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.

Spring bulb reminder

When spring bulbs have finished flowering, don’t forget to allow the foliage to die back before lifting bulbs. It is important to leave the foliage because the yellowing and fading occurs as the plants withdraw nutrients from the leaves to store in the bulbs for next season’s growth. Depriving spring bulbs of this essential part of their growth cycle will result in poor, or no, flowering next spring.

Frangipani trees from seed

I often receive e-mails with questions about growing frangipani trees, and some readers may like to try growing them from seed. Paula Pugh Schipp of the Frangipani Society of Australia says that frangipani trees grown from seed grow much faster than those grown from cuttings because the root system starts to form when the seed germinates. Another advantage of propagating these lovely (Plumeria) trees from seed is that trees grown from cuttings will always be the same as the parent tree, but trees grown from seed are, like children, not usually exact duplicates of their parents. You may grow a tree with flowers with an entirely different colour combination if you have a variety of frangipani trees in your area.

Frangipani flowers do not always produce seed as the self-pollinating flowers do not always release their pollen. You can try hand-pollinating flowers with a piece of thick fishing line. Place the end of the line deep into the flower and wriggle it very gently to release the pollen. You have to be gentle as it is easy to knock the flower from its stem.

Seeds develop within a pod, often a double pod in a ‘T ‘ shape, which looks rather like two thin 17 cm zucchini in the early stages – changing over time to brown/black when mature (see photo, lower left). Pods can take up to 8 months to mature depending on the local microclimate.

When the seeds are mature, the pods become brittle and begin to split open revealing up to 60 seeds in each pod. Collecting the seed takes a bit of good timing because each of the seeds has a small ‘wing’ attached and, when the pod completely opens, the seeds can be spread far and wide on the breeze (see photo, below right). If the pod is in a position where you can easily observe its development, when the pod is just beginning to split, place a large basin under the pod structure and carefully cut the adjoining stem from the tree. If the pod is high in the tree and hidden by foliage, then when the pod starts to change colour, make a bag from nylon netting large enough to hold the pod structure with some room to spare. The will prevent the seeds from blowing away when the pod opens.

 

 

 

 

If you would like to try growing frangipani from seed, for best results sow them soon after they are collected.

This excellent Frangipani website provides a detailed guide to propagating frangipani, including an interesting method of germinating seed in paper towels: Frangipani Society of Australia

One of our readers, Sam, has shared some photos of his very successful efforts.
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Frogs like bromeliads, too.

Bromeliads are an interesting group of plants with over 800 varieties. Some bromeliads are epiphytic (grow on trees or other objects for support) while some require soil for their roots – including the most well-known member of the family – the pineapple plant (Ananas comosus). Bromeliads are very easy to grow in warm and temperate climates, and have an amazing range of foliage and flower shapes and colours. Most bromeliads grow in a rosette form with a central well, and their unusual flowers grow from the central well.

The blade leaves of bromeliads funnel a lot of water into the central well, providing moisture for insects and other small creatures in times of drought, and the insects provide organic matter to fertilise the plants. This regular supply of food and water also attracts frogs.

If you like having frogs in your garden, try growing some bromeliad genera with soft, leathery, broad leaves – for example Aechmea, Neoregalia, Vriesea or Bilbergia, which grow best in part shade around the base of trees. These bromeliads rely mostly on their central well for water and food, and use soil mainly for support. The rosette of leaves also provides a hiding place for frogs.
Plant in autumn in warmer areas or spring where winters are cold. Grey-leaved bromeliads absorb moisture from the atmosphere and do not need soil, and bromeliads with heavily barbed leaves do best in acidic soil in full sun.

Frangipani stem rot


A New Zealand gardener is having trouble with her potted frangipani. I am posting my reply separately as other gardeners may have had a similar problem:

I live in Auckland NZ. I have white frangipani over 1.5m tall in a large pot. It last flowered about 4 years ago which was it’s first year in the pot. Now we are getting good leaf growth and new stems in the summer but the new stems rot in the winter and we have to cut them off.

There are several reasons why new growth on frangipanis can rot in winter – (1) water-logging of the mixture while the tree is dormant. (2) Lack of nutrients, such as potassium, which strengthens cell walls as well as promoting flowering. Have you given the tree any fertiliser? (3) Its position in winter is too cold for a tropical tree.

