What to grow in December 2018

December and January are very busy months for most people, and many of you won’t have a lot of time to spare for gardening, or even watering the garden. Setting up some shade for your garden beds now, will provide protection in the hottest part of the day during summer’s hot weather, and prevents sun-scald of fruits and vegetables. A shade cover also reduces the amount of watering you need to do as it traps humidity around the plants and prevents wilting in extreme heat. See: Sun and heat protection.
If you aren’t able to provide some shade, mulching all garden beds will keep soil cooler and prevent moisture evaporation, saving you time from watering.
For those who have a some time to spare this busy month, the following gardening advice is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be sown or planted during December in Australia and New Zealand. A comprehensive guide that includes planting times for the entire garden, as well as when to fertilise, prune, take cuttings or divide plants, can be found in the diary section of my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting (Scribe Publications, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2017), and e-book (Booktopia, Dymocks, Kobo and Amazon 2017).

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

WARM CLIMATE ZONES
If your area has a wet season in the next few months, it might be wiser to not sow sweet corn this month, as heavy rain will prevent good pollination. Corn of any variety can be sown as a green manure crop, though, because green manure plants are cut down when about knee high.

WARM CLIMATE South of Rockhampton
Before the Full Moon, silver beet, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of adzuki bean, cow pea, lablab, mung bean, pigeon pea, soybean, Japanese millet, millet, or sorghum.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, eggplant and pumpkin can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, rock melon, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot, parsnip, radish, and watercress can be sown directly into beds. Banana passionfruit, lemongrass, passionfruit and dandelion can be sown or planted out, and banana, mango, pineapple and mint can be planted. Cuttings of mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, and watercress can be taken.

WARM CLIMATE Rockhampton and northwards
Before the Full Moon, sow a green manure crop of adzuki bean, cowpea, lablab, mung bean, pigeon pea, soybean, Japanese millet, or sorghum.
During First Quarter phase, capsicum, tomato and watermelon can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, lemon grass can be sown or planted out, and mango planted.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, lettuce, silver beet, dill, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds. Leek and spring onions can be sown as well as a green manure crop of adzuki bean, cowpea, mung bean, pigeon pea, soybean, millet, Japanese millet, or sorghum.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds. Capsicum, cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, rock melon, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot, parsnip, and radish can be sown directly into beds. Banana passionfruit, passionfruit, dandelion, lemon grass and watercress can be sown or planted. Banana, mango, pineapple and mint can be planted. Cuttings of marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, and watercress can be taken.

COOL CLIMATE
In cool climates, there is still time to plant fast-maturing varieties of pumpkin, rockmelon and watermelon. Seed for these can be ordered from Phoenix Seeds in Tasmania (PO Box 207 Snug, Tasmania 7054).
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, silver beet, tatsoi, dill, and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of adzuki bean, mung bean, soybean, cereal rye, millet, Japanese millet, or sorghum. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, leek, lettuce, spring onions, sweet basil and parsley, can be sown or planted our. In warmer areas, NZ spinach and nasturtium can be sown directly into beds, and in colder areas bulb fennel, open-headed Chinese cabbage, and mizuna can be sown directly into beds.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, as well as suitable varieties of pumpkin, rockmelon and watermelon (see notes at beginning of post). Cauliflower, cucumber and zucchini can be sown or planted out, as well as summer squash in warmer areas only.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot, parsnip, and radish can be sown directly into beds. Dandelion, pyrethrum, sage, and watercress can be sown or planted out, and mint planted. Cuttings of rosemary, thyme, and watercress can be taken.

What to grow in November 2018

Give tomato, capsicum and chilli plants regular deep watering and a light application of complete organic fertiliser as they start to flower. If soil is too dry tomatoes won’t be able to absorb enough calcium for healthy skins and your tomatoes will form black patches on the part opposite the stem (Blossom End Rot).
Garlic should be getting close to maturity now. Slowly reduce irrigation as bases mature. Garlic needs to be harvested in dry weather, so keep an eye on weather predictions. It will dry (or cure) more quickly if you harvest after the Full Moon when sap flow is lower in the foliage part of plants.
The following gardening advice is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be planted during November in Australia and New Zealand. A comprehensive guide that includes planting times for the entire garden, as well as when to fertilise, prune, take cuttings or divide plants, can be found in the diary section of my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting, 2012 (with moon planting to the end of 2022).

* For gardeners who do not use moon planting: sow or plant out any of the following list for your climate zone at any time this month, although you may find germination rates are lower when the Moon is in Last Quarter phase.
WARM CLIMATES
Advice to sow sweet corn in Warm climates this month will apply only to those areas that do not have almost continual rain in January – February. Pollination of corn is poor in wet weather, and the crop could be lost. However, corn of any variety can be sown as a green manure crop, though, because green manure plants are cut down when about knee high.

WARM CLIMATE South of Rockhampton
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, suitable lettuce, silver beet, NZ spinach, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as well as a green manure crop of adzuki bean, cowpea, lablab, pigeon pea, soy bean or millet, Japanese millet, mung bean or sorghum. Parsley, spring onions and sweet and purple basil can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, eggplant and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and pumpkin, rockmelon, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot, radish and sweet potato can be sown directly into beds, and banana passionfruit, passionfruit, pawpaw, pineapple, lemongrass and watercress can be sown or planted. Banana suckers can be planted.

