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Planting by the Moon

In May I began working part time at Basil and Bergamot flower farm on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee.

Weekly we sow hundreds of seeds and we plant the seedlings. We speak kindly to the flowers and welcome the seedlings to the Mother Earth when we plant them. We weed, we tend, we nurse, we feed, we love and care for them. In summer we battle the heat and humidity, we laugh and cry while our bodies bitch and scream with the discomfort and pain from hours of sweating, dehydration and muscle fatigue, but we humbly return the next day for more!

For several years I have enjoyed my own new and full moon rituals and gatherings, by a fire or sometimes just by candlelight. As I delve deeper into my work with plants, flowers and the earth, I have come to understand even more the importance of the moon and her cycles, and more recently have developed a greater love and curiosity for the impact she truly has on our lives and our survival.

The moon is the essence of the divine feminine, she turns the tides, controls the menstrual flow of women and helps babies come into the world. Her power is immense, she is the keeper of the secrets of water. As a gardener it has become important to know her waxing and waning cycles in order to understand how to maximize growth the way that nature intended. Every gardener wants the best possible crop and it is evident that the life rhythms of nature mysteriously connect with the growth of plants. There are basic cycles of the heavens to which animals and plants are attuned. Whether flowers or food or herbs for medicine, if you plant with the moon your harvest will be plentiful and your medicine will be powerful!

The Old Farmers Almanac was founded in 1792 and is so valuable whether you are a farmer or a gardener. After rainfall the water table content is pulled upwards under our feet towards the surface and it directly impacts seedlings, seeds and plants as they grow. You can observe the moon cycles and the natural rhythms, everything thrives and grows when it follows the wisdom of nature.

The lunation cycle takes an average of 27-32days, which is how long it takes for the moon to make one complete orbit around the earth and is called a sidereal month. The cycle begins with the new moon and ends with the full moon. The dark phase of the new moon until the full moon is known as the waxing phase (an old English word that means "growing") and as the light decreases after full moon, this is known as the waning period, (an old English word that mean "lessening") The increasing of the light appears from right to left.

In between we have half way points. Between new moon and full moon we have first quarter moon and between full moon and new moon we have last quarter.

The full moon and new moon are barren signs when no planting should be done at all. Nor should planting be done on Sundays. During the first quarter waxing period the earth is wet and fertile, all crops that produce their yield above ground should be planted during the waxing moon period. Leafy plants and flowers grown for their beauty and fragrance should be planted at this time.

Second quarter is best for above ground crops that produce seeds on the inside, tomatoes, raspberries, squash. Plants or vegetables that are meant to be eaten immediately are best harvested at the waxing moon when the water content is high. Sow large areas during the waxing moon and take cuttings, transplant and harvest herbs as their oil content is high during a waxing moon.

During the waning moon the earth is dry. Sow root crops, bulbs, biennials. In the last quarter between full and new moon cultivate, weed and turn the soil. The waning moon is also a good time to dig herb roots, harvest leaves and bark intended for use in medicinals. Herbs retain maximum potency during this time and dry more easily.

Within the cycles of the moon there is another factor to take into consideration. It is complicated and involves knowing where the moon sits in the zodiac, using the four element symbolism as guidance combined with the suns' journey through the seasons. Throughout a calendar month the moon moves through the twelve signs of the zodiac and spends two to three days in each zodiacal constellation.

ROOT days refer to the EARTH signs, Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn. A time to sow potatoes, radishes, beets, root vegetables, bulbs, corms and rhizomes.

LEAF days refer to the Water signs, Pisces, Scorpio and Cancer. A time to sow leafy crops, lettuce, cabbages, nasturtium and leafy annuals and perennials.

FLOWER days relate to the AIR signs, Gemini, Libra and Aquarius.

A time to sow broccoli, cauliflower, flowers that are aromatic, big bloomers!

FRUIT SEED days relate to the FIRE signs. Aries, Leo and Sagittarius. Tomatoes, beans, peas, fruits, berries. Planting on fruit days accentuates the flavor.

There is SO much information out there on this subject and I try my best to follow the cycles closely, but its not always possible. Maria Thun (1922-2012) was a modern pioneer of the subject and discovered the basic four element rhythm which is now used in all biodynamic calendars. It should be noted that the higher yields in flowers and vegetables using this four element rhythm are when crops are grown in organically cultivated soils to which no chemicals have been added.

My feeling is that doing the best you can is going to improve your chances of an abundant harvest. As my husband says..."thats a lot of calendaring!" To me it's all about the ebb and flow. Step into it and you will naturally get caught up in the rhythm and it will became second nature, as was the case for our ancestors who didn't have libraries of books or the internet or apps on their phones to tell them what phase the moon is in!

At the flower farm we can tell when things were planted out of sync with the natural rhythm. They don't do well at all, germination is low and the plants do not flourish. Sometimes their roots don't develop and other times all they have are roots and nothing up top! Like children and puppies....the more you love them, the bigger they will grow! EVERYTHING responds when it is loved.