2017 Moon Planting Calendar for Australia & NZ

13697226_984301675002254_1647523535702401731_n Aussie Organic Gardening now has a 2017 moon planting calendar* for Australian and New Zealand readers to help them plan their gardening activities. It’s easy to follow and colour-coded to an accompanying legend so that gardeners can easily see when to sow or plant each group of plants. Within each phase, the best days for particular activities, such as pruning, fertilising, harvesting for storage, weeding and striking cuttings are also shown. Weeks begin on a Monday, so that weekend gardeners can see at a glance which activities are suitable for coming weekends. The calendar can be easily downloaded as a PDF.
Moon phase changes and gardening times are calculated to Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST). Although planting by the moon, or lunar planting, is a common practice around the world, moon phase changes occur there at different times and their calendars are not accurate for Australia and New Zealand.

To download the Aussie Organic Gardening 2017 moon planting calendar, go to:
2017 Moon Planting Calendar

For readers not familiar with moon planting, information can be found here:
All about moon planting

* This Moon Planting guide is a simplified version. Further details of what to do when in the garden in each Australian and New Zealand climate zone can be found in the perpetual monthly ‘Planting and Garden Activity Diary’ and ‘Best Gardening Days to the end of 2017’ sections of the updated edition of my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting (Scribe Publications 2012) – also available as an e-book.

Garlic planting time – again

garlic1 March and April are good months for planting garlic in temperate to warmer parts of Australia. This year we are going back to growing the ‘Italian White‘ variety as our winters are becoming too mild for the hard-necked varieties. ‘Italian White‘ is a soft-necked garlic more suited to warmer areas. Cloves are slightly smaller than the purple hard-necked garlic but it has a lovely flavour and keeps longer than the hard-neck varieties.

We will sow ours in the middle of April (during Full Moon phase), after separating the knobs into individual cloves. The larger cloves from each knob will be planted, flat end down, just below the surface into soil rich in compost with a pH close to neutral. We usually plant our cloves 15 cm apart in rows 30 cm apart so that the canopy formed by the leaves helps to keep the mulched soil cooler. Garlic needs regular, deep watering (not a daily sprinkle) and hates competing with weeds. Green Harvest has a range of garlic for planting, and their garlic page will help you to decide which variety is best suited to your local climate and needs.

If you want to grow a small quantity of garlic from knobs purchased from your greengrocer, make sure it is Australian garlic. Imported garlic is treated with methyl bromide, a nasty gas that has been banned in Europe and may prevent cloves from growing.
Garlic takes 6 to 8 months to develop a bulb depending on the variety and climate.

Limiting frost damage

Some gardeners may not be sure whether they are in a Temperate or Cool climate and, where frosts occur, the position of a property within a neighbourhood (the microclimate) can affect how much frost may affect your garden. The diagram below indicates where frost is more likely to affect parts of your garden.
The position of garden beds can also have a marked effect on the amount of plant damage that frosts cause. Cold air, like water, always flows downwards; anything that blocks the downward flow will result in frost damage in that area. Buildings, solid fences and shrubbery, and flat land at the bottom of a slope can all allow cold air to pool, and plants in these areas are more likely to be damaged by frost.

frostareas

In temperate climates areas that can be affected by frost, gardeners may find it helpful to use the guide for ‘cool climates’ in autumn and winter and use the ‘temperate climates’ guide in spring and summer because the world’s climate is changing and we have recently experienced harsher winters and hotter summers. It appears that the standard climate zones may have to be adjusted slightly in future. If unsure about what to plant at a particular time of year, a reputable local nursery will have suitable plants in stock and be able to advise you on what is best for your local microclimate. Be cautious though when buying seedlings from Australia-wide nursery chains, as some tend to send the same seedlings to stores in all climate zones.

By the way, advice to orient beds in a north/south direction to allow plants to receive ample sunlight comes from northern hemisphere gardening practices and only applies to very cool climates in Australia. Most areas of Australia get more than enough sun to ripen crops. In fact, plants can benefit from some relief from harsh afternoon sun in warmer climates during summer months. It is more important to position beds across any slope in the ground to ensure that all plants in a bed have equal access to water. Avoid placing vegetable garden beds under trees, as trees are very competitive for both moisture and nutrients.

Organic school gardens

gloves As some readers know, I have been kept very busy this year writing the Organic School Gardens program for the Biological Farmers of Australia to teach children how to garden for a sustainable future.

This program is unique, as it is provided free to all schools across Australia – it is non-commercial – it features practical and easy-to-use online resources and lesson plans suitable for Australian schools, plus a separate set of lesson notes for teachers, and
it is the only Australian school garden program written in line with organic standards.
BFA’s program is designed to be adaptable to all schools, including children with special needs and schools with very limited resources, and it is designed to integrate with other subjects in the curriculum, making learning fun and more meaningful for students.
Gardening expertise is not necessary to conduct this program. In going through the lessons and supervisor notes, teachers and volunteers will learn how to garden organically themselves.

BFA’s Organic School Gardens Program can be accessed and downloaded simply by going to:
www.organicschools.com.au

The last three lessons in the program will be available to schools at the beginning of October in time for the next school term, and from later this month I will be able to spend more time writing posts for my blog. I’d like to thank all of you for your patience while I have been working on this project.

Full Moon and cauliflower?

It is not surprising that some people don’t take moon planting seriously when TV commercials make statements like “the increased light of the Full Moon has hastened maturation of cauliflowers”.
All vegetables are exposed to light from Full Moons. Maturity times for different varieties of cauliflower vary from 11- 26 weeks, so the slower growing ones would be exposed to more Full Moons than the faster-growing varieties. In fact, radishes, which are sown after the Full Moon, can mature in a month, and would be exposed to the least amount of Full Moon light.
I thought the statement may have been based on the Moon being in Perigee (closest part of its orbit to Earth) and the reflected light from the Full Moon being slightly stronger. However, the only time the Full Moon was near perigee this year was back in January. Cauliflowers require cold weather to form the curd, and the coldest weather normally occurs when the days are shortest and the plants are exposed to less sunlight. It is more likely that the cooler temperatures this year have assisted the early maturation of cauliflowers, and that TV ad doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

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.

Traditional Moon Planting

Traditional Moon Planting is an ancient agricultural practice that has been used by farmers for several thousand years. 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 and 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 the past 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 my home page in the ‘Aussie Organic Gardening Moon Phase’ panel. 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, grains and melons. 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 annuals (we eat the fruit or seed bearing part), and flowering annuals, grains and melons. 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) and flowering annuals.

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. 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. Fertile days, i.e. when the Moon is in the fertile 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 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 fertile and barren days to the end of 2018 can be found in my book, Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting – Updated Edition, 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 your garden each month for all Australian and New Zealand climate zones. Or, if you are happy with fertile and barren days for the coming year, I recommend Thomas Zimmer’s Astrological Calendar for Australian gardeners.