Gardening with the Moon

It is not only the sun that determines the best time to plant a garden, but also our closest celestial neighbor, the moon. For thousands of years wise men and women have gardened in tune with the moon. Consider the difference in light under a full moon versus when the moon is dark, and how the moon creates Earth’s tides, and you will have an idea of the value of gardening with Luna.

The Moon over a FieldPlants and the human body consist largely of water; though the pull is subtle, we are as affected by the moon’s gravity as the oceans.

Gardening with the moon depends on two rhythms: light and gravity, determined by her journey around Earth.

To plant with the phases of the moon, note if your seeds are short, long, or extra-long germinating. Plant information on the back of seed packs includes how long it will take the seeds to germinate. Short-germinating seeds, like beans and lettuce, will germinate in one to seven days. Long germination means eight to twenty-one days and includes celery and garlic. Some plants take up to twenty-eight days to germinate, known as extra-long germinating seeds.

You want to put seeds in the Earth, or germinate them indoors so that they will germinate near the new moon, when the moon’s earthward pull is strongest. This pull helps the plant establish strong root growth.

The Moon over DandelionsAccording to the biodynamic method of farming, short- and extra-long germinating seeds should be planted from two days before to seven days after the new moon. Long-germinating seeds and seedlings should be planted or transplanted at the full moon and up to seven days after the full. These planting times take advantage of gravitational and magnetic pull of the moon as well as levels of moonlight and give the seeds the optimum situation for their germination.

Other gardening activities can be attuned to the moon as well. At the new moon, prune to encourage growth. During the full moon, harvest herbs used for magic or healing, and pick fruits and vegetables for enhanced flavor. The waning moon is a time of settling and letting go; use this crone time as the moon’s energy settles back into the Earth to harvest root vegetables, weed, and prune to inhibit growth. During the dark of the moon, when lunar energy is deep in the Earth, take time to renew and be still.

This article was adapted from Sacred Land by Clea Danaan

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Creating a Worm Bin

Red WormsAnother way to transform waste into gardening gold is a worm bin, in which our favorite little hermaphrodites break down food waste into worm castings. A worm bin acts like a living garbage disposal, transforming kitchen and paper waste into nutrient-rich soil. You can keep one indoors during the cooler months (they do not stink unless something goes wrong0 or outside when above freezing.

In milder climates, you can build one outside from cinder blocks to provide some insulation during cooler temperatures. If you have space for it on an enclosed porch or a quiet corner of your kitchen, an indoor bin can be made out of a 5- or 10-gallon opaque plastic tub. Black or dark plastic or wood is ideal to reduce the amount of light that reaches the worms. To provide your worm colony with air, drill 1/8-inch holes about 1 inch apart all the way around the bin about a foot off the ground.

Red Worms Purchase red worms or brown-nose worms at a local feed, garden, or tackle store to introduce to your bin (regular garden worms will die because there is not enough soil). You will need about a pound of worms per pound of kitchen waste each week. Worms can double their population about every 90 days, so you shouldn’t need to ever buy more. If your bin gets too crowded, help your neighbor set up a bin for her garden.

Fill the bottom of the bin with shredded water soaked paper-newspaper or untreated cardboard works well. Place your worms on this bedding, and then feed them cut up kitchen scraps once a week (no bread, oils, or meat, just vegetables and fruit). Your bin may accumulate excess moisture from decaying plant matter; to absorb this moisture, pile more newspapers at the bottom of the bin. The worms will eat the newspaper as well; it may need to be replaced regularly.

Red Worms About twice a year, when the bedding material has been consumed, remove the castings from the bin. To do so, move the worms and all the bin’s contents to one side of the bin. Pull out uneaten food waste and put these chunks on the empty side. In a few weeks the worms will finish any matter left in the casings and move over to the other side. Carefully remove the abandoned castings, sifting through them to make sure you don’t remove any worms. Replenish the bin with wet bedding and thank the worms for their gift. You can use castings on your garden as you would compost. For more information on worm bins, see Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof.

This article is composed of sections from the book Sacred Land by Clea Danaan.

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Working with Sacred Soil

In a garden, roots grow together to form a complex network, a web that shares nutrients, water, and structural support. Arthropods, earthworms, and bacteria live among the lacing of roots, which cradles stones, sustains fungi, and wraps around bones left behind.

Healthy SoilWe who walk on the surface of the Earth rarely see this dynamic labyrinth, but we are a part of it. We are a part of the flow of water as it slips up trees and whispers into the sky, as it falls on the soil and returns to the sea. We too are a part of the burn and glory of sunlight, which sparks all life on Earth. We are a part of the One Breath.

We are the gardeners, the stewards of the land.

The soil is a vast kingdom beneath our feet, home to giant and minute earthworms, billions of bacteria and micro-organisms, spiders and ants, and wise, ancient stones. Rich black, sandy red, or pale and gritty, it is in the soil that life on land begins. But not all soil is the same -far from it.

The first step to getting to know a garden is to meet and appreciate the soil. The health of a garden depends on its soil. Just as a good house needs a strong foundation or a healthy child needs a stable home, a garden needs well-balanced, healthy soil. Soil is a garden’s immune system.

Since soil builds a garden, and the garden brings health and healing to the gardener and the land, we begin our magic-making and world-healing in the dirt. Continue reading