Biodynamic basics: tuning into Nature’s rhythms

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You don’t need to be an astronomer to garden by the moon, – biodynamic gardening calendars are available to guide you. They suggest the best times to do gardening & allotment jobs, such as planting and pruning when the moon is descending, or harvesting when the moon is ascending. Sowing seeds just before the full moon is always a winner on our allotment.” Kate Turner & Will Heap, biodynamic gardening enthusiasts.

Tuning into Nature’s rhythms – the sun, moon and stars – is at the heart of biodynamic farming and gardening. The Sun gives us light and life, and as ancient scholars and civilisations discovered, the Moon, planets, and the way the Moon interacts with the stars in the zodiac as it circles the Earth, also produce subtle but profound effects that have shaped our lives and cultures since time began. It’s not for nothing that a full moon has special significance.

Until the 20th Century, tuning into Nature’s rhythms was part of normal farming practices worldwide, and is still common practice in many cultures. The Moon’s effect on water, for example, not only creates tides but is widely thought to affect the movement of sap up and down in plants as they grow. Fast forward and today’s biodynamic planting calendars combine all these various celestial influences into a set of simple day- by- day guidelines on the most favourable times to grow and tend 4 main types of crops according to how we eat them: root, leaf, flower and fruit. It’s as easy as that.

It works!
50 years of dedicated research by its original creator, Maria Thun, and used by countless farmers and gardeners have shown it works. Rosie Yeoman (Gardeners Question Time) told us about her potato trial: planting them on the most favourable day according to the calendar almost doubled the yield compared with planting them on other days. As did Julie our own biodynamic kitchen garden expert.

A helpful tool
As many biodynamic gardeners will tell you, using a planting calendar brings them closer to their garden. They love the rhythm, order and reassurance it brings, and how it seems to simplify kitchen gardening.

Planting calendars do not, however, claim to be foolproof. Nor will crops fail if you don’t plant by the Moon, but experience suggests they will thrive more and be healthier. Like all gardening work – as Julie reminds us ” they’re a secondary tool to be used with common sense, an eye to the weather and soil conditions.”

Over the coming issues, we’ll be explaining more about the moon’s cycles in depth. For now, here’s a brief resume of the 4 main days.

Starter guide of when to sow and grow
Root days: These are best for sowing and cultivating roots crops eg onions, garlic, potatoes, radishes etc. As the potato trial we mention above shows, generally, you can expect better yields. Root Crops harvested on root days, store better, too.

Leaf days: These are best for sowing and tending leafy crops (all noted for their high water content), such as spinach, salad leaves, Swiss chard, leafy herbs – mint, basil, parsley, dill, chervil, coriander, and leeks etc. You can expect them to be strong, full of turgidity – which makes for deliciously crisp and juicy salads. They store best when harvested on flower or fruit days.

Flower days: These are best for all garden activities connected to all flowers, flowering trees and shrubs, and flowering herbs – lavender, chamomile, thymes etc. Picking flowers on flower days, preferably also before noon, will help them to remain fresher and keep their colour for longer.

Fruit days: These are best for sowing, cultivating and harvesting all fruits and vegetables that we eat the fruit of – eg tomatoes, aubergines, cucumbers, peas & beans, courgettes, peppers, sprouting broccoli. Wines, also – even some supermarkets, for example, are now finding out, wines drunk on fruit days tastes better.

Top gardening tip: If you want your grass to grow fast and thick mow it on a leaf day; if you’d rather get your lawn mower out less often, then mow on flower days.