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? 2

I thought I’d share with you an interesting experiment with seedlings. The tray on the left was sown during Full Moon phase, which is an incorrect moon planting phase for leafy annuals. The tray on the right was sown two weeks later during New Moon phase.
As you can see the younger seedlings planted in the correct phase have not only had a better germination rate, they caught up with or surpassed the ones sown two weeks earlier. Both were sown in the same seedling mix and received the same amount of care.
In the past, we found this a common occurrence with germinating seed, and always try to sow seed in the correct moon phase for its type.

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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.

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.