Gardening with the Moon: Moon Cycles

No, really, the title’s not a new form of green transport J, it’s part of the basic way biodynamics works, and it helps to explain why this column with is fortnightly (bi-monthly). I work with the cycles of the Moon.

Biodynamics – apart from being a very long word – is about juicing-up your already good organic practice with the help of 8 animal/vegetable/mineral preparations.

To use these most effectively it’s best to work with the cycles of the Earth, Moon and the 12 constellations that circle us and have been used since humans first saw them in the sky. The old stone circles of Britain were partly used as agricultural calendars, showing the seasons by means of alignments between the stone and the stars, including the Sun which is also a star, and the Moon which reflects sunlight onto the Earth during the hours of darkness. We no longer have to know how to work the old stone circles to get our calendars straight as we have paper books and even on-line star calendars to help us. The first to produce a modern star calendar, from her own experiential research, was Maria Thun. I still find her calendar the best and easiest to use but all the biodynamic associations around the world produce calendars done to fit the time zone they are in – I’ve put up a list of web sites in References.

So … Maria Thun does the astronomy and puts together the Star Calendar. What for? So that we can use those 8 preparations in time and tune with the Earth, the solar system and the Constellations. The light-energy of constellations is reflected and amplified to the Earth by  the Moon. She acts as a lens, focusing the star-energy onto the Earth for the 2-4 days she is in front of that constellation – between the Earth and the constellation.

The Moon’s Arcs

The Moon rises higher and higher in the sky each day for the first approx 14 days of her cycle, rising from her nadir to her zenith. She then takes the next 14 days to rises lower and lower in the sky each day, going from her zenith to her nadir.

  • It’s the Moon’s rising and falling arcs that make a big difference to the plants not how much of her we can see from the Earth at any point in the month.
    • As the arcs get higher so she draws the energy upwards, out of the Earth, pulling the growing juices up through the soil, leaves, flowers and fruits. You can see this from the way the sap rises at this time of the month. Our ancestors knew it, we still have the phrase “the sap is rising” meaning the upper part of the plant fills with sap and vitality. They called it “moon riding high” in the old almanacs.
    • As the arcs get lower so the Moon draws the energy down through the plant and into the soil. You can tell this from the way the sap doesn’t rise so well but plants take root readily and settle well into the ground so it’s good for sowing, plating and transplanting. Our ancestors called it “moon riding low” in the old almanacs.

Think of it like the sun. At midwinter the sun crawls up over the horizon, eventually, at a late dawn, travels in a very low arc from south-east to sink again at an early sunset in the south-west. It doesn’t make it all the way from due east to due west, which is part of why the days are so short. And the sun doesn’t rise very high in the sky even at midday, that’s why we have that beautiful, low, slanting winter light, so much less strong than it is in summer.

From midsummer to midwinter the sun’s arc gets lower and lower in the sky so, at midday in midsummer it’s way up there right overhead, but at midwinter it’s hardly halfway up the sky. From midwinter to midsummer the sun’s arc goes up and up.

The moon does the same sort of journey as the sun but, instead of taking 6 months, she does it in 2 weeks. After all, she does have a lot less far to go, around the Earth, than the Earth does around the sun J.

I expect you’re beginning to guess that as the Moon draws the energy down into the soil it’s a good time to sow seeds, plant and transplant, cultivate the parts of the plant below the soil, like the roots. And as she draws the energy upwards it’s a god to time to work on the parts of the plant above the soil, like the leaves, flowers and fruits. Yup … that’s the beginnings of it. Maria Thun thought about this and tried it out in experiments, she began working on it in the 1950s so she’s got half a century of experience to draw on. She’s still working on it all now, along with her son, and refining her ideas.

Basically, these fortnightly rising and falling arcs give us our planting times, the basis within which we apply the preparations and do our gardening work – as far as possible. The darn things aren’t written in stone, the sun won’t fall out of the sky if you can’t manage it some of the time. I’ll be giving hints and tips how to work it when life doesn’t follow the plot, how to do your best in spit of everything J.

This column will follow the planting times, the Moon’s cycle of rising and falling arcs, so I’ll be writing at or just before the beginning of each planting cycle.

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 Great Tit saga

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