Remedies for (1) and (2): If your tree has been in the pot for 4 years, it is quite possible the roots have blocked the drainage hole/s, and that is causing the softer, new growth to rot when the tree is not using the moisture in the pot. Or, perhaps the holes have become blocked if the pot is in direct contact with the ground. Frangipanis form lots of roots and they must have good drainage.

As their roots are rather brittle, if you can’t remove the root ball from the pot easily, lie the pot on its side and hose out the potting mixture. Then carefully re-pot it into a larger pot with fresh potting mix that contains some complete fertiliser, and gently water it to settle the mix around the roots. If you can’t find a larger pot for the tree, trim the longest roots (so that they will have to grow about 5 cm to fill the pot) and re-pot in fresh mix in the same pot. Sit the pot on some pieces of tile so that the drainage holes remain clear of the soil.

Remedy for (3): Even the white frangipani (which is the hardiest) will not do well if temperatures are too low or they are in windy positions. When growing frangipanis in temperate zones, on the north side of a wall is a good position for them. A brick or concrete wall is best because the wall absorbs heat during the day and releases it slowly at night, keeping the air around the tree slightly warmer.

New concrete near trees

I have received an e-mail from a reader who is concerned about her neighbour’s plan to put a screen fence about 35 cm from the base of her beautiful frangipani tree, because the fence posts must be set in concrete and doesn’t know the size of the tree’s root ball or if it will damage the tree.
As new concrete near gardens is a common problem for gardeners, I am posting my answer on my blog rather than merely giving a private reply.

Generally, the feeder roots of shrubs and trees are located under the outer edge of the plant’s foliage in what is called the drip-line. Nature designed plants this way so that rain (and bird droppings, mineral dust etc.) running off the foliage falls where water and nutrients can be taken up quickly by the feeder roots (see diagram).

There are some exceptions to this rule as roots of umbrella trees, figs, crepe myrtles and liquidambers, for example, can wander all over the place in search of water. Usually, when trees or shrubs are severely pruned back, they will produce new feeder roots below the new drip-line and this can be helpful in preparing to move large shrubs and small trees.
New concrete contains lime that makes it alkaline, and hydrated lime (brickie’s lime) that is used in concrete will burn plant roots and should not be used on gardens that contain plants. If you are unable to avoid using concrete for walls or footings near established trees or shrubs, you can ask the builder to line the hole with strong plastic sheeting to prevent the new concrete coming into contact with plant roots. Plastic degrades in light but not in soil.

Adding plenty of mature compost to topsoil before planting trees and shrubs will help protect plants from the adverse effects of new concrete as one of the functions of compost is to buffer plant roots from unsuitable pH levels in surrounding soil. Where plants are established before concrete is used, adding a 5 cm layer of mature compost to the drip-line area, and covering it with 5 cm of organic mulch will help your plants. Remember to keep compost and mulch well clear of the trunk.
A more serious concern is where the concrete is to support a wall or fence close to established plants and the trees and shrubs need to be pruned on the side closest to the wall, as timing is important. Some plants, including frangipani, bleed a lot of sap if pruned when they are not dormant. The very best time for this type of pruning to reduce “bleeding” sap, is to prune during Last Quarter phase of the moon. For these plants, the wall or fence should be constructed during winter when the affected trees and shrubs are completely dormant. However, if a shrub or small tree requires a lot of sunlight or warmth for good growth, and the proposed structure will prevent this (i.e. the plant will be on the south side of the structure), it may be best to move the plant during winter for deciduous plants, or in autumn for evergreens, to a more suitable spot or into a large tub, if space is limited.
In the case of frangipanis, these lovely trees are often seen growing against north-facing walls of houses. Once concrete has seasoned, it does not seem to bother them, and they love the warmth that is stored in the wall during the day and slowly released at night.

Frangipani in Victoria

Now is the perfect time of year to take Frangipani cuttings

frangwht1 Bill has e-mailed me about growing Frangipani in north-west Victoria – and his question may be of interest to other readers.
Frangipani trees are tropical plants, and your area of Victoria is not an ideal climate for them, because minimum temperatures for most of the year are not high enough. Plants grown outside a suitable climate zone are more prone to diseases. There can be, within climate zones, microclimates in protected areas where temperature variations are not as extreme as those in the general area, and plants that need warmer conditions can be grown in these positions – if you prepared to give them extra care through autumn, winter and spring.





