Gardening with the Moon

“Planting by the Moon” is quite well known but, in biodynamics, we use more than the phases of the moon.

Biodynamics is using a set of eight preparations (the BD preps) made from vegetable/herbal, animal and mineral compounds to enhance the soil and the plants. It’s also about working in harmony with nature rather than trying to force nature to conform to some human idea. It’s about learning more of how she works – after all she’s been at it a lot longer than there’s been humans around. The Agricultural Revolution took place in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East about 10,000 years ago, spread outwards from there into Europe. Mid/South Americas dawn of agriculture probably about 5,000 years ago. China/Japan are thought to be the earliest known agriculturalists at 19,000 years ago (approx). This is a mere spit in the ocean to the length of time the Earth has existed.

Moon as Lens

In BD is that we see the moon as a lens, focusing the energies of each of the twelve constellations onto the Earth each month as she passes in front of them each month.

Using the moon as a lens this way, to focus the energy of each constellation she passes in front of during her 28 day period, is why we call it a “Star Calendar” … because it’s about focusing the energy of the stars.

Without the star calendar we wouldn’t know when to apply the preparations.

The star calendar can appear confusing at first. And some biodynamic practitioners can get so wordy about astrological thingamajigs that it can boil one’s brain. You really don’t need to boil your brain to do biodynamics, it isn’t that hard and Steiner certainly never intended it to be! However, there are a few things to get your head around first so we’ll try to go slowly through them and make things as obvious as possible. You probably have some idea already as we’ve been talking about parts of the plant and what you want to enhance.

You use the star calendar to help with …

  • applying the preparations
  • sowing – all seeds you start in pots, and/or soak in water as well as those you sow directly into the ground
  • planting – including planting out annual and herbaceous plants either bought in from garden centres or grown on by you from seed or plugs; planting shrubs and trees from a nursery or plant centre; and planting out your vegetables after germinating them in pots
  • cultivation – weeding, thinning, pruning, feeding, etc
  • harvest – cutting flowers, picking fruit and vegetables

As I said, the Biodynamic Star Calendar works with more than just the Moon but it is the Moon that focuses the energy. This is because she travels around the Earth once every 28-29 days and, in so doing, she passes in front of each of the constellations – see the diagram above.

As she passes in front of each constellation, the moon focuses the energy from the stars in that constellation onto the Earth. This gives the days when best to work with each part of the plant as each constellation carries the energy relevant to that part …





















In the star calendar each day has the moon in front of one of these constellations and so is called a Root, Leaf, Flower or Fruit day.

There are several calendars people tend to use in the UK. My own preference is for Maria Thun’s as I find it the easiest to use, her approach is entirely practical and based on over fifty years of scientific observation.

Maria Thun is one of the people who does the astronomy for the Star Calendar. She began building the calendar in the 1950s by carrying out experiments to attempt to establish a connection between the growth of plants and the movements of the stars. Her first experiment was to sow a plot of radishes every day for an entire growing season and observe the performance of each sowing. She discovered four very noticeable differences in the plots. Some produced larger roots, others larger leaves, others again produced more flowers and the fourth group went more quickly to seed. This was the beginning of the Star Calendar. She has subsequently done, and continues to do, a massive amount of scientific research into biodynamic growing and updates the calendar each year with her latest findings.

The biodynamic associations in other countries all produce their own calendars which give the times as they are in those places. This makes them easier to use that translating GMT into your local time.

There are many moon rhythms, something like over a hundred, it’s a very complicated pattern that hasn’t been anything like fully explored as yet. There is so much we can find out over the coming years.

Elen Sentier
… behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …
writer artist gardener shaman
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Alchemical Gardening

One of this month’s themes is gardening … it’s nearly the end of the month but I’m getting there with it :-).

For me, this month has very much been about alchemy. I’ve got a workshop coming up at the middle of June on the alchemical wedding so it’s not really surprising Otherworld is whispering in my ear, nudging me, pointing things out. Now they’ve suggested a whole load of alchemical stuff on gardening.

Some of you already know I garden biodynamically but … that’s one helluva long word with a fog-index of at least 9000 J, so what the hell does it mean? And what on earth has it got to do with alchemy?

Hmm! Well I managed to get in the Lowerworld (hell) and the Middleworld (earth) there, now I’ve got to get Upperworld in … and I can feel a lot of hot breath on the back of my neck as various of the Celtic Powers lean over my shoulder to see what I’m writing and make I sure I get it right. All very well, but I do wish they’d give me a bit of space!

Alchemical gardening … biodynamics … yes, same sort of thing different names.

Biodynamics is the oldest organised form of organic gardening. It was concern about the worrying trends developing in agriculture that led farmers to ask Rudolf Steiner to give his ‘Agriculture Lectures” in 1924, on which the biodynamic agricultural movement is founded. The farmers’ concerns were …

  • increasing mechanisation of agriculture
  • a sense that nature is becoming degraded and losing its vitality
  • pollution of the environment
  • signs of illness in trees and
  • violent changes in the weather

It seems nothing is new.

The farmers’ concerns resulted in the series of eight lectures that Steiner gave at the house of his friend Count Keiserling. The lectures began a movement which now spans the world. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Europe, Ireland, the UK and the USA all have very strong biodynamic movements and I’ve even had enquiries from Japan. It seems Poland has now chosen to make its government-supported agriculture biodynamic. Biodynamics wine-making is all the rage and experts like Oz Clarke say biodynamic wine is the best wine they have ever tasted.