WARM CLIMATE Rockhampton and northwards
Sow a green manure crop of adzuki bean, cowpea, lablab, pigeon pea, soybean or millet.
During First Quarter phase, sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, eggplant, tomato and watermelon can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, radish and sweet potato can be sown directly into beds. Banana, passionfruit, pawpaw, pineapple, and lemongrass can be sown or planted.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, rocket, silver beet, NZ spinach, dill, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of cowpea, mung bean, pigeon pea, soybean, millet, Japanese millet, or sorghum. Leek, spring onions, basil and parsley can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, cucumber, eggplant, pumpkin, rockmelon, rosella, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot, potato, radish and sweet potato can be sown directly into beds, and banana passionfruit, passionfruit, pawpaw, and watercress can be sown or planted out. Asparagus seedlings, banana suckers, mango, pawpaw, mint and lemongrass can be planted.

COOL CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, headed and open Chinese cabbage, bulb fennel, grain crops, mizuna, rocket, silver beet, NZ spinach, tatsoi, dill, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of mung bean, soybean, barley, cereal rye, millet or Japanese millet. Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, leek, lettuce, parsley, silverbeet, spring onions and chamomile can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and cauliflower, cucumber, suitable pumpkin and rockmelon varieties, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown. In warmer areas, capsicum and eggplant can also be sown. In colder areas, sow suitable broccoli varieties.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot and radish can be sown directly into beds. Asparagus seed, chives, oregano, pyrethrum, rosemary, sage, thyme and watercress can be sown or planted out. Blueberry, cherry guava, mint, and evergreen shrubs, trees and vines can be planted. In colder areas, parsnip and lawn seed can be sown.

Moon Planting Calendar for Australia & NZ 2018

Click here to purchase your April 2018 – March 2019 moon planting calendar and start gardening using the Moon’s energy.

Aussie Organic Gardening’s 2018–2019 moon planting calendar* for Australian and New Zealand readers is now available to help them get the best results from their gardening efforts and 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 is produced 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 purchase this helpful moon planting guide as a calendar:

click on the link at the top or go to 2018 Moon Planting Calendar

For readers not familiar with moon planting, information can be found here:
Traditional 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 2022’ sections of the updated edition of my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting (Scribe Publications 2017).

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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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

All about traditional moon planting

Traditional Moon Planting is an ancient agricultural practice that has been used by farmers for several thousand years and is still practiced today. 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. These observations were handed down to younger generations as their community’s survival depended on getting the best results from their crops.
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. Scientists have also confirmed that the Moon has an influence on breeding and feeding cycles of many life forms on this planet. As plants contain a high proportion of water, it is not surprising that they would also respond to a force that can move huge bodies of water. And, when you consider that plants absorb nutrients as ions that carry either a positive or negative electric charge, you can see how changes in electro-magnetic fields can affect the growth of plants.
The Lunation Cycle
Each lunation cycle 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 can be found by clicking on the ‘Current moon phase’ icon in the menu bar.
The Waxing Moon
During New Moon and First Quarter phases, the Moon is 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. First Quarter phase is also good for grafting and budding because these require a high sap flow for successful results.
The Waning Moon
During the Full Moon and Last Quarter phases the Moon 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 from leafy and flowering annuals. Roots of perennial plants have, like root vegetables, the ability to store carbohydrates and nutrients, 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.
Fertile and Barren signs
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 labels of ‘positive’ or ‘negative’. The equal divisions were basically markers for degrees of tension from the major permanent points of reference (the Solstices and the Equinoxes), which occur within 24 hours of the same days each year.
Negative segments are considered ‘fertile’ and the best days within a phase for sowing, planting, taking cuttings, budding and pruning to encourage growth. Positive segments are considered ‘barren’ and best days within a phase for collecting seeds, harvesting crops and for storage and weeding.

Does traditional moon planting work?

As someone who has obtained certificates in both astrology and horticulture and had been working in horticulture for some 40 years, I felt competent to test and assess the various moon planting and gardening guides available to the public. Over a period of eight years, I experimented with and compared different forms of moon planting against detailed records of sowing, germination, growth, harvesting and pruning.
Some moon or lunar calendars and guides advised readers to plant all plants that produce fruit above ground during First Quarter phase. This ignores the different root system of perennials. Other guides totally ignored moon phases and focused on the astrological signs. The tray below on the left was sown during Full Moon phase, which is an incorrect moon sowing phase for leafy annuals. The tray on the right was sown two weeks later during New Moon phase. Both were sown in the same seedling mix and received the same amount of care.

I found that most moon planting guides in women’s magazines are prepared by astrologers who have used the astrological ‘rulership’ of plants rather than moon planting methods that have been handed down through the centuries. These interpretations have produced some results that make no horticultural sense and must be confusing for readers.
The designation, by traditional moon planting farmers, of fertile and barren ‘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. Although there has been no scientific study into this part of moon planting, I believe it relates to the changes in the Earth’s electro-magnetic field and the absorption of plant nutrients, which must be absorbed as water-soluble electrically-charged ions.
Some moon or lunar planting guides will tell you to avoid watering your garden on ‘fertile’ days while others will advise to avoid watering on ‘barren’ days. A perusal of rainfall records will show that Nature doesn’t follow these rules. Gardens should be watered when they need it.
After comparing the various methods of Moon Planting, I came to the conclusion that the traditional moon planting method, although the simplest to follow, made the most horticultural sense, and it works best for us. The basic rules, or principles, are described below.

Traditional moon planting ‘rules’

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 or compost heaps, apply mulch, etc.
2. NEW MOON PHASEthe 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 PHASEthe best time to sow or transplant fruiting and flowering annuals (we eat the fruit or seed bearing part), and grains. Also sow annual grasses, 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).
4. FULL MOON PHASEthe 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.

A current, colour-coded, easy-to follow traditional moon planting calendar is available for purchase here.