The only variety you could possibly grow is the hardier white Frangipani, and you would need to grow that in a position that is protected from wind, and against a north-facing brick wall where the thermal properties of the bricks keep the air around the plant slightly warmer at night. If you find someone in your area who is successfully growing a white frangipani, and is prepared to give you a cutting, now is the perfect time to take frangipani cuttings. See my post on how to prepare frangipani cuttings for planting.

Otherwise, I think it might be wiser to choose a different tree that is more suited to the local climate.

Wollemi pine update 2

wollemi5 Being away, and catching up on farm work, has caused me to fall behind with my blog posts, so I am a bit slow in relaying news about my Wollemi pine.
Following a light application of worm castings as fertiliser a couple of weeks ago, my comatose Wollemi pine has demonstrated a renewed will to live, and produced a flourish of delicate, light green fronds on almost every branch. The main trunk has also increased another 15 cm in height. (Click on image on left.)
In last Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald (November 14) James Woodford quoted this blog in his lament about his pine that had “done nothing” in the past two years. I can understand Mr Woodford’s dismay, as he is an author of a book on the Wollemi Pine.
However, if he had read my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting, he would have known that he was really pushing the envelope expecting it to grow in a lawn, for a variety of reasons – including that lawn fertilisers are toxic to many Australian natives.
Not surprisingly, I think organic cultivation is the go for these fossil plants. They have survived in a valley where their only fertiliser has been what nature provided through the breakdown of organic matter. Decomposed organic matter performs a myriad of functions in soil. It maintains more consistent soil moisture levels; it is Nature’s slow release complete fertiliser; it provides a habitat for the beneficial fungi that assist perennial plants to absorb nutrients and moisture, and it helps control phytophthora fungi and other pathogens in soil.
If you have a Wollemi Pine growing in the ground (in a spot protected from full sun), my advice is to add 2 cm of mature compost or leaf mould to the soil surface around the tree and cover it with leaf litter or other organic mulch (keeping it clear of the trunk). If growing your pine in a pot, use only the special Wollemi Pine mix or a certified-organic potting mix, and use a modest amount of worm castings as fertiliser.
Yes, these trees are temperamental, but so are some other beautiful plants, including Daphne and some of our Boronias – yet gardeners who are prepared to cater to their needs enjoy thriving specimens. As I said in the previous post – do some research first.
wollemi3wollemi4

Wollemi pine update

wollemi pine 2The recently discovered Wollemi pine was a topic of discussion on the Don Burke gardening radio program recently. This fossil conifer has been a source of considerable disappointment to many gardeners since its release. One could reasonably think that a species of tree that has survived for 200 million years, according to the accompanying care guide, would be fairly hardy, but this is not the case. These trees cannot handle heavy rainfall, drought, or full sun. They are easily stressed, and prone to phytophthora root rot, as well several other soil diseases.

The tree I received last Christmas was soon re-potted into a slightly larger container with some coco peat, compost and worm castings as fertiliser, and a little coarse river sand. After re-potting, the tree was positioned on a verandah on the northern side of our house, but it quickly became apparent that it was not happy in a warm environment, and was transferred to the verandah on the south side where it has survived, but has made only a couple of centimetres growth. The care guide gives no real indication of the species’ fussy moisture requirements other than the vague advice to “check moisture levels regularly”. Neither did the care guide state that soil in the area where the trees were discovered could have a pH as low as 4, which is too acidic for most plants to survive, or that a coir supplier had developed a special potting mix for these trees.

Don said that little information on the species had been available, resulting in the death of a lot of purchased Wollemi pines, and asked a spokesman from Sydney’s Botanic Gardens why the tree had been released for sale prematurely. The spokesman’s response was that it was to prevent people from damaging the discovery site when attempting to obtain a specimen of these trees. This reasoning would be easier to accept if they didn’t charge such exorbitant prices for these pines.

My advice, if you would like to grow a Wollemi pine, is to visit the web site below and find out if you can provide suitable conditions for this plant before outlaying any money.

wollemipine.com

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.