Biodynamics can appear very strange to outsiders – full of practices that almost sound like black magic, eg putting oak bark into a horse’s skull, in running water, for a year to make one of the preparations, or cow dung into a cow’s horn and burying from autumn to spring … and then seeing how the dung is completely different. Umm! Those could almost be shamanic practices 🙂 … and maybe they are.

But my goodness! The difference they make to the garden is phenomenal. I’ve been working this way for the best part of 20 years now and attest to its efficacy.

It’s true that we may not be able to explain everything about it as fully as we can, say, bread-making or steel production but … have you ever tried to say “why” (not how) electricity works? And physics comes up with wonderful apparent paradoxes like “is light waves or particles?” We seem quite able to cope with not having a complete knowledge of these things in science. Perhaps experiencing the pleasures of biodynamics, seeing the beautiful plants, eating the good food, drinking the excellent wine, will help us overcome our doubts and fears of this well established form of growing.

And alchemy? There’s lots of things we do in biodynamic gardening that have alchemical connections, perhaps one of the most obvious is the Cow.

Apart from being the totem of the goddess Brighid – Lady of the three faces, Smith, Healer and Poet – the cow is found throughout the world as a sacred beast. Cattle have been “wealth” in so many societies, including Celtic ones. The cow is a mother-figure in many traditions. But cows are also very special and have a particular alchemical property … they have 4 stomachs, 4 chambers, 4 vessels, through which matter passes as they process it to gain energy for themselves and to give goodness to the Earth.

Ruminants' Stomachs

All ruminants have 4 stomachs – that’s animals like sheep, goats, deer and cows. The word ruminant means

any even-toed, hoofed mammal of the suborder Ruminantia, being comprised of cloven-hoofed, cud-chewing quadrupeds, and including, besides domestic cattle, bison, buffalo, deer, antelopes, giraffes, camels.

The ruminant digestive system is fascinating – as I said, it’s comprised of 4 stomachs. If you’d like to become a “ruminant anorak” follow the link, it’s technical and interesting, if mind boggling! A less mind-blowing version can be found at Wiki, with a good diagram of the stomachs.

These 4 stomachs are like the 4 processes of alchemy – as Rudolf Steiner also said – the Nigredo, followed by the Albedo, followed by the Citrinato and culminating in the Rubado. Steiner said that the four stomachs did the four alchemical process to the food as the cow processes it through her body … resulting in the alchemical gold of her dung which we can compost and use on our land.

I find making these links fascinating … but I also garden very practically, to put food into my and my husband’s bellies. So, while my mind may be luxuriating in staggering cosmic connections my hands are deep in the earth, the soil, getting grubby and doing the business J.

I’ll talk some more about biodynamics, alchemical gardening, gardening by the moon as some folk call it in a little while … when I’ve finished weeding the bed I’m on at present, in between diving indoors to do a blog !!!

And I’m just on the final edit of a “how-to” book on biodynamics for gardeners and people who don’t know much about it. I hope to have it in the shops for Midsummer, so not long now.

And … Scarlett has been suggesting to various people about having a daily column. I just might do one on gardening by the moon, to help people get to grips with it. It is magic, it is alchemy, and it is easy … anyone can do it, and it doesn’t cost the earth nor take up all your time either :-).

Elen Sentier
… behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …
writer artist gardener shaman
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Celtic shaman – Elen Sentier Alchemy workshop …

Ancient Calendar: May 22, 2010


Norse Desktop Wallpaper by C.H. Scarlett. Click for larger version to save and enjoy! Woman by Royo! I SO STALK the art of Royo!


Ok, so do ya dig the Norse wallpaper? If ya do, then maybe you will dig some cool Norse History or Legend . It all starts with a Scandinavians (Norse)King named Ragnarr Lodbrók or Ragnarr Lodbrok (This day belongs to him) who may have or may not have existed.

The cool thing about Ragnarr is that he claimed he was a direct descendant of Odin. Hey, it could happen! However, I am guessing that that’s where the whole doubt as to whether or not he even existed kicked in. I mean, you’re real until you claim to be the son of a God/Goddess…after that, you are on your own MR!!!

Any who, Ragnarr lived in the 8th or 9th century and had a bit of a worry concerning his sons. See, he didn’t want them to out do him with better adventures, which meant Ragnarr set out his entire rule attacking any country he could set his sword on. Ragnarr became such a thorn that the only way his prey could get him off their back was to pay him off in Gold. (Was this the first real Soprano?) Unfortunately, just because he wasn’t one to play around, he’d attack again even after he’d been paid.

It is even said that he attacked Paris and captured the entire city in the year 845 and held it up for ransom—a sum total of seven thousand pounds of silver. Legend says King Aelle defeated him in Northumbria during the same year.

The Greeks will be having an Observance for their Goddess Selene, who is of the moon. Usually followed by that of women, she also stood for hunting and the chase.

Today would have been the fourth day of Callynteria in Classical Greece. See Ancient Calendar: May 19th.


A little announcement. Yes, Ancient Calendar is the same as Pagan Holidays. I just thought this title might be a bit more accurate. We also have our own page, located Ancient Calendar.



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