But then I got to thinking...What IS planting by the moon really all about? Is it science or fantasy? Good or evil?Commonsense or nonsense?
Now, there are some folk who add the whole moon-planting idea to their own various beliefs and leanings and then talk about goddesses and so forth in the same breath. But just because some folk use a tool in a certain way does not mean that that is the only way it can be used.
So what is moon-planting? It is the idea that the cycles of the moon affect the sap and growth of plants in much the same way as it affects the tides of the sea, and that being aware of those cycles, one can recognise that there are certain times in the cycle which are best for planting different things, and other times when it's best not to plant at all.
Now, I doubt there is any educated person on earth who would dispute that the moon causes or affects the tides, right? Though no doubt at some point in history that idea was considered witchcraft.
Though it is an area of dispute still, it's widely believed that there is a correlation between lunar cycles and the behaviour or moods of humans and animals too. I know several people who work with mental health patients, and they attest that there is an obvious increase in restlessness and aggressiveness in their patients when the moon is full.
Now, if the moon can affect the water on the earth, and the behaviour of people, is it really such a stretch to think it could affect the growth of plants? If so, would this thinking be science, commonsense, or "weirdness"?
What does the Bible tell us about the moon?
Genesis 1:14 is part of a passage recording the creation of the sun and moon:
"And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide
the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for
days, and years"
Psalm 104:19 "He made the moon to mark the seasons..."
"Blessed of the Lord be his land, for the precious
things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that coucheth beneath,
And for the precious fruits brought forth by the
sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon" (Emphasis mine)
God created the moon to be seen at night, and the movements of the moon, along with that of the sun, show us the seasons, the days and the years. This is simple fact - time can be measured by the passage of both sun and moon. In Deuteronomy, the passage quoted above is part of Moses' blessing on Joseph and his descendants, that his land may be blessed with rain from heaven, water from below, precious fruit which the sun causes to grow, and precious things that are brought forth by the moon! Within this is a simple reflection of the fact that both the sun and moon affect the growth of vegetation and ultimately the crops they produce.
We all know our plants need sufficient sun to grow and produce crops. We know that different things grow better at different times of year, due to the rotation of the earth in relation to the sun and so the differing lengths and strengths of daylight. Any reasonable gardener knows that to ignore the sun and seasons when planning and planting their garden is folly. Why, therefore, should we not accept that the moon also has a physical effect on the natural world, and use that knowledge to our advantage?
Now, before I really had worked my way through all of the above thinking, I decided to conduct an experiment to see if planting by the moon made any difference to the end results, or not. I devised and carried out "The Green Bean Experiment."
I took one of my raised garden beds, 2m x1m, and divided it down the length with a string. I planted one side (the left) with dwarf green bean seeds during the first week of December 2012, when the moon planting guide said I should NOT be planting anything. I sowed the other side from the same seed packet on Dec 17th, when it was supposed to be the right time to do so. Both sides sprouted, both sides grew. Was there any difference?
Well, it turned out there were a number of differences! The photo above was taken on Jan 16th. Before I go on, please note that I had later filled some gaps in the bed, especially near the front and to the left, with some yellow dwarf bean seedlings I was given by a friend. Those plants/beans aren't counted in these results. The differences between the two rows:
1) Germination - I planted the same number of seeds on each side. Row 1 had 9 plants grow, Row 2 had 14.
2) Size and strength - the plants in Row 2 appeared taller and more vigorous, but on closer examination I found this was mostly because the plants in the first row did not grow up straight, but were mostly leaning over, collapsed on the soil. The plants in the second row were stronger and straighter.
3) Production - I harvested and weighed the beans from each row separately. At the time of posting this, Row 1 has yielded 1.962 kgs of beans, and Row 2 has yielded 2.508 kgs of beans (though planted later so slightly behind in age/production time)
I concluded that planting according to the cycle of the moon DOES make a difference. Now, one of the reasons for not planting at the "wrong" time, is that plants put in then tend to bolt to seed. With things such as beans, where it's the seed pods you're harvesting, this hardly seems like much of a problem, but germination, size and vigour are all good reasons to use the guides as a helpful tool. I also started to take more note of the difference in my sweetcorn patches and when they were each planted in relation to the moon calendar - for info on that, see HERE.
So, where does one find a good moon planting guide? There are several available, but my favourite is from New Zealand Gardener's website - you can download and print the guide; I keep it in the front of my garden diary. This one works as a wheel - each month you turn it so the symbol lines up with the date of the new moon, and it shows you what dates are best for planting root crops, above ground crops, or concentrating on non-planting chores. I find it's also helpful to have something that helps me plant my month like this, so I keep moving along with all the different types of garden chores, rather than focussing on one and neglecting the rest. You can download the chart HERE.
Speaking of New Zealand Gardener magazine, if you're a Kiwi, you can subscribe to their magazine (and several other inspirational publications) by using Flybuys points - 320 pts gets you a year's worth of mags. They have a lot of useful ideas and tips.