(Food Topic) Planting by the Moon

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From the Electronic Telegraph:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk:80/et?ac=000154642417163&rtmo=LbSGxGtd&atmo=YYYYYYbp&pg=/et/00/2/19/tgurb19.html ISSUE 1730 Saturday 19 February 2000 Urban Gardener Planting By The Moon - Kollerstrom

By Elspeth Thompson

WHEN I was in Italy last autumn, I spent time talking to Guido, the old gardener and estate manager at the house where I was staying. I was intrigued to find he used a system of planting and harvesting by the moon which, he said, had been practised throughout Italy for centuries. All sowing and transplanting was carried out at full moon or just before. Harvest time depended on what the crops would be used for - those for storage (potatoes, apples, even timber) were gathered at new moon, whereas those to be eaten fresh were picked when the moon was full. I resolved to research lunar gardening on my return home.

'Loony gardening, that's what I call it,' said my husband, as books, charts, calendars and almanacs decorated with stylised stars and moons and astrological runes started arriving through the post. 'You don't want to start getting into any of that weird stuff.' But it wasn't just weird, it was multifarious. Guido's system is just one of a number of practices, some of which seem to be as old as agriculture itself. Some recommend that root crops be planted at new moon and all other crops at full moon. Some say you can sow everything at full or new moon. Others divide the plant world into categories corresponding to the four elements - earth (root vegetables), water (leafy crops such as cabbage and lettuce), air (flowers, including broccoli, cauliflower and globe artichokes) and fire (seeds and fruits) - and allocate planting-days when the moon is in an astrological sign of that element.

Though such divisions will be familiar to those who have read Culpeper or Gerard's 1597 Herball, the most detailed charts of the past 100 years were refined under the auspices of Rudolf Steiner's School of Biodynamic Farming. And though this system is the most peculiar, it is the only one to offer any evidence to support its theories. In Germany in the Fifties and Seventies, Maria Thun (who publishes an incomprehensibly translated calendar of her own) carried out strict trials using potatoes. She recorded a 30 per cent increase in yield for crops sown on 'root/earth' days compared with other sowings. And in Britain, Reg Muntz, a market gardener from Sussex, and Colin Bishop, an amateur gardener and astrologer from Wales, have separately recorded increases of up to 50 per cent on sowings of beans, radishes, lettuces and potatoes.

Nick Kollerstrom, author of Planting by the Moon: 2000 (see Clippings), is a science historian who became convinced of the benefits of lunar planting in the Seventies while working on a biodynamic farm. He has researched the moon's influence on farming (including a paper on its effects on horse breeding, published in last month's issue of Equine Veterinary Journal), and finds sowing around the full moon brings on faster germination, but has no evidence of an increased yield. In countries prone to drought, such as Italy, he thinks that increased moisture in the soil around full moon may account for the preference to plant at that time. In a further twist, he has found that peas and beans ('seed/fire' crops) sown on a 'leaf/water' day develop strong leafy growth but fewer pods than the smaller, higher-yielding plants sown at a more auspicious time.

Exciting evidence or a load of old moonshine? I'm prepared to give it a go. Steiner was, after all, the man who in 1923 predicted the BSE crisis. This year, I'll be conducting a little research of my own, and would be intrigued to hear from readers with experience in this field. I may be a crank, but I'm in good company.


You can buy Nick Kollerstrom's Planting by the Moon: 2000 (Prospect Books) from our retail partner, Amazon. Click here to order a copy online. You can also visit Kollerstrom's website at www.plantingbythemoon.co.uk.

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), February 23, 2000


Old Git,

Darn, I sure enjoyed your "I may be a crank, but I'm in good company." line! I may just use that one if you don't mind!

Seriously, since part of me is involved in agriculture, this topic caught my interest.

Kollerstrom's recent research may have found only improved germination, and not proven yield increases. Anyone farming knows that improved, and (within a field) even and consistent germination, are very basic to achieving a good 'base yield', and are certainly critical to pushing yield up.

I'll be sharing this posting of yours with a family member who has probably heard of these approaches, and who might be interested in Kollerstrom's book.

Thank you!

-- redeye in ohio (not@work.com), February 24, 2000.

Redeye, although I wholeheartedly endorse that comment about cranks, it was Elspeth Thompson who wrote it. She writes the "Urban Gardener" every Saturday in the Electronic Telegraph. You can subscribe to the paper free--very simple form and no spam ensues--by copying and pasting the URL above. If you have problems, just cut off everything after telegraph.co.uk.

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), February 24, 2000.

If memory serves me, the plain old Farmer's Almanac that can be purchased nearly everyplace contains some "planting by the moon" info.

-- Daisy Jane (deeekstrand@access1.com), February 24, 2000.

Yes, the chart is right there on page 169.

Today, February 24th, and tomorrow, the 25th, the moon is in the sign of Scorpio, which is advantageous for planting, transplanting and grafting. 26th 27th and 28th are Sagitarrius, time for weeding, plowing, controlling pests, and pruning. Leap Day is Capricorn, which is a good planting day (but not as good as today and tomorrow).

I am getting good results thus far this year by adapting my schedule to this chart.

-- mommacarestx (mommacarestx@mail.com), February 24, 2000.

MOONLIGHT! Ah ... best time for planting ........



-- Squirrel Hunter (nuts@upina.cellrelaytower), February 24, 2000.

This practice is not new in this part of the country.(NE Oklahoma, foothills of the Ozarks) The Farmer's Almanac is a yearly tool. If the moon can influence the tides, why not the turnips? The first book in the "Foxfire" series has some interesting stuff about planting by the signs.

It's not just the garden that is affected. If a baby is due to be born, folks say "it'll come when the moon changes". Hubby is an ER doc, if he's working nights during a full moon, I don't even try to call him, he's going to be busy.

One of my favorite childhood memories is of a full moon night. We had a pet racoon that ran loose outside. That particular night, we decided to follow him and see where he went. We trailed that coon through the woods and up and down the creek till we were too tired and went home to bed. I guess I've always been a little moon-struck.

-- grannyclampett (notress@pass.ing), February 24, 2000.

Ah, the joys of moonlight gardening...in the altogether...nothing like it! (but avoid the rose garden...)

-- Mad Monk (madmonk@hawaiian.net), February 25, 2000.

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