser “teas” are easy to make. For this brew, I place a shovelful of horse manure into an old bucket, and fill the bucket with water. Then I cover the bucket with an old plastic tea tray. The cover prevents loss of nitrogen to the air, and flies laying eggs in the mixture, but a tight fitting lid will usually “pop” because of the gases formed as the manure ferments. The mixture should be stirred every couple of days, will be ready to use during New Moon phase. Sap flow in plants increases as the Moon is waxing, and New Moon and First Quarter are good phases to apply liquid fertiliser because they plants use them quickly.
I strain some of the brew through a piece of old pantihose into a watering can and add enough water to achieve the correct strength for the plants I want to fertilise. After fertilising, the bucket can be repeatedly topped up with water, and the brew can be used until it is quite pale. The residue can be added to the compost heap.
Always wear rubber gloves when handling manure fertilisers. They not only prevent smelly hands, they will prevent the manure coming into contact with any cuts or scratches on your